12 Summer Dinner Party Ideas to Cover Every Detail of the Evening

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.

A summer dinner party is a perfect excuse to gather your friends and family and enjoy the warm weather together. 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. Use these helpful tips, recipes, and ideas to plan a stress-free dinner party.

1. Utilize Outdoor Space

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

Summer is the time to get outside! Utilize your outdoor space to throw a summer dinner party under the stars, a pergola, or 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.

2. Pair Unexpected Flavors

almonds and strawberries and more on charcuterie plate
Carson Downing

A charcuterie board is always a good appetizer choice, but it's our favorite starter for an elegant summer dinner party menu. A wood serving platter 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 jam flavors, fresh fruits, and soft cheeses. There are no limits to what you can use—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.

3. Serve the Season

Chicken and Peach Pesto Pizza
Blaine Moats

Treat your guests to a summer dinner party menu that's light and fresh. Should your salad feature arugula or spinach? What fruits can you add to a savory dish? Will your dessert star berries or stone fruits? Answer these questions with a stroll around your local farmers market. A seasonal menu will impress your guests long after you've served dessert.

Mix a Porcupine Cocktail

Porcupine drink
Andy Lyons

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? We love the Porcupine, a play on a white wine spritzer.

5. Channel Your Inner Child

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

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 will forget a dinner party that makes them feel ten years old again.

6. Know Your Guests' Dietary Restrictions

Gluten Free Pho-Flavor Flank Steak Lettuce Wraps
Blaine Moats

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 elegant 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.

7. Make DIY Party Decorations

homemade flower chandelier hanging brass ring florist wire
Jacob Fox

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.

8. Fight the Bugs

candle copper washi tape pink base outdoor table centerpiece
Ray Kachatorian

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 off indoor seating in case the bugs are too much. Use some of our best ways to repel mosquitoes so everyone stays comfortable throughout the evening.

9. Fire Up the Grill

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

Nothing says summer like the smell of the grill. But firing up the coals can mean 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 complete meal over the coals, including shrimp skewer appetizers, lamb chop entrees, and grilled peaches. If you don't already have an outdoor grill, the beginning of summer is the perfect time to invest in one for the season.

10. Decorate with Flowers

pink flower arrangement
Victoria Pearson

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.

11. Light Up the Night

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

All successful parties have a great ambiance. Enjoy your summer dinner party under an outdoor canopy of string lights. Hang string lights to set the mood for the entire evening. They provide brightness so your guests can find their knives and fork. If you plan on eating inside but want to utilize your outdoor space, twinkling string lights will invite guests outdoors as the sun sets.

12. Create DIY Party Favors

candied fruit peel glass jars
Ray Kachatorian

Give your guests a piece of the party to take with them in the form of party favors. Whether it's a truly involved project or more "some assembly required," your guests will take home something to remind them of their fun night. Get some sidewalk chalk, plant some succulents, or wrap up mini champagne bottles with a bow. The small, personal touches make a summer dinner party genuinely unforgettable.

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