I love nothing more than a backyard party in summer. Like, invite me over to your place and I’m there. Even if I don’t know you, invite me — I’ll probably show up. (Don’t worry, I’m a polite guest and I’ll bring you a good rosé.)

Because I live in NYC, I don’t have a backyard of my own, so whenever I’m lucky enough to be in a summer rental or share, I really look forward to the rare opportunity to host a few people in the backyard or garden.

So I reached out to an expert, party planning afficanado and fellow Brooklynite Christopher Mohs of Pumpernickel & Rye, to get some tips that can help make any backyard party a success, whether it’s just a few friends on the patio, or a big backyard bash.

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Related: How long can food be left out in summer before it spoils? Check this handy list.

1. What’s your favorite trick to make sure a backyard party is a success?

Keep it simple so you can actually enjoy the party! Pick food items that are easy to prep and make ahead. So during the party you can focus on the guests.

You can keep the kids busy with some backyard games. I even like to have the kids help create the games, like stacking white painted cans and using a small ball to knock them down, carnival style.

DIY backyard party game idea to help keep kids entertained: Go carnival style with white painted buckets and a small ball!

I also like to name my parties. If I’m making a center dish of ribs I might call it a “Rib Festival” and even make it an annual event!


2. What are some smart ways to save money when you’re on a budget?

Cost-saving tip for backyard parties: A case of mason jars make perfect, unstuffy vases for lots of flowers | pumpernickel & rye

I’m a big fan of cost savings. For a recent party I hosted, I draped a linen cloth over a 6-foot folding table then topped with a simple burlap runner. (You can also hit your local fabric store and get an inexpensive yard or two of gingham fabric.) I bought a case of mason jars to serve as flower vases, and It was literally all that was needed to present the spread.

(Note: Mason jars also double as sturdy glassware instead of paper cups, which is smart if you’re entertaining kids.) 

With very little money, the table became a beautiful centerpiece so guests could circle around it, help themselves to food and beverages, and engage in conversation.

And don’t forget that you can repurpose items from your garden as serving pieces or activities for the day. For example, make the (clean) watering can an ice bucket, or use the garden hose to create a slippery hill to keep the kids busy. You don’t have to go out and buy tons of new toys or games!

Related: Great backyard lighting ideas, because it’s time to toss those tiki torches

3. Parents are SO busy, do you have any tips to help make throwing a backyard party easier on us?

You don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen to throw a great party. If you are tight on time, make food prep as easy as possible — hit Costco or your local market and find plenty of ready-to-go veggie platters or cheese trays, and lots of bite-size treats.

You can also have your little guests cook. I have set up an easy pizza-making station for the kids to make their own personal pizzas! No prep for me, and lots of fun for them.

Easy shortcuts for backyard party planning: Ready made crudite transferred into pretty containers | Pumpernickel & Rye
Time-saving backyard party tip: Buy pre-cut, ready-made veggies and transfer them into your own containers for serving, before setting out for guests.

4. Do you have one favorite go-to recipe when you’re hosting a backyard party?

Backyard party ideas: Easy cream and fruit tarts can be whipped up in minutes! | Christopher Mohs, Pumpernickel & Rye
Lavender Cream Fruit Tarts: Just 5 ingredients plus garnish!

I would have to say my go-to recipe is a simple cream and fruit tart. You can buy the tart shells at the store and simply pipe a bit of cream into the tart shell and add a few fresh, ripe berries and you’re done.

For beverages, I like fizzy drinks. You can get creative with flavored tonic, or just club soda mixed with a splash of juice.

Related: Beautiful spring cocktail and mocktail recipes with flower power

Mint and lavender make lemonade more special when you're entertaining | Recipe from Christopher Mohs of Pumpernickel & Rye

Tip: Christopher likes to give homemade lemonade a little extra flavor by making a simple syrup with water and sweetener, then steep with lavender buds or sprigs of mint along with the zest of the lemons you’re juicing. 

5. What is the biggest pitfall to avoid when you’re throwing a backyard party?

Don’t overdo it! A good party is really all about the guests and the conversation. Steer clear of complicated recipes and definitely avoid doing everything the day of the party. Ideally you should find recipes you can make in advance, and freeze until the day before the party.

So don’t get hung up on elaborate decor or very fancy food items. The best parties are simple, elegant, and above all, packed with great people.

The easier you make it on yourself, the more fun you’ll have at your own backyard party!

Thanks to Christopher for helping us with these tips! For more, check out his site, Pumpernickel & Rye and follow @pumpernickelandryeofficial on Instagram.

Top photo: Danielle MacInnes via Unsplash | All other photos © Pumpernickle & Rye |