Bringing the fun outdoors: A guide to outdoor party ideas

Duh dun. Duh dun. You know that familiar Jaws tune, right? It means something is out there. It’s coming for us, and there’s absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. Labor Day looms before us, casting its dark shadow of impending wool scarves that serve an actual purpose, and plaid.

So do as they say, and “host parties while the sun shines” (they say that, right?). This summer’s weekends may be numbered, but you still have countless ways to toast to the great outdoors before September hits in all its blustery, foliage-filled glory.

Read on for some tips and tricks on hosting your next outdoor shindig—plus a few unique outdoor party ideas and summer party invites to get the ball rolling. 

How do you throw a good outdoor party?

Left: Photo of lawn chairs in a lush backyard | Right: Decorative pennant banner blowing in the wind

First and foremost, let’s kick things off by talking about the basics. How does one throw the perfect open-air extravaganza? While certain variables may be out of your control when dealing with Mother Earth, there’s plenty that hosts can do when planning an outdoor backyard party. 

Take a look at some of the easiest tips and tricks for getting this process right:

 

— Check the weather – There’s a reason meteorologists exist. Sure, they may be trained to predict natural disasters and save lives—but they’re also great at helping people plan their daily lives. When choosing a date for an outdoor event, try not to schedule anything too far in advance (unless you live somewhere with year-round sunshine). Wait until you can check the 10-day weather forecast, then nail down a date with the best temperature and precipitation levels. The last thing you want at your outdoor party is an unexpected shower!

 

— Have a backup plan – With an outdoor party, conditions won’t always be predictable. While the weather forecast can tell us quite a bit, it’s never truly a guarantee. This is why it’s always smart to have a backup plan when throwing an outdoor party. This may include investing in a tent, makeshift roofing, or simply using your home or another venue as a plan B. 

 

— Stock up on seating – Parties can last for hours, and your guests will probably need a break from being on their feet at some point during the day. Unlike an indoor event where plenty of furniture is available, outdoor spaces may require additional seating to accommodate everyone comfortably. 

Consider bringing out chairs from your home or purchase some extra seating from a home goods store. For larger events, you may want to contact a local party rental store. These companies typically offer affordable rates for folding chairs and other outdoor furniture, as well.

 

— Invest in some outdoor lighting – Lighting is crucial to any outdoor event, particularly if you plan on partying well into the evening. While you don’t want anything too bright that will disrupt the ambiance, there are a few key lighting fixtures that every outdoor event or backyard party should have. Invest in some exterior string lights to illuminate walkways, tables, and any other important elements of your outdoor party.

 

With these helpful tips in mind, you can now move on to the creative part of planning your outdoor party: choosing a theme.

Outdoor summer party themes

Of course, every occasion is going to have a different look and feel. Whether you’re celebrating something in particular or simply planning a night of fun, there are certain factors to consider when choosing your party’s theme:

 

— How many guests are coming

— What kind of crowd you’re inviting (friends, family, coworkers, etc.)

— Whether you plan on serving party food, drinks, or keeping it BYOB

— What time you want the party to occur—daytime themes can differ quite a bit from nighttime ones

 

It’s crucial to choose a theme that meshes well with the vibe you’re trying to cultivate. With these aspects of your function in mind, consider the following outdoor party ideas when planning your next event.

Host a tipsy tennis tourney

Left: “Holding Court” by Paperless Post | Right: Photo of a man's leg while he is playing tennis

Holding Court” by Paperless Post

 

Tennis, anyone? If recreational cardio seems decidedly off-brand, fear not. A boozy round robin is fun for jocks and non-jocks alike. Plus, the sporty dress code is enough reason to fall in love with this outdoor party theme. 

Let’s take a look at the essentials you’ll need when planning a tipsy tennis tourney:

 

SERVE: A small dose of healthy competition never hurt anyone, but on the off-chance it awakens someone’s inner Annie and Helen, be prepared to blow the whistle and call for a timeout. Break time can consist of refreshing, summery treats—like strawberries and cream or cucumber sandwiches.

DRINK: Alcohol and exercise often lead to two opposing outcomes: laughter and dehydration. That’s why it’s crucial to keep party guests hydrated. For a smaller crowd, invest in some personalized water bottles that will please even your most germaphobe friend. During the post-game celebration, beat the heat by breaking out tasteful pitchers of Limoncello Vodka Collins.

GIFT: Party favors will kick any gathering up a notch, and what better way to thank your dedicated athletes than a package of on-theme gumballs? Your guests will be delighted and amused by the impressive shape of these delicious treats.

WON’T be complete without: a strict dress-code adherence, of course! It’s your call to lean towards the style of Serena Williams, Richie Tenenbaum, or anything in between, but be sure to specify tennis attire on the invitation. You don’t want half your guests dressed for a ball, and the other half ready to hit a ball. 

Have a field day

Left: Two people playing tug of war in a grassy field | Right: “Brat Stars” by Paperless Post

Brat Stars” by Paperless Post

 

Whether you’re nostalgic for the first summer you spent at sleepaway camp (or the first time you watched Wet Hot American Summer), a throwback, camp-inspired party is always a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. 

Use these tips for inspiration, and let the party-planning games begin:

 

SERVE: Camp is officially in session, and it’s going to be just like the old days—except now we can drink. A keg and ice bucket of rosé will do just fine for this throwback theme, or you can take things to the next level with refreshing boozy popsicles. Either way, you won’t have to worry about getting busted by a counselor (just don’t go overboard and wind up in the infirmary).

