15 Backyard Barbecue Party Ideas to Impress Your Guests Without Stress

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As a self-proclaimed grill master, summer is one of my favorite times of the year. It means I get to roll out my grill and use it pretty much every night of the week. But, as much as I enjoy grilling up a few juicy ribeyes for my family, it's even more fun to invite friends over for a backyard barbecue. Here are 15 of my tried and true backyard BBQ party tips to impress your guests without stress.

backyard BBQ party
How to host a backyard BBQ party with less stress (Photo credit: photographee.eu, Depositphotos.com)

1. Prep food before your guests arrive.

As you’ll discover, most of these backyard barbecue party tips come from mistakes that I’ve made in the past when hosting friends and family. This first tip is one that I still fail to do frequently. But, when I do prepare as much as possible beforehand, it makes a world of difference in the enjoyment of the cookout for all.

Make sure all the meat is ready to go on the grill when the guests arrive. Also, assemble, cook, and present all side dishes in advance. You don’t want guests to arrive while you’re still forming burger patties and chopping lettuce and tomatoes.

Prep things like hamburger toppings before your guests arrive (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)
Prepare things like hamburger toppings before your guests arrive (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

2. Make sure you have enough propane or charcoal.

Can I raise my hand as guilty again? Triple check to make sure you have enough gas in the propane tank for your gas grill or enough charcoal for your charcoal grill to cook dinner!

I’ve made more runs than I'd like to admit to the gas station as my half-cooked burgers sat waiting on a cold grill for me to return with propane. When I finally do return to cook them, the meat tastes lifeless and rubbery.

Gas barbecue grill
Without fire, there is no barbecue (Photo credit: EdZbarzhyvetsky, Depositphotos.com)

3. Ask guests to bring side dishes.

This tip especially comes in handy when it comes to large backyard BBQ parties. And, in our family, the more the merrier. Ask your guests to bring side dishes. Likely, you'll be treated to an array of delicious foods.

Don’t feel like asking for side dishes is a burden, either. People love to show off their prized dishes. Besides, you don’t want to be whipping up five pounds of baked beans, heaps of potato salad, and dozens of deviled eggs while you’re getting the house and backyard ready.

Ask guest to bring a side dish to share to your backyard BBQ party
Ask guests to bring a side dish to share (Photo credit: belchonock, Depositphotos.com)

4. Put up decorative outside lights.

It will get dark outside during your backyard party. Be ready with tiki torches or other decorative backyard lights.

We love our outdoor solar-powered string lights! They have an automatic timer, so they kick on when the sun drops. That way, we aren’t scrambling to turn on lights. They look so good; we keep them up all summer long.

Decorative lights add to the festivity of a backyard barbecue party
Decorative lights add to the festivity of a backyard barbecue party (Photo credit: ronstik, Depositphotos.com)

5. Serve snacks away from the cooking.

As a frequent dinner party and summer soiree host, nothing annoys me more than people congregating in the kitchen or around the grill. This is true even if most of the work is prepped beforehand. (This cook needs his space!)

Thus, we set up a snack table AWAY from the kitchen and grill. My wife and I bought a compact folding table to set up just for this purpose. It is easily stored in our garage when we don’t need it.

Set up a snack table in the dining room or on a picnic table far from the kitchen or grill at your backyard barbecue party
We always set up a snack table in the dining room or on a picnic table far from the kitchen or grill (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

Best BBQ Party Snacks

You have enough on your plate without making a slew of homemade barbecue party snacks, too. The easiest way is to stick to simple favorites instead. Here are some easy BBQ menu ideas.

  • Potato Chips with Onion Dip
  • Fresh Fruit Tray
  • Vegetables and Dip Platter
  • Cheese and Crackers Plate
  • Tortilla Chips with Salsa and Guacamole
  • 7 Layer Dip
  • Pita Chips and Hummus Dip

Save yourself from needless chopping and mixing. Many of these options can be easily picked up from the deli section of your local grocery store.

Beverage tubs are much more decorative than dirty, old coolers (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)
Beverage tubs are much more decorative than dirty, old coolers (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

6. Encourage guests to help themselves to kid-friendly and adult drinks.

As part of the pre-party prep, be sure to stock a cooler with ice, bottled waters, juice boxes, and other kid-friendly drinks. Set up another tub filled with beer, wine, and other adult beverages. To spruce up the drink station, use steel tubs instead of the weathered Igloo cooler.

Offer guests their first beverage and encourage them to help themselves after that. That way, you can greet new guests as they arrive and finish any last-minute cooking obligations.

