Do the words backyard entertaining make you feel like you need to run out and buy a new patio set, a fire pit, and vintage-inspired outdoor string lights before you can invite people over? Think again! Summer is the perfect time for outdoor living and entertaining, and the simpler, the better. Here are some tips for being a low-key, high-volume hostess this summer.
When you live at the base of the Eagle Cap Mountain Range in eastern Oregon, it can feel like summer defines the phrase “short and sweet.”
The snow in our valley may not be fully melted by the middle of May, and crystal flakes often return to the skies as early as October, but this corner of God’s creation makes up for all the months of snowy slumber with a brilliant display of life and nature: sunshine on the forest-rimmed lake, creeks and rivers clear enough to see the green rocks at the very bottom, wildflowers on every hiking trail, fields of buzzing insects and leaping fawns, and a blue backdrop of towering mountains.
Every minute of summer is precious in this high-altitude haven, so utilizing outdoor spaces with visiting neighbors, friends, and family cultivates the summer memories we hang onto when the snow flies again.
SIMPLE IS BEST
Spend any amount of time perusing Pinterest or the grocery store magazine rack, and you’ll conclude that outdoor hospitality requires shelling out a few thousand dollars to get a matching furniture set, fire pit, lighting, umbrellas, planters, throw pillows—and let’s not forget an outdoor rug.
I thought the whole point was to feel like I’m outdoors, and not like I moved my living room into the grass. Hospitality in the fresh air does not demand blowing a month’s wages.
My very best, most vivid memories of summer are of the simply designed outdoor moments—a string of lights from tree branch to branch behind my neighbor’s carport, a linen tablecloth and a jar of wildflowers on the table, mint plucked from the flowerbed and crushed into a pitcher of mojitos with jelly jars for drinking glasses, laughter, and someone’s cell phone placed in a beer glass to amplify French cafe music, just loud enough to let the conversation flow above the serenades.
It’s squinting to play cards by the light of a camping lantern while lounging on garage sale chairs, and as the sun sinks, wrapping up in mismatched quilts and wool blankets just a bit too shabby for indoor use.
The beauty of these summer nights rests in the company shared and the casual mood of the season, not in perfectly coordinating patio sets. Because we are already outdoors mowing the lawn, chasing kids on bikes, and grilling pork chops, spur-of-the-moment happy hours and dinners can happen more easily.
BEAUTY IN SLOWNESS AND SPONTANEITY
Backyard entertaining is as easy as calling over the fence, “Do you have any spinach on hand? Bring it over, we have plenty of meat but we need a salad.”
When dinner time is determined by the speed of the coals heating up, minutes tick by, losing their usual relevance, and lingering together comes more naturally. There is more time to talk, laugh, and hear stories from one another’s hearts.
When we do finally say goodbye and send sleeping children off to their beds, their dirty feet don’t bother anyone; they will swim in the lake tomorrow.
There’s no better time than these warm months to host more get-togethers.
Unlike in February, when our walls can put a limit on hospitality, in the summer, the whole yard is a dining room, and there’s always room for more. Just bring some extra chairs from the shed or the house. A table for dining is really optional, and kids are happier on a picnic blanket anyway.
SUMMER: THE SEASON FOR ENTERTAINING
Do you usually stress at the idea of people cramming in your door, dropping coats and tracking in dirt, toys littering every room in the house when they leave, and dirty dishes stacked a mile high on every kitchen surface?
Ah, sweet summer—no coats, dirt everywhere, and the paper plates go right into the fire pit when the last of the melty ice cream is served. Let summer be your time to relish the glory in everything instead of the perfection.
Invite that family you’ve been meaning to get together with for ages.
Try combining friend groups, bringing believers and nonbelievers together for an evening of the gospel lived out and served with grilled pizza.
Ask the neighbors who have remained strangers for far too long to come for dessert.
And certainly, leave a night open for the oldest and dearest friends who you just need some extra time with, for laughing hard and feeling loved.
When I choose to carve out time with others, I know it will be the best spent time of all; it will bring the richest memories and the most fruit in my walk with fellow believers. I often find encouragement I didn’t even know I desperately needed, or surprise joy in a new closeness with someone unexpected.
Time for relationships is part of the refreshment we need in summer, but we must be intentional about making the opportunities to be with others.
Offer a place that brings people together, or if you don’t have any outdoor space of your own, be the planner of park and lake gatherings.
When you look back over your summer, you will have more than the beautiful Instagram photos—you will have deeper, stronger relationships that will keep growing when the wildflowers and lush leaves have gone.
6 IDEAS FOR FAIR WEATHER FEASTING
Need some ideas for how to maximize your summer entertainment?
Caitlin has put together this FREE printable for our readers with some fun ideas to bring people together outdoors. Enter your name and email below and we’ll send this fun printable right over!
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