How to Throw an Impromptu Outdoor Party

How to host an impromptu party

It felt like it would never arrive, and now it’s finally here. We’re talking about summer, of course. The time of year when we want to fling open the doors and head outside. Great weather and even better cocktails are best enjoyed with friends, though. So invite them over when the moment hits. You might be surprised at just how quickly you can pull a last-minute party together with panache. Just use our helpful party guide and timeline!

What to Have on Hand

First, there are a few key essentials you should keep on hand, so your get-togethers are as low-maintenance as possible.

Pantry & Fridge Essentials 

Crackers or pita chips
Good olives
Oils & vinegars for throwing together a quick marinade or dressing
Summer bar cart liquors and mixers (we like to keep a bottle or two of champagne in the fridge, too!)
Simple fruits and vegetables like cherry tomatoes, lemons, limes, and salad greens

Party Staples

Bar cart or card table for setting up an outdoor bar
Melamine dinnerware & tumblers
Flatware place settings already assembled in silverware bags
Trays and baskets
Sunscreen, bug spray and towels (if you have a pool)
Installed string lights and flameless candles

Simple summer dinner for entertaining

Timeline to Party Time

Picture this scenario: It’s Friday afternoon and you’re ready to start your weekend. You send a quick email to a few friends inviting them over after work to eat, drink and take a dip in the pool to cool off. What now? Follow our handy timeline to the perfect low-key party.

2 1/2 Hours Before Guests Arrive

Stop by the grocery store on your way home from work and pick up a few items:

2 bags of ice
Flank steak
Green onions
Non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages
Ice cream sandwiches for dessert

1 1/2 Hours Before Guests Arrive

Marinate steak and slice green onions
Toss together a simple salad and side dish
Slice garnishes for the bar
Throw cocktail ingredients in a beverage tub and chill  — See our Limoncello Spritzer recipe

A folding table with a tablecloth is an easy outdoor entertaining solution

1 Hour Before Guests Arrive

Put all of your entertaining ware in baskets to take outside and minimize trips (barware, dinnerware, silverware, and glasses)
Set up a folding table and cover in table cloth
Put out snacks
Set the table
Use a container herb garden or a few pots as a centerpiece
Grab pre-stuffed baskets of towels and sunscreen to put next to the pool

An internet radio station is an easy way to have music for your party!

30 Minutes Before Guests Arrive

Light the grill
Fill ice chest or bucket with drinks, and arrange your bar
Turn on string lights & candles
Put on your favorite internet radio station — so you don’t have to compile a playlist!

15 Minutes Before Guests Arrive

Pour yourself a beverage and relax — if you aren’t relaxed and enjoying yourself, your guests certainly won’t!

30 Minutes Into the Party

Throw the steak on the grill

For more entertaining ideas, browse our Pinterest boards.

How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.