purple flowers in a metal bucket on an outdoor table.

Low Key Summer Party Ideas

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Summer parties are the easiest ones to make feel relaxed and chill. Learn how to create a low key summer party that’s easy to put on and even easier to kick back and enjoy.

I’m writing this post in the middle of winter in Buffalo, NY. It’s cold, there’s a foot of snow on the ground, and I’ve been stuck inside for much too long. I am ready for summer parties! They can’t come soon enough.

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At my house, we have a pretty cool pool in the backyard, so we host a number of casual, low-key summer parties each year.

Most of the time I’m putting these parties together very last minute, either because it’s super hot out and people want to come over to swim, or I’m just feeling especially sociable so I invite people over when I want to see them. As an introvert with mild social anxiety, I find that it’s easier for me to decide when I want to be social and just DO it.

Very rarely am I planning ahead for my low key summer parties. Instead, I have some things in place so that whenever I want to have a get together, I’m already ready.

I’m going to share my low key summer pool party tips, and then I’m going to give you some extra tips that will make you the guru of summer chill, no swimming pool needed.

Shop My Amazon Storefront for my favorite picks for throwing a summertime outdoor party.

watermelon float in a swimming pool


Be ready whenever the mood strikes to have some people over for a chill pool party.

Stock up on pool gear – I want my guests to come over and not need to worry about bringing a bunch of gear. I keep beach towels, some extra kids swimsuits, kids swim vests, and goggles in the shed so that if someone forgets something, no worries.

Keep the fridge full – Canned drinks (sodas, seltzers, beers) and bottled water is always chilling in my fridge. When the pool is open, I throw a bunch into a cooler on wheels and take it outside.

On the same page, I keep snacks around for quick impromptu parties. Tortilla chips and salsa is a quick and easy snack to serve.

three chairs set up casually in a backyard.

Have Enough Chairs – You always want to have enough chairs so that people coming to your yard are comfortable. I like to set up little conversation areas so that people can sit and chat.

Keep an eye out at yard sales or second hand shops for cute vintage lawn furniture. It’s my favorite to spray paint bright colors.

Make a Playlist – use Spotify or your favorite music streaming app to have a couple of “pool party†playlists ready to go. That way nobody has to worry about choosing or agreeing on something, it’s just already playing.

people cooking sausages on a grill


No swimming pool needed! Here are my favorite tips for throwing together a low-key summer party.

Summer Dinner Potluck.

Invite your friends to stop over after work and assign them each a part of the meal to bring.

I suggest this set up: 1 person brings some meat to grill, one person brings a salad, one person brings dessert, and someone brings some beer or wine.

Nobody really needs to cook anything, all of those things can be grabbed at the grocery store on the way home from work. All you need to do is turn on your grill and provide some plates and forks.

Backyard Games Party

Set up a few different outdoor games in your yard. My favorite is Kan Jam. There are also things like lawn darts, giant Jenga, and Bocce Ball.

I find that setting up tournaments and lists is more work than I want to do, and often not necessary, as people will just start playing when they get there. However if your friend group is especially competitive, maybe a tournament poster would be fun!

Serve beer and pizza. Low Key Summer Fun, Done!

woman holding a jar of lights.

Nighttime Summer Party

I find that having people over at night often makes everyone more relaxed. It’s something about the low light and cooler temperature.

If allowed where you live, start a fire in a firepit. Sit around and tell stories, roast marshmallows, and relax.

If backyard fires are not permissible where you live, that’s ok! Find some cool outdoor lights and do the same thing. You can roast marshmallows on a grill, or just eat cookies 🙂

Another trendy theme I’ve seen on Pinterest is outdoor summer movie nights. This is really fun to think about, however I haven’t tried it yet. It seems I’d need a bunch of blankets, a screen and projector, and some popcorn. I love it!


I’ve actually done quite a few big parties in my backyard over the years. I did a beautiful bridal shower on the hottest day of my life (It was gorgeous, but so sticky!). I had a family reunion, and a few birthday parties for my kid in the spring.

Bigger parties take bigger planning, but they can absolutely be low key and enjoyable for you, as the host, if you plan ahead and plan well.

This isn’t an all inclusive list of how to throw a big summer party, but it’s my best and most important tips for how to throw a party that is low key and still awesome.

Tip 1: Get a Tent. Rent one, or buy one if you think you’ll use it at least once per year. We bought one a couple of years ago and it’s been well worth it. You never really know what the weather will do. A tent will literally have you covered.

Tip 2: Consider Catering. It’s not easy to cook for a large amount of people. It’s possible, and probably preferred if you’re on a budget, but if you have the money, pay someone else to feed your guests.

table set with food for an outdoor party.

Delivery catering is a good low budget option, where a catering company just drops off the food for you and then you set it up and serve it. The photo above shows how you could order baked goods and salads and set them up really nicely.

Full service catering is more expensive, and usually involves a person that stays and makes sure people get fed, and then cleans up after themselves.

Order pizza or sandwiches if you want to go really low key. People love pizza and sandwiches. And it’s so easy! For my sister’s wedding shower, I ordered finger sandwiches and salads from Wegmans (my local amazing grocery store, if you don’t have one near you, I’m so sorry), and it was absolutely perfect.

For dessert, get a cake or some cupcakes.

Tip 3: Premixed Cocktails. I love making drinks up and putting them in pretty glass decanters so people can serve themselves. Decide on one or two summer themed drinks and mix up a bunch so it’s ready to go. Serve beers and waters too. Always have plenty of water for guests on a hot day.

This list of large batch summer cocktails is perfect to choose from.

Tip 4: Have something for Kids to Do. If your guest list includes children, make sure there are things for them to do to keep themselves occupied. I like to go to the dollar store and pick up bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and other small toys that they can play with. Sometimes I even set up craft supplies. Hula hoops and jump ropes are also great.

If kids are having fun on their own, their parents will be able to kick back and enjoy themselves more.

Tip 5: Relax About Decorations. Yes, decorations are fun, but if you don’t have the energy and creativity to go all out, just go easy on them. A few vases of fresh flowers might be enough to really draw everyone in. Some festive lights for nighttime are easy to put up. Tablecloths on your tables very quickly and easily make things look fancy and well put together.

Do the basics. Nobody will notice that you slacked on this part if you at least make it look presentable. It’s like when you invite friends over in the wintertime. Just run the vacuum and clean the mirrors. They won’t notice the rest.

purple flowers in a metal bucket on a table.


As mentioned, you don’t need to kill yourself decorating for an outdoor party. Chances are those decorations will get wet or blown away anyways. Here is what I suggest as the bare minimum for decorating for an outdoor summer party.

  • Put matching tablecloths on all tables. This makes it really look like a party, and if your tables don’t match, they will now.
  • If you have a theme, add a few small reminders of that theme around your yard or tent. A banner or sign near the food/drinks is a good idea. Themed centerpieces are great too. If you don’t really have a theme, consider flowers on the tables or another more simple centerpiece.
  • I suggest that you avoid the following for outdoor summer parties: Streamers (what a nightmare when it’s windy!), and confetti (made of plastic and will just be in your lawn for the next hundred years).

Less can absolutely be more! I’d love to hear about your low key summer party ideas too. Leave them in the comments.

outdoor chairs under a tree

a watermelon raft in a pool

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