24 Easy Summer Party Ideas for Hosting Big and Small Gatherings

We have super-easy summer party ideas, including summer party decorating, menus and activities.

white poolside table with snacks hat sunglasses
Photo: Adam Albright

Gather inspiration for a casual outdoor gathering from one of our easy summer party ideas. Whether a no-fuss dinner on the deck or a festive taco buffet, your summer party options are endless. We have tips and suggestions for recipes, decorations, and everything else you need for a perfect summer soirée.

01 of 24

Dinner in the Garden

an alfresco dining evening
Ray Kachatorian

Invite List: 6-8

Guest Type: Your coupled friends

Make the most of a gorgeous summer evening by taking a casual dinner party outside. Create an intimate space in the corner of your yard with a patio table, and dress up plastic chairs with small pillows for added comfort. Keep the area lit with string lanterns (leave them out all season long!), and set the table with single-stem flowers in tinted glass vases.

02 of 24

Dessert and Coffee

woman drinking coffee and reading a book outside
Brie Williams

Invite list: 4-5

Guest type: Book club members

Want to host a simple summer party? Go the dessert and coffee route. Just pull up a coffee table to a comfy outdoor seating area and set up a spread of light desserts and your single-serve coffee maker. This summer party idea is perfect for a book club or just having the neighbors over.

03 of 24

Watermelon Party

table setting for watermelon-themed party
Jason Donnelly

Invite list: 6-8

Guest type: Fruit lovers

Keep this celebration sweet! Watermelon is quintessentially summer, and it's so versatile that it makes the perfect party theme. Embrace the versatility by featuring the fruit as the main food and even the decoration inspiration. Use plastic plates and acrylic cups (like this Better Homes & Garden 14-ounce Acrylic Tumbler, $2, Walmart) as they won't shatter if dropped on the patio.

04 of 24

Backyard Buffet

outdoor party buffet
Ray Kachatorian

Invite list: 10-12

Guest type: Friends and family

Elegant and easy, this berry-inspired bash is the perfect way to welcome summer. Start by sending watercolor invites and dyeing an old tablecloth in muted flowery hues. Peonies, candles, and baskets of berries decorate the table. A make-ahead menu featuring farm-fresh foods and sweets and a self-serve bar leaves you free to nibble and mingle. Then, send guests off with Strawberry Meringue Cookies.

05 of 24

Luau Party

luau party aloha drink station
Adam Albright

Invite list: 4-6

Guest type: Vacation buddies

Bring paradise to your own backyard! Fresh fruit, cool drinks, and maybe even a hula are perfect for enjoying a summer luau. Bright flowers set the tropical atmosphere and make the ultimate summer party centerpiece! Use a beverage dispenser (similar to this Better Homes & Gardens Hammered Luster Glass Beverage Dispenser, $17, Walmart) to serve a fruit punch so you don't have to worry about refilling drinks during the party.

06 of 24

Pool Party

white poolside table with snacks hat sunglasses
Adam Albright

Invite list: 8-10

Guest type: Gal pals

Encourage your friends to channel their inner mermaid with a grown-up pool party. This casual and relaxed get-together is the perfect way to spend a hot summer day. Serve snacks that are easy to eat while you dip your toes in the water—fresh finger foods fill the bill perfectly. Place drinks on ice in a metal bucket (like this Better Homes & Gardens White Small Galvanized Oval Tub, $9, Walmart) near the pool.

07 of 24

Grilled Brunch Party

Grilled Doughnuts
Andy Lyons

Invite list: 6-8

Guest type: Girlfriends from out of town

Nothing says summer quite like the aroma of grilling. And a leisurely brunch truly is a part of those easy-breezy summertime pleasures (few things are better than a gooey, warm, grilled donut). So why not combine the two? Spend a weekend day grilling with friends and enjoying each other's company.

08 of 24

Tropical Getaway at Home

tropics-inspired party
King Au

Invite list: 6-8

Guest type: Your best girlfriends

It's easier than you think to escape to a tropics-inspired party in the comfort of your backyard. Set up a low table and seat guests on colorful floor cushions. Serve easy-prep appetizers, such as heirloom tomato salad, veggies with dip, and ice-cold drinks. Set a palm frond in a decorative vase to match the party theme, and light up the table with candles so the party continues long after the sun sets.

09 of 24

Grown-Up Ice Cream Social

ice cream toppings table
Quentin Bacon

Invite list: 10-12

Guest type: Your sweetest neighbors

Good news: Ice cream socials aren't just for kids! Put a grown-up spin on a summertime classic with a make-your-own pie a la mode bar, with fresh-baked cookies and homemade jam. Add a few cooling cocktails—maybe even a bottle of bubbly—and you have a casual summer gathering that will last well into the evening.

10 of 24

Trail Mix Bar Party

nuts seeds grains dried fruit trail mix ingredients
Carson Downing

Invite list: 10-12

Guest type: Family friends

Yes, trail mix is deserving of its own summer party! Let all of your mix components serve a dual purpose as a decorative display. This is the time to use those coordinating bowls that are too cute for everyday use: What needs a bigger bowl—the healthy nuts or the chocolate chips?

11 of 24

Bright Flower Party

bright colorful table with florals
Adam Albright

Invite list: 4

Guest type: Your flower-loving friends

Bright and colorful, this cheery summer party idea celebrates the beauty of flowers. Set the table with in-season blooms, candles, and umbrella-topped drinks for a sunny escape. Show guests to their seats with personalized flowered placeholders and patterned napkins.

