Not all outdoor celebrations are planned weeks in advance – sometimes, the mood to socialize strikes at the last minute. To help you throw together a bang-up backyard party when time is limited, we’ve put together our top tips to keep in mind.
Published May 29, 2018, Updated August 6, 2022.
A Big To-Do
One of the most basic (and best) ways to organize is to make a to-do list. This helps keep stress levels in check and also serves as a central checkpoint for everything you need to accomplish before guests arrive. Prioritize tasks like buying food and drinks, and place lesser tasks, such as tidying the front entryway, at the bottom of the list.
Shop ’Til You Drop
Since you likely don’t have all your entertaining essentials on hand, a detailed shopping list is a must. Be as specific as possible when jotting down snacks, supplies and decorations, so that there are no surprises if you end up delegating this errand. Finding a big-box store that has everything will cut down on crucial shopping minutes.
Providing tasty food is a backyard-shindig must, but with the minutes flying by, preparing it from scratch is likely off the table. Luckily, there are plenty of crowd-pleasing menu options that won’t stretch the clock. From easy-to-heat frozen appetizers to pre-made veggie and sandwich trays to local artisanal pizzas, look to your neighbourhood supermarkets and restaurants to deliver what you need.
After you have the necessary cutlery and plates at the designated food and drink station, think about decorations. Easy festive favourites such as bunting and balloons attached to the porch railings, backyard fence or tree branch take very little time to set up (and clean up) but really add flair. See more of these outdoor decorating ideas perfect for summertime entertaining!
Soft Light it Up
Like music, lighting has the power to project a certain mood. Think about stringing up marquee or fairy lights along with the bunting and balloons to create a soft, inviting atmosphere. Hurricane lanterns with pillar candles also add ambiance when there’s not enough time to install a propane fire pit or chimenea.
Music is what creates the mood at any successful party, but you likely won’t have time to craft a killer playlist before people start pouring in. Luckily, apps such as Spotify and Apple Music have tons of curated playlists grouped by event and feel, which you can use throughout the night, as the energy shifts from eating to merrymaking to dancing.
Having enough (clean) chairs for guests is key when you’re about to host a backyard bash. Count them up ahead of time, and pilfer benches, stools or beanbags from indoors if needed. You’ll want to have places for people to sit while eating, then the chairs can be moved to the side for the dancing portion of the evening (yes, there will be dancing!).
Splitting up the work is key to pulling off a party when time is tight. Look at that master to-do list and see what can be passed off to family members or friends who you’ve enlisted to help out. Whether it’s cutting up crudités or mowing the lawn, there are plenty of tasks that others can handle.
Chill with the Spills
With all the sticky finger food, tippy plastic cups and teetering bottles, spills are bound to happen. Pre-empt the inevitable cleanups by keeping extra napkins and towels handy.
Fruits of Your Labour
This might actually be the most important tip of all – take a load off. When we’re rushed into doing something unexpected, panic can take over, even when it’s not necessary anymore. Once everything’s in place, take a deep breath, grab a plate of pizza and a glass of white, sit yourself down and talk to the people who’ve come together to help you spontaneously celebrate this sweet summer night!