6 Fresh Ideas for the Ultimate Summer Party

Throw your best-ever outdoor bash with these creative concepts from top event planners.


Set up a “tomato cart.”

Photo by Ingram Publishing/Getty Images

“I love creating a summery themed table, topping it with caprese salad, gazpacho, and tomato tarts. You can buy the tarts or make your own using puff pastry: line it with a little fresh mozzarella cheese or crumbled chevre, fan overlapping slices of tomatoes on top, and bake until done, then garnish with basil and drizzle with olive oil.”

—Peter Callahan, Peter Callahan Catering


Dress up pigs-in-blankets.

“This favorite party food is even better when you pair it with tons of toppings. Serve the mini hot dogs on a platter or cake stand along with little bowls of ketchup, mustard, relish, hot sauce, guacamole, salsa, cheese sauce, crumbled bacon, and caramelized onions.”

—Mary Giuliani, Mary Giuliani Catering + Events


Serve fruit-flavored water.

“Kids love these colorful waters, and adults can add their favorite spirit. Make two or three pitchers using one kind of fruit for each (with different colors; my favorites are watermelon and cantaloupe). Blend 3 cups of the fruit with one cup of water, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the juice of two or three limes, then strain well using a fine sieve. Chill in the fridge (in pitchers) and add fresh mint before serving.”

—Jung Lee, Fete


Offer a Bloody Mary Bar.

“It’s so easy to set out pitchers of the premixed drink along with an array of toppings—salad-bar style!—that guests can mix in themselves: celery sticks, bacon, cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce, and chopped cucumbers.”

—Mindy Weiss, Mindy Weiss Party Consultants


Put a fresh spin on pizza.

“I love grilling pizzas and using a variety of herb plants (basil, chives, arugula) as table décor. Place a few pairs of cool-looking scissors (all-white ones or vintage brass) near the plants and invite guests to cut their own to customize their pizza.”

—Jung Lee, Fete


Make creative kabobs.

“It’s fun to eat anything on a stick, and there are so many foods that work well on skewers. Two of my favorites are buffalo chicken meatballs (with gorgonzola cheese and celery) and pastrami (with Swiss cheese and rye croutons, and mustard for dipping).”

—Mary Giuliani, Mary Giuliani Catering + Events