Summertime means there are more hours in the day, so make the most of them! Enjoy time with friends and family by throwing an unforgettable summer dinner party.

By Brandi Dye
Updated June 07, 2021
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A summer dinner party is a perfect excuse to gather your friends and family and enjoy the warm weather together, especially now that it's safe to gather with other vaccinated adults outdoors. We've rounded up our best summer party hacks to make this the easiest dinner party ever! Our quick and easy meals cut down on time in the kitchen, and make-ahead appetizers, drinks and party favors will help you spend less time playing host and more time hanging out with your guests.

While safety restrictions have lifted a bit, keep your gathering small: One or two households of vaccinated adults is best. If not everyone is fully vaccinated, social distancing and face masks are recommended. For more safety information, check out our guide to gathering post-pandemic, according to doctors.

almonds and strawberries and more on charcuterie plate
Credit: Carson Downing

1. Pair Unexpected Flavors

A charcuterie board is always a good appetizer choice, but it's our favorite option for a summer dinner party. A wood charcuterie board with several bite-size finger foods allows guests to enjoy grab-and-go party foods and encourages mingling—perfect for a dinner party where the guests may not all know each other. Try building a charcuterie board (here's how to assemble a basic board) with salty and savory flavors of almonds, pickled veggies, and salted crackers, paired with sweeter flavors of jam, fresh fruits, and soft cheeses. There are no limits to what you can use on a charcuterie board—just add your favorite upscale finger foods to a large board or serving tray and have guests help themselves as they enjoy the pre-dinner mingling.

beige patio with rustic dinner table and modern black chairs
Credit: Edmund Barr

2. Utilize Outdoor Space

Summer is the time to get outside! Utilize your outdoor space to throw a summer dinner party under the stars, a pergola, or the treetops. Update your patio space with wall decor, a DIY fire pit, or planters. Make sure there is plenty of outdoor seating for all of your guests. Oversize outdoor pillows tossed about the space is a super easy way to create more seating that is unforgettably cozy.

Chicken and Peach Pesto Pizza
Credit: Blaine Moats

3. Serve the Season

Simple serving ware turns even the most casual finger food into a party-ready spread—and you don’t have to splurge on anything special to make your arrangement pop. The new Our Table collection from Bed Bath & Beyond is filled with practical products that can serve double duty. The Non-Slip Acacia Wood Cutting Boards ($30, Bed Bath & Beyond) double as gorgeous serving platters for any outdoor dinner.

Sponsored by Bed Bath & Beyond

Porcupine drink
Credit: Andy Lyons

4. Serve a Signature Cocktail

Sip, sip; fizz, fizz! The best way to get a dinner party started is with a full glass. Serve a signature cocktail to your friends and family. Make the best use of seasonal fruits: Summer is the time for mangoes, peaches, strawberries, and pineapple. Sangria, anyone?

Get the Recipe: The Porcupine

ice pop sidewalk chalk four assorted chalk circles pavement
Credit: Courtesy of Alice and Lois

5. Channel Your Inner Child

Summers were truly magical during childhood. Encourage your guests to recapture that nostalgia with fun outdoor games and activities. Bust out the sidewalk chalk—or make your own!—and bubbles. Draw up a hopscotch board or get your hula-hoop warmed up. Being an adult doesn't mean you can't have good, clean fun! No guest is going to forget a dinner party that makes them feel 10 years old again.

Gluten Free Pho-Flavor Flank Steak Lettuce Wraps
Credit: Blaine Moats

6. Know Your Guests' Dietary Restrictions

The most unforgettable host is a considerate host. Be sure to get a sense of any dietary restrictions for your friends and family. A few easy swaps and alternates will make all the difference. If you serve beer, make sure to have a cider alternative for your guests who go gluten-free, and try making one or two of our favorite gluten-free recipes. Be sure your summer dinner party menu includes meatless options for vegetarians. If you have ice cream for dessert, include a homemade fruit sorbet for friends who are lactose-intolerant.

homemade flower chandelier hanging brass ring florist wire
Credit: Jacob Fox

7. Make DIY Party Decorations

What's a party without decorations? Make your own! Throwing a summer dinner party can be the reason you finish your next DIY project. A homemade flower chandelier or a colorful tablecloth are the personal touches that will make your summer dinner party stand out. Good food is even better in a beautifully decorated setting.

candle copper washi tape pink base outdoor table centerpiece
Credit: Ray Kachatorian

8. Fight the Bugs

Send your guests home with party favors and fond memories—not bug bites. Make sure your garden or patio is as bug-proof as possible. Fire up citronella candles, provide your guests with bug repellants, and make sure there is indoor seating. Use some of our best ways to repel mosquitoes to make sure everyone stays comfortable throughout the evening.

Plank-Smoked Peaches and Goat Cheese on wooden plank
Credit: Jason Donnelly

9. Fire Up the Grill

Nothing says summer like the smell of the grill. But firing up the coals can mean so much more than burgers, hot dogs, and brats. Try one of our best grilling recipes, like pizzas, desserts, and more! True grill masters can make a full meal over the coals, including shrimp skewer appetizers, lamb chop entrees, and grilled peaches for dessert. If you don't already have an outdoor grill, the beginning of summer is the perfect time to invest in one for the season.

pink flower arrangement
Credit: Victoria Pearson

10. Decorate with Flowers

Bright blooms are sure to make a party pop. Fresh-cut flowers can be used to decorate with centerpieces or as wall decor. Pick your flowers based on your summer dinner party color scheme. Big, bold blooms bring lots of life and color to a dinner party table. Small flowers in small vases provide tiny pops of color all around the table. Check out local markets to see what's fresh.

lush garden walk with patio and trellis and string lights
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

11. Light Up the Night

All great parties have great ambiance. Enjoy your summer dinner party under an outdoor canopy of string lights. Whether you buy or DIY, hang your own string lights to set the vibe for the entire evening. They also provide brightness so your guests can find their knives and fork. If you plan on eating inside but still want to utilize your outdoor space, outdoor string lights can move the party outdoors as the sun sets.

candied fruit peel glass jars
Credit: Ray Kachatorian

12. Create DIY Party Favors

Give your guests a piece of the party to take with them in the form of DIY party favors. Whether it's a truly involved project, or more "some assembly required," give your guests something to remind them of the fun night they had. Mix up a batch of DIY chalk, plant some succulents, or wrap up mini champagne bottles with a bow. It's the small, personal touches that make a summer dinner party truly unforgettable.

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