Fruity BBQ drink
Prepare mocktails and cocktails pre-party (Photo credit: belchonock, Depositphotos.com)

7. Pre-make mocktails and cocktails.

If you want to offer fun summer season mocktails or cocktails, go for it! I suggest pre-mixing them, though, so you’re not constantly measuring, stirring, and pouring.

Delicious Summer Cocktails

  • Mojito – Rum, fresh mint, lime, and sugar
  • Margarita – Lime, triple sec, and tequila
  • Aperol Spritz – Italian Aperol liqueur, sparkling wine, and club soda with fresh orange slices
  • Summer Sangria – Red wine, fresh fruit, brandy, and sugar
  • Paloma – Grapefruit juice, citrus soda or sparkling water, tequila, and fresh lime
  • Mint Julep – Bourbon, fresh mint, simple syrup, and a splash of water
Set up yard games for kids to play at your backyard BBQ party
Set up yard games for kids to play (Photo from Amazon)

8. Set up yard games for all ages.

In summer, kids are restless to get outside and play. Take your outdoor party to the next level with lawn games that both children and adults will enjoy.

Arrange any outdoor games like cornhole, horseshoes, or Twister before the party starts. This way, the kids can go straight to playing and the adults can begin their drinking…ahem…socializing.

Rosemary bacon for your barbecue party
Rosemary bacon to improve ho-hum burgers (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

9. Mix up your grilling game.

Don’t bore your guests with plain old hamburgers and hot dogs. Chances are, they went to a barbecue last night and ate the same thing. Mix it up with fun and adventurous burger toppings!

For truly great BBQ, outfit your backyard with a Traeger electric smoker and smoke some pork or brisket! My pellet grill never fails to impress.

Mix it up by adding a Traeger to your backyard barbecue game (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)
Mix it up by adding a Traeger to your backyard barbecue game (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

Tasty Grilling Recipes

Need some BBQ inspiration? Take a look at these tempting BBQ main dishes and then fire up the grill!

Smoked barbeque beef brisket sandwich
Smoked barbeque beef brisket sandwich (Photo credit: fahrwasser, Depositphotos.com)

10. Make s'mores.

Nothing says summertime more than s'mores made over an open fire. The best part is you don’t have to cook them. All you need are some marshmallows, chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallow sticks.

To jazz things up, use Marshmallow Peeps and an assortment of gourmet chocolate squares to make your s'mores.

You don’t need to build an elaborate fire pit to light a backyard fire either. There are plenty of steel fire pits available for any size or budget.

S'mores make a fun and tasty way to top off a backyard barbecue party
S'mores make a fun and tasty way to top off a backyard BBQ party (Photo credit: bhofack2)

11. Stick to simple summer desserts.

You could stop with s'mores. But if s'mores aren't your jam or you want to be extra sweet to your invitees, then serve one or more of the following easy, crowd-pleasing desserts.

BBQ Party Dessert Ideas

Rainbow Fruit Skewers
Rainbow Fruit Skewers (Photo credit: Sewcream, Depositphotos.com)

12. Choose a theme for your outdoor party.

For truly memorable backyard parties, choose a theme and decorate accordingly. Head to the Dollar Store for inexpensive decoration options.

If hosting a Memorial Day or 4th of July party, then decorate with patriotic red, white, and blue streamers and balloons. Go for a luau theme with leis and tropical flowers. Or host a Mexican fiesta featuring a pinata, brightly colored party decor, and sombreros.

Cowboy-themed BBQ party touches
Cowboy-themed party touches (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

A cowboy theme is a fun idea any time of year. Buy inexpensive cowboy hats, bandanas, and Old West trimmings. Fake mustaches make for fun photo ops!

Backyard party guests wearing mustaches
Props and mustaches make for fun photo ops at your backyard party (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

13. Avoid pesky bugs.

Hosting an outdoor party means you might have some unwanted guests. Insects like bees, flies, and ants will be drawn by the lure of all the delicious foods you're serving up. Mosquitos may join the festivities, too.

The easiest way to avoid insect bites is to place cans of bug spray on all outdoor tables. You should also light citronella candles to keep bugs at bay and provide pretty lighting. Add sage to your bonfire for further protection. Handing out paper fans to barbecue attendees helps, too.

Avoid pesky bugs at your backyard party
Avoid pesky bugs at your backyard party (Photo credit: madsci, Depositphotos.com)

14. Put safety first.

When dealing with fire, safety is the most important thing. Burgers, sausages, and even bone-in chicken quarters and breasts have a lot of fat that can cause flare-ups. Flame-broiled doesn’t mean opening your grill to find everything in flames.

The last thing you want is to put your family, friends, or yourself in danger. Make sure you have a spray bottle at the ready for small grease fires. Have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case, too. Yes, I’ve used mine.

