Tips for Hosting an Awesome Summer Barbecue

Nothing says “summer” quite like a backyard barbecue complete with delicious food, good music, and plain old fun!

Of course, hosting any event can be a bit stressful. How many people should you invite? What food and drinks should you serve? What about music and games?

Follow the tips listed here to throw a hitch-free summer barbecue that you and all your guests will enjoy!

Decide Who to Invite

The first step is to decide if you want a big party or a more intimate gathering.

Keep in mind that a big party will cost more money and require more clean-up. Of course, it also allows you to invite more friends. If you do host a big barbecue, you should consider sending emails, E-vites, or setting up a Facebook event.

You can also expect people to ask you what to bring if it’s going to be a big party. It’s easiest to have guests bring simple items that will require minimal clean-up on your part, like napkins, cups, ice, drinks (sodas or beer), or desserts like cookies and brownies.

If you opt for a smaller, more manageable barbecue, you can likely send out invitations via text or make a quick personal call to each guest. A small barbecue could be limited to just one or two other families, giving you more time to mingle with all of your guests.

Whether you have a big or small barbecue, RSVPs will be very important. It’s best to follow up with your guests twice: once to get an initial count, and later to verify that everyone is still planning to come.

Set a Date and Time

The best time to host a barbecue is on the weekend, either during the day or in the evening. Setting up a fairly large block of time (such as 12-4 or 6-10) is a good idea so that all of your guests can get a chance to stop by.

If you have children on the guest list, you may want to schedule an afternoon barbecue, while an adults-only barbecue can be set for the evening.

Check the weather if possible. If you’re worried about rain, just make sure you have a plan B. For example, you can grill outside and let everyone eat indoors or on a covered porch.

Choose What Food and Drinks to Serve

Of course, the food is the most important part of a great barbecue. From appetizers and snacks, to main dishes and desserts, here are some useful pointers!

Appetizers and Snacks

Go for easy finger foods like chips and dip, popcorn, and pretzels. For a healthier option, you can purchase a store-bought veggie platter. Simply unwrap and serve! You can also serve platters of crackers, cheese, and fruit. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to use a personal touch, try crafting out your own homemade platters.

Main Dishes

For the most part, it’s a good idea to keep it simple. Kids will likely enjoy classics like hamburgers and hot dogs. With adults, you might want to mix it up a bit more: try serving steaks, chicken, seafood, or meat and vegetable skewers. You can also spice up the classics with simple toppings like these tangy, smoky BBQ pickled onions.

If some of your guests are vegetarian, serve a selection of grilled veggies. These don’t have to be boring: try this Mexican style grilled corn or these grilled ranch potatoes. For vegan guests, you can prepare these foil wrapped grilled veggies or easy portabella burgers.

Remember that for vegan and vegetarian guests, you may need to use a separate grill, cook the vegetarian/vegan items first, or at least ensure all items are foil wrapped. You’ll also want to use separate utensils. Check with your guests about dietary restrictions ahead of time, or simply prepare some vegetarian and vegan-friendly options.

Side Dishes

The classics are another safe bet when it comes to side dishes: serve mac and cheese, potato salad, and/or baked beans.

If you want to make it extra simple, you can buy most of these dishes pre-made at your local grocery store. You could also opt for side dishes like French fries, tater tots, or even potato chips.


The right beverages depend on your crowd. What do your friends like to drink? Easy options include beer, wine, and canned or two-liter sodas. If kids will be in attendance, be sure to have kid-friendly options like juice boxes or lemonade.

You can also try mixing some summertime adult beverages like sweet tea sangriasummer fruit daiquiris, or Firecrackers. And you can’t go wrong with a couple of pitchers of margaritas (just use margarita mix and tequila).

Regardless of what beverages you serve, plan for each guest to have at least two to three drinks. And don’t forget to buy plenty of ice!


Store-bought cookies, cupcakes, or brownies are the perfect dessert for minimal preparation and clean-up. Juicy slices of watermelon and other seasonal fruit are also never out of place at a summer barbecue.

Don’t Forget:

Make sure you remember essential yet easily overlooked items like:

  • Cups
  • Plates
  • Napkins
  • Utensils
  • Condiments like ketchup, mayo, mustard, and BBQ sauce
  • Hamburger and hot dog buns (if applicable)
  • Plenty of charcoal for the grill

Provide Music and Entertainment

The food may be the most important, but music and games can take your barbecue to another level.

Prepare a playlist in advance or find summer/party/chart-topper playlists on the Internet. Choose fun, feel-good music like cheesy pop hits, nostalgic crowd-pleasers from a variety of eras, and maybe some old-school hip-hop. Whatever tunes you choose, make sure it’s music that will have your guests smiling – and maybe even wanting to break out a few dance moves!

Games aren’t a necessity, but some simple favorites like cornhole, limbo, volleyball, horseshoes, or even lawn Twister can keep your guests having a great time.

Depending on the ages of your guests, you can also provide some fun ways to cool off, like water balloons or water guns.

Hosting an awesome summer barbecue doesn’t have to be a major headache. Just follow these tips and serve up some simple food and drinks, feel-good tunes, and fun games. You and your guests are sure to make some excellent summer memories!