1 of 30 Amy Neunsinger
A successful dinner party doesn’t demand anything elaborate―just simple food, good company, and a convivial setting.
2 of 30 Minh + Wass
Thick, comfortable cushions on the chairs will encourage guests to linger at the table.
3 of 30 Marcus Nilsson
Lay brown craft paper across a table for a casually finished look―and super-easy cleanup.
5 of 30 Richard Felber
An umbrella not only has the obvious task of providing shade, it also helps define your outdoor dining room.
7 of 30 Deborah Jaffe
Make wind less of an issue by skipping a tablecloth. Weight dishes―and greet guests―with small bowls of fresh fruit.
8 of 30 Jonny Valiant
Repurpose indoor furniture to create an outdoor “room.” Here, a cot covered with pillows becomes a settee.
9 of 30 Miki Duisterhof
Set up tables in separate areas―say, drinks in one spot, dessert in another―to encourage guests to roam.
10 of 30 Jonny Valiant
Stock a bar cart with essentials: glasses, plates, ice, a cocktail shaker, and swizzle sticks. Wheel it back to the kitchen if you run low.
11 of 30 James Baigrie
Floating peonies and gardenias make a pretty centerpiece. Just pour water into a large serving platter, and trim the stems off each flower.
12 of 30 Rob Howard
To keep dairy-based dips chilled, fill a large bowl with ice, and sprinkle it with kosher salt. Place the dip bowl on top.
13 of 30 Miki Duisterhof
Keep bugs away from food with an upended wire-mesh colander. Use Popsicle sticks to distinguish the rare burgers from the well-done.
14 of 30 Amy Neunsinger
A summer party should be relaxed. Not enough seating to go around? Even tree stumps will do just fine.
15 of 30 John Kernick
Set up a lemonade stand to keep guests hydrated on hot afternoons. Place glasses within easy reach on a dessert stand.
16 of 30 John Kernick
Create ambience with themed decorations. Here, a starfish is tied to a basic napkin ring for a beachy feel.
17 of 30 James Baigrie
Bring the seashore to your backyard by filling colorful buckets with sand and sunflowers.
18 of 30 Rob Howard
On a steamy night, your guests will be happy with simple fare: sparkling drinks and savory little bites, like fancied-up crudités.
19 of 30 Michele Gastil
At twilight, make sure you provide plenty of lighting. Paper lanterns draped from tree limbs (with dark extension cords that blend in) are charmingly festive.
20 of 30 Michele Gastil
Circle your party area with citronella candles or incense sticks to light when night falls.
21 of 30 Beatriz Da Costa
Twinkling strands add instant ambience to any evening party. (Secure with plastic hooks―nails and staples can pierce the wire.)
22 of 30 Beatriz Da Costa
Hang glowing lanterns on low branches (be sure the lanterns’ handles are long enough that the flames sit about 12 inches from leaves and branches).
23 of 30 Beatriz Da Costa
A solution for cautious hosts: battery-operated candles. Provides you with the same warm light, with no worries of wind or dripping wax.
24 of 30 Beatriz Da Costa
Lend an ethereal effect to a backyard with solar lights, which run on energy gathered during the day and snap on as darkness falls.
25 of 30 Beatriz Da Costa
Light up an outdoor dinner with bright, festive strands intertwined with foliage.
27 of 30 Jonn Coolidge
All the crackle of a campfire without the need to rough it: Set up a fire pit on grass or a stone patio.
28 of 30 Minh & Wass
Guests can sink into sturdy wicker chairs, perfect for lolling in on a lazy summer night.
29 of 30 Michele Gastil