Happy and safe guests at a backyard barbecue party (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)
The result of a good backyard barbecue – happy (and safe!) guests (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

15. Have fun at your backyard BBQ party!

You are now well equipped for the ultimate backyard barbecue party. Just remember the most important tip – have fun. That’s the point of hosting a barbecue. When the host is relaxed and having a good time, so will your guests. Besides, you deserve it!

Don't forget to have fun when hosting a backyard barbecue party
The grill master deserves to have fun, especially at his own backyard barbecue party (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

Learn more tips.

Want to up your barbecue game? Check out my Traeger BBQ Smoker review.

For more outdoor fun, take a look at these backyard activities for kids.

If you like these fun BBQ party ideas, then plan your next party with these Cinco de Mayo party tips. These festive ideas work for a Mexican-themed fiesta any time of year.

Beer lovers and basketball enthusiasts will want to learn how to host a March Madness beer tasting tournament.

Best Backyard BBQ Party Ideas and Tips

Save these backyard BBQ party ideas.

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What backyard BBQ party tips can you add to this list? Do you have any questions about upping your BBQ game? Let us know in the comments below!

About Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy

Bryan M. Richards began his blog, TheWanderingGourmand.com, to document his culinary adventures with his wife around the world (and around the kitchen). During the first eight years of their marriage, they followed their taste buds across five continents, 20 countries, and 71 cities and drank plenty of beer along the way. Then Deacon was born, and they’re learning how to incorporate their son into their culinary adventures. Currently, Bryan balances his role as stay-at-home dad to his young son with his novel writing and freelance gigs covering craft beer, food, and travel. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Follow his adventures on Facebook and Instagram as @BRichWrites.

Comments
  1. Ellen Lanin says

    I think you covered everything!

  2. All the tips are awesome but I liked the decoration point the most. It gives the complete feel of party.

  3. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says

    Asking guests to bring side dishes is a great idea. We love to do that. We turn our backyard barbecues into pot lucks!

  4. I LOVE have a BBQ parties! We try to do a few a year! I love the idea of making S’mores! That is genius!

  5. Gingermommy says

    These are great tips for BBQ parties. In fact, I love the idea of making S’mores. It really is a blast to have a great BBQ party.

  6. Nancy at Whispered Inspirations says

    There really is nothing better than a good old BBQ party. They are really a great way to connect with friends and have fun eating great good. I love the idea of getting the guests to bring the side dishes!

  7. These are great reminders. I think we’ll be having plenty of tailgates and barbecues this fall! There are so many fun ways to change it up each time.

  8. Desiree Lopez says

    Your BBQ’s sound like a lot of fun! I’m anything but a grill master however grilling simple foods like burgers and hot dogs is something I seem to manage okay. I like the idea of asking guests to bring a side dish. That cuts down on the stress of preparation.

  9. Dawn Lopez says

    You seem to throw some epic Barbecues! I like so many of the tips you have here but the one thing I know we’ll try next time is making S’mores for dessert. I never thought about that before.

  10. Brilliant tips that can transfer for the most part to any party. The most important one being have fun. Often time we forget that in trying to throw the “perfect” party.

  11. Elizabeth Lampman says

    We love to have BBQ’s with our friends. We always do a potluck style dinner. It is a great idea to do as much prep as you can the night before.

  12. Claudia Krusch says

    BBQ season is my favorite time of the year. I like to do as much as I can before hand so I can spend more time with my guests.

  13. These are all great tips. I love having backyard bbq’s. They’re so much fun when you have everyone get together.

  14. Amy Desrosiers says

    Having guests bring sides is a huge help to any backyard barbecue. I used to be embarrassed to ask, but not anymore!

  15. We haven’t made any Labor Day plans yet. Normally the last minute BBQ would stress me out, but you make it all sound so easy!

  16. Love the tips, specially the ones leading towards having fun! Sometimes less prep, less stress makes for the best times!

  17. These are all great tips. There’s nothing worse than running out of propane in the middle of grilling.

  18. I’m glad that you talked about how important it is to prepare the food and have it ready to go on the grill before all our relatives arrived. It is my husband’s 45th birthday this weekend and I would like to celebrate it with our close family members. I’ll be sure to prepare everything and buy BBQ meat rubs in advance so we can all enjoy this fun event in our own backyard.

  19. I really liked the tips they were amazing especially asking guests to bring side dishes and snacks part so they don’t bother the cook also serves another important purpose it keeps the guests away from eating out from the pot as its being cooked.
    Thanks

  20. Adventure HQ says

    great BBQ tips, thanks for sharing

  21. Great tips for grilling gatherings.

  22. never thought of decor for a bbq haha love it! On my way to an even better classic bbq.

  23. KELLY c PETERSON says

    Great ideas for food, activities and fun

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