Quite a few articles out there make it seem like a limitless budget, professional culinary experience and an entire party store are prerequisites for the perfect BBQ. No sweat for Martha Stewart, a little less possible for the rest of us! But for those who are just looking to host a relaxing, fun event for friends and family, this list is for you. These seven simple tips will give you all you need to know about throwing a stellar summer BBQ, even if you’re working with a limited budget.
1. Know Your Limit
The keyword here is “your.” You’re throwing your BBQ — not Martha’s, not Oprah’s, not your over-achieving cousin who constantly tries to out-Pinterest Pinterest. Before you start sending out invites, be honest with yourself about your limits. Are you energized by hosting everyone you know? Or is an intimate group of less than 12 more your style?
Next, consider how much work you’re able or willing to handle on your own. If you want to DIY every detail, from top to bottom, more power to you! There’s also no shame in making your BBQ a potluck, or buying pre-made sides from your local grocery store. Keeping your personal limits in mind will keep you relaxed and help you have fun.
2. Simplify Your Menu
It’s nice to have options to accommodate guests with allergies or other health issues. Those needs aside, however, don’t feel like you have to have five meat options, 20 side dishes, 10 desserts and every beverage known to humankind. There’s also no need to completely reinvent the wheel. Spice up old favorites by offering unique hot dog toppings, a build-your-own burger bar or custom kebabs.
To keep from breaking the bank, limit yourself to providing the venue, main dish (meat) and drinks. Ask guests to help cover disposables, ice, side dishes and desserts.
3. Dazzle With a Drink
A cooler of water bottles and seasonal beer is an easy starting point for your drinks menu. Want to make your drink options a little more memorable? Consider making a signature cocktail. There are plenty of delicious, big-batch recipes that will allow you to go above and beyond while staying within your budget. Do you prefer a bottle of wine to beer or cocktails? Not a problem! Just ditch the troublesome corks and look for your favorite variety in a screw-top. Not only are screw-tops more party-friendly, but they can actually do a better job of preserving freshness.
4. Prepare for Pests
A little advance preparation will keep unwanted pests from ruining your party. To keep bugs at bay, try:
- Draining any standing water
- Lighting citronella candles
- Providing bug spray for guests to use
- Serving food inside (use your dining table as a buffet)
Keeping the food indoors may not sound very BBQ, but it can help remove sources of stress. With the food inside, you don’t have to worry about flies, ants, bees, birds, wind, temperatures or unexpected rain.
5. Set the Scene
Simplify, simplify, simplify! Some string lighting, flowers, one special decoration and a long playlist is all you need to create the perfect atmosphere for your party. Use your favorite streaming service to create the perfect custom station for your party. A few minutes is all you need to get hours of feel-good tunes to fit your vibe, whether that’s bluegrass, pop or instrumental. A smattering of hanging baskets and potted arrangements can provide a punch of color for your BBQ. Bonus: As long as you remember to water them, there’s nothing to stop you from enjoying them all summer long. BBQ season is also yard sale season. You can score a collection of vases or an old toolbox to use as a centerpiece for pennies.
7. Provide Entertainment Options
Raid your game stash and have your friends do the same! By pooling your resources, you can have a wide variety of entertainment options at the ready. Aim for a collection of classic yard games and easy group games, such as:
- Ladder golf
- Catch Phrase
- Card games (like Uno, Spades or Euchre)
If you’re feeling nostalgic, break out the chalk for hopscotch or start a game of Red Rover.
8. Don’t Overthink It
Finally: Take a breath and relax! You don’t need to prepare for every eventuality and you don’t have to be perfect. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. Have a potluck BBQ. Make it BYOB. Ask guests to help clean up when you’re done. Your friends and family should be more than willing to lend a hand and respect your budget. And if they’re neither willing nor respectful, it may be a sign you need to edit your guest list next time around.
Bottom line: Plan a party that will be fun for YOU! If you’re relaxed and having a good time, your guests will be too.
About the Author
Jennifer Landis is a 27-year-old healthy living blogger who loves yoga, running, and dancing it out with her toddler! You can find more from Jennifer at her blog, Mindfulness Mama, or by following her on Twitter: @jenniferelandis.