12 of 24

Travel-Theme Party

travel-theme party
Kim Cornelison

Invite list: 10-12

Guest type: Everyone

Whether you're gushing over a recent trip to Paris or fantasizing about a far-off visit to Bali, a travel party is a perfect way to get away at home. Keep things authentic by serving fare that's signature to your destination of choice. Showcase trip highlights or bucket-list locales in basic, inexpensive picture frames. Journals, photo albums, and favorite souveneirs are also perfect for sharing.

13 of 24


backyard campout
Marty Baldwin

Invite list: 8-10

Guest type: Friends with kids

Who says you need woods to camp? Individual s'mores kits, a ground-level table, campfire tunes, and picnic-friendly blankets round out this backyard campout. Have guests swap ghost stories around the campsite or spark a lively bonfire in your yard. Throw a few hobo packs on the grill to make it a casual dinner party.

14 of 24

Chill Happy Hour

laid-back happy hour with cucumber water
Greg Scheidemann

Invite list: 5-7

Guest type: Workout buddies

Escape summer's sweltering heat with a super laid-back happy hour sure to recharge. Hanging globe lights and airy branches showcased in on-hand vases help bring the patio inside. Stick to a cooled-off menu with items like fresh veggies, purchased breadsticks, and plenty of summer sips on ice. Keep an extra water pitcher on hand—we like ours filled with lemon, cucumber, and mint!

15 of 24

Seaside Escape

coastal inspired food spread
Robert Brinson

Invite List: 12-14

Guest Type: Visiting family and friends

East Coast, West Coast, or no coast—anyone can enjoy a sea-inspired summer party with our tasty menu and a few tropical touches. Fanned-out leaf fronds make a clever table runner, while vibrant flowers add a sunny splash of color. Complete the beachy theme by serving food in shell-shaped dishes and sticking to hues in corals, oranges, and blues.

16 of 24

Ice Cream Sundae Bar Party

ice cream bar party toppings scoops spoons
Marty Baldwin

Invite list: 10-12

Guest type: Mom friends and kiddos

It's just not summer without ice cream! So have some pals over for a sundae soiree and go all out with the toppings bar. Bring together all your favorite salty, sweet, and even savory flavors. Plus, explore creative ways to display your toppings—we're obsessed with how cute the sprinkles are in that muffin tin.

17 of 24

Easy Garden-Theme Party

garden party table setting
Dana Gallagher

Invite list: 6-8

Guest type: Book club members

You don't need a garden to host this fabulous party indoors or out. Simple terrariums made from ferns and glass cloches star as the table centerpiece, accented by roses floating in stemless wine glasses. Each place setting has its bit of greenery and an uplifting quote to keep the party in good spirits. Serve whatever you'd like at this easy-to-throw party, but we recommend dishes with farmers market fresh ingredients.

18 of 24

Mexican Taco Buffet

Hugh Acheson at island buffet
Reed Davis

Invite list: 10-12

Guest type: Your foodie friends

Turn a low-key summer evening with friends into a fun Mexican fiesta with a build-your-own taco buffet and a few colorful decorations. Serve the tacos with various condiments, such as sour cream, lime, cilantro, and other fresh veggies so guests can create their own. Keep the stress of entertaining down by making the food ahead of time, and match your decor to the fiesta with brightly colored ceramic serving dishes.

19 of 24

Dinner on the Deck

table set with succulents
King Au

Invite list: 4-6

Guest type: Friendly neighbors

Take a sophisticated party idea and make it casual for summer with this setup. Use planted succulents to dress up the outdoor table, and opt for real dishes and cloth napkins instead of disposable ones for a sophisticated touch. Serve simple appetizers like cheese and crackers with various types of meat and seasonal vegetables, and try a slow cooker recipe for the main course, so you don't have to turn on the oven. A pitcher or drink dispenser allows guests to help themselves.

20 of 24

The Ultimate Burger Bash

july burger party toppings spread
Annie Schlechter

Invite list: 8-10

Guest type: Families

Fire up the grill! This easy summer party idea starts with the season's signature dinner—hamburgers. Set up a spread of creative toppers like pickled vegetables, sliced avocado, mustard, and relish. During the party, let guests build their ultimate burger and fill their plates with fresh summer side dishes. Keep the decor simple (like colorful tablecloths and lawn chairs) and set up fun yard games.

21 of 24

Puppy Picnic

dog kiddie pool
Brenda Wegner

Invite list: 10+

Guest type: Animal Lovers

Celebrate man's best friend with a festive puppy picnic! Adults, kids, and pups will love this easy summer party idea. Set up an outdoor buffet, puppy splash pad, and DIY photo booth in your backyard, and let the furry friends run wild!

22 of 24

Afternoon Garden Party

women at garden party at table
Victoria Pearson

Invite list: 6-8

Guest type: Friends

Gather your friends for an afternoon garden party starring all things girly. Serve herbal tea and bite-size sweets, and set up a DIY flower arranging bar. Head to the farmers market or your local flower farm for inexpensive in-season blooms. Try calling ahead to see if they offer bulk options for purchasing large quantities.

23 of 24

Summer Shrimp Boil

summer shrimp boil
Anna Carter

Invite list: 4-6

Guest type: Families

This Southern-inspired shrimp boil is all about dining family-style. Set up a super casual summer party spread starring shrimp, corn, and sausage. Round out the meal with fresh hush puppies and coleslaw.

24 of 24

Backyard Movie Night

outdoor movie party with projector
Rebekah Molloy

Invite list: 10+

Guest type: Families

You don't need to head to the theater to catch a summer flick! Set up a backyard summer movie night complete with a DIY screen, concession-style snacks, and festive decor. Create a cozy seating area with cushions, chairs, and blankets.

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