Potluck-style cookouts are one way to celebrate the sunny days and warm summer nights. But if you aimlessly browse Pinterest, Instagram, and home mags as much as the rest of us, then you’ve seen some pretty inviting outdoor dinner setups that leave you with serious backyard envy. BUT! Dining al fresco can be just as dreamy in the comfort of your very own patio with a few simple tricks. It doesn’t even have to cost a fortune. Here’s the lowdown on how to turn your next dinner party into total *Insta-worthy* material.

Set the mood with relaxed jams

Get your hands on some portable speakers, create a stellar playlist or hit up 8tracks, and set the scene with lax background music. Though this may not seem like a crucial element to your soirée, light tunes can go a long way to breathing life into your party and filling people with a certain joie-de-vivre.

Place your table beneath a large tree or awning

If you’re lucky enough to cohabitate with a live oak tree or weeping willow, dining beneath a large tree can set a romantic mood. Not only does it offer shade, but you can dangle whimsical cafe lights or lanterns from the branches for an enchanting flare. Just make sure it isn’t a tree that sheds a lot; nobody wants those greens in their salad.

You can also get the same shade and framework with an awning; where there are cafe lights, there is glamour.

create an offbeat tablescape

Some folks can’t help but have matching sets of everything for every season. But when throwing a quaint and laid-back al fresco dinner, put your “Caribbean Blue” and “Palm” summer dish sets away; vintage is where it’s at, and the more odds and ends, the better. Mismatched plates, contrasting flatware, and ornate glassware is charming AF. Low on supplies? Head to a thrift store to stock up without splurging.

As for the centerpiece, skip traditional and symmetrical floral arrangements. Old bottles with single blooms placed inside are adorable and easy. If you want to go the extra mile, a long piece of flowery garland running down the center of the table is an amazing way to tie things together. Along the garland, add some tea lights, lanterns, and candles. This will make a statement and, later in the evening, give off a romantic glow.

fill plates with Fresh and seasonal ingredients

Summer produce is vibrant, exhilarating, and delicious, so use plenty of it. Grilled vegetables next to your perfectly flaky fish add a pretty punch of color to your plate. If you’ve got the harvest, pluck some zucchini blossoms or edible flowers and incorporate them into your presentation as well. Summer is beautiful, so eat it!

Keep the drinks light, refreshing, and maybe a little bubbly

Some may disagree, but for us, there’s nothing worse than trying to cool down at an outdoor event with a heavy IPA or a room-temp stout. So plan smart. We’re not saying to only have pitchers of icy water on-hand; set out hydrating coconut water cocktails, spiked iced tea, and boozy ice pops. If you’re making a large punch, make sure to keep it in a dispenser as opposed to a punch bowl — you’ll thank us when you don’t find a wiggly bug in your sangria.


Sitting outside on a breezy summer night is wonderful, but perching on wooden benches or metal patio furniture can be hard on the back. It’s amazing what a thick wool blanket or a few square pillows can do, so why not make a snug summer night a little snuggy-er.

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