DO: Invite your party guests to work up an appetite with some classic summer camp games. Fan the flames of competition with a round of capture the flag, a refreshing water balloon fight, or channel your inner knight with some casual jousting

GIFT: Send your campers home with some summer flair, like a watermelon handbag filled with a few sweet treats. Your guests will go home with their souvenirs feeling like they had an entire summer of fun in one night!

WON’T be complete without: Before taps are in order, give out a few colored bandanas and cheeky awards to keep the energy up and the homesickness way, way down.

Let me see that lobster roll

Left: “Shrimp and Sparklers” by Paperless Post | Right: Lobster roll and french fries on graphic wax paper

Shrimp and Sparklers” by Paperless Post

 

When the temperature creeps toward blistering levels, sometimes there’s nothing to do but head for the sea… or, at least, the seafood. Get things cracking (get it?) with one of our crustacean invitation templates, and get ready for a feet-in-the-sand kind of clam bake. 

Here’s what you’ll need to pull off this salty, buttery, and one-of-a-kind soirée:

 

SERVE: Off-the-cuff is the name of the fun game with this outdoor party theme, so feel free to let your shellfish feast consist of whatever proteins you find at the local grocery store or fish market. When it comes to lobster, there’s nowhere like Maine—and as it turns out, the same can be said for lobster party drinks. Wash down your lobster rolls with a mug of this full-bodied Maine beer to keep the entire menu Pine Tree State-approved.

DECORATE: Full disclosure, there’s no posh way to dribble lobster butter down your chin. Prepare for the inevitable with some stylish newspaper decor, and load up on dish towels, wet wipes, and seafood crackers (because not everyone has the grip strength to crack open a lobster with their bare hands).

WON’T be complete without: This perfectly on-theme oyster bottle opener. Just make sure nobody tries to shuck it before you can open your next beer!

Get the team together

“Time to Ketchup” Flyer by Paperless Post

Time to Ketchup” Flyer by Paperless Post

 

Planning team drinks on a rooftop or your next office party in the park? Grab the attention of your teammates with a textable Flyer invitation from Paperless Post. Once everyone has the necessary information, it’s time to plan a home run party:

 

SERVE: Less meetings, more mojitos. Serve refreshing frosé to keep your teammates feeling chill, or give out inflatable drink holders as party favors. In need of more drink inspiration? Savor the flavors of summer while you can with this Smoky Blackberry Margarita recipe from our favorite, Jenni Kayne.

DO: Ask colleagues to bring their “A” game for park volleyball, and their own towel too. You can also try some lawn games we love for adult field days, like tug of war or a three-legged race. The games you choose will ultimately be the difference between team building and rivalry making—depending on the level of competition you’re interested in.

GIFT: Your brand swag. Give out customized tote bags to haul laptops, hoodies for the A/C blast, or branded water bottles for those hot summer days ahead. When it comes to free merchandise, you really can’t go wrong.

WON’T be complete without: A cheeky Flyer invitation! Bring your message to life with GIFs, text effects, and stickers, or personalize a flyer by uploading your own image. Flyers can easily be sent via Slack or to an email list. Plus, with Paperless Post, you’ll never have to watch a bothersome ad when reading your invitation!

Picnic in the park

“Picnic Weather” Flyer by Paperless Post

Picnic Weather” Flyer by Paperless Post

 

Being indoors is so last season. When the summer weather arrives, it’s time to head outside with some cold ones (salads and beers) and plates you can’t destroy—we like bamboo or enamel. Toss a frisbee into the mix and let the good times roll. 

Kick off your picnic with some sunny Flyer invites you can send via SMS, email, or Whatsapp. An al fresco feast awaits, now let’s get to planning:

 

SERVE: Some people like to keep it casual with a blanket on the grass, but feel free to bring a table and a linen tablecloth for a touch of simple decadence. Play it cool with a menu that doesn’t require a morning in the kitchen. Summer fruit, cheese, and antipasti are our go-to picnic provisions that pack maximum flavor with minimal preparation.

DO: Bring a basket with summer sporting must-haves, like a frisbee, a baseball and a glove, or a soccer ball. Any game that can easily be played in the grass will work perfectly for this laid-back event.

GIFT: Speaking of frisbees, why not start your own ultimate league by giving out frisbee party favors? This gift idea is affordable, funny, and perfectly on-brand for a picnic in the park.

WON’T be complete without: Light nibbles and bubbles. Bring along your favorite crunchy snacks, and pair them with an affordable sparkling wine. Keep your picnic eco-friendly by packing a few reusable plastic champagne flutes.

Bring your outdoor party to life with Paperless Post

No party is complete without the right invitations—otherwise, nobody would show up.

At Paperless Post, it’s our mission to ensure people do show up. Our virtual invitations and flyers are designed to make party planning easier. Rather than writing out invitations by hand and relying on snail mail, we’ve found a way to bring unique designs to the modern world.

With Paperless Post, you can choose from hundreds of stylish templates, colors, and even custom designs for a more personalized look. Deciding on the theme of your party is the hard part; let the invitations be easy and fun. Browse our summer party invitations, and plan your next outdoor shindig in style—with Paperless Post! 

 

 

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