16 Steal-Worthy Tips & Ideas for Summer Entertaining

Top event pros from around the country share their best ideas, tricks, and advice for summer parties.

Chad Hudson likes incorporating a memorable water element, such as synchronized swimmers, into outdoor summer events.
Chad Hudson likes incorporating a memorable water element, such as synchronized swimmers, into outdoor summer events.
Photo: Courtesy of Chad Hudson Events

Summer is a time for pool parties and fruity cocktails. It’s also a chance for event pros to get a bit more creative and casual with their gatherings, incorporating bright and bold decor, creative fruit displays, nostalgia-inducing entertainment, and more. Last week, we brought you practical tips and products for hosting pool parties. Today, we’re bringing you even more inspiration from some of the country’s top event professionals.

What decor, themes, and color schemes are hot this summer?The Gathery uses bright, bold yellows to create a France-inspired vibe at Le Meridien's series of summer events.The Gathery uses bright, bold yellows to create a France-inspired vibe at Le Meridien's series of summer events.Photo: Courtesy of the Gathery
“The summer of 2019 is the ideal time to incorporate bright punchy neon colors and fun playful patterns into your theme or design. Think ‘90s! A variety of potted plants in different heights and textures are also a great way to liven up an outdoor space, and can be repurposed for your interior space thereafter—which makes the investment more worthwhile.” —Alison Slight, partner, Candice&Alison Events Group, Toronto

“Go bold with yellow. For [our client] Le Meridien, we’ve created a program aptly called Au Soleil—'under the sun' in French. It brings the spirit of the south of France anywhere in the world. The Au Soleil style is all about yellow and white stripes evocative of ubiquitous French beach clubs' signature style. Adding a splash of this bold summer color in blankets, towels, tablecloths, napkins, and umbrellas is a great way to transform a pool deck, backyard, or full event space.” —Nicky Balestrieri, co-founder, the Gathery, New York

“Summer is a time for laid back and easy entertaining. We love filling pools with tons of beach balls—colors pending theme and/or color of party. These balls do double duty as decorative elements and fun play for your guests.” —André Wells, founder and C.E.O., Events by André Wells, Washington

“We're producing a luau for a corporate client for their tenant appreciation event for 450 people in San Francisco. We're bringing in Hawaiian dancers to greet people, hand out leis, pose for photos, and perform a featured hula dance. We're bringing in a native Hawaiian trio to perform as well as a lei/wristlet/flower crown booth for guests to make their own adornment. We're also bringing in snow cones and popsicles.” —Natasha Miller, founder and C.E.O., Entire Productions, San Francisco

“This summer has been all about localization, bright colors, and parties with a purpose. Our clients want to immerse their guests in the communities they’re visiting through highlighting the local culture and flavors, celebrate the summer vibes by turning decor up to neon, and provide attendees with surprise and delight that gives back. At a recent park pop up for Zillow Group, for example, guests could visit our dog park to simply brighten their day or adopt a new member of the family.” —Kelly Long, co-founder and partner, Manifold, San FranciscoManifold used bright, neon colors for Instagram's pool party at Coachella.Manifold used bright, neon colors for Instagram's pool party at Coachella.Photo: Courtesy of Manifold

What food and beverage options work best for summer entertaining?Glow Events created a custom dessert display on a venue's fruit trees using enclosed jars and swings.Glow Events created a custom dessert display on a venue's fruit trees using enclosed jars and swings.Photo: Courtesy of Glow Events
“Keep things simple with the drinks—no fancy cocktails are necessary in the summer. [For Au Soleil,] we served carafes of rosé and French lemonade in vintage wire milk crates along with ice, stacked glassware, and napkins. Guests were encouraged to pick their pink preference and enjoy with friends. The act of sharing encouraged sociability, and was a gracious act keeping guests from having to wait for the next waiter to pop by.” —Nicky Balestrieri

“We love to highlight the natural beauty of the venue, especially on gorgeous outdoor summer evenings. We created a custom dessert display on a venue's fruit trees using enclosed jars and whimsical swings. Guests were able to walk through the trees and pick sweets from the orchard.” —Jennifer Leibow, director of corporate events, Glow Events, San Francisco

“Infuse your party menus with healthy options like fruit and veggies. Summer is the perfect time to serve colorful fruit displays, which allow for a healthy treat as well as a pop of color. Presentation is everything—if you can create a fun summer fruit stand on ice, people will jump at the opportunity to indulge.” —Jaime Geffen, founder, Geffen Events, Los Angeles

“This summer, daytime brunches are definitely one of the cooler events that our clients are loving. The secret to a successful experiential brunch is to have a targeted guest list and live music, and add an educational/speaking element to encourage dialogue and networking. To beat the extreme heat and humidity in New Orleans at this year’s Essence Festival, we produced a three-course brunch in a converted loft-space for our HBO client. In addition to the delicious food and cocktails, the 60-person event also featured a panel discussion in an intimate setting—which allowed for more conversations and deeper connections between attendees, influential guests, and the network (all in the comfort of air-conditioning).” —Coltrane Curtis and Lisa Chu, founders and managing partners, Team Epiphany, New York At this year's Essence Festival, Team Epiphany helped guests beat the heat with a stylish indoor brunch.At this year's Essence Festival, Team Epiphany helped guests beat the heat with a stylish indoor brunch.Photo: Dorothy Hong Photography

What are some out-of-the-box ways to entertain guests at summer parties?
“A fun and surprise element we’ve been including is adding synchronized swimmers as entertainment. It takes guests by surprise, and they are quite impressed to witness this in person—it’s a fun element to any party.” —André Wells

“I love summer because it’s synonymous with incredible fireworks displays! Find creative ways to change up pyro product with truss positions and sequencing that audiences won’t expect. Holding two pyro safety demos (one for the fire marshal focused on permitting, and one for performers focused on the experience of being on stage, feeling heat, and what to expect) makes a huge positive difference in my dress rehearsals—and most suppliers are happy to bring an extra piece of each product for the purpose of seamless and safe celebrations.” —Liz Hart, executive producer, Liz Hart Events, Washington

“We've received a surge of requests from our corporate clients this year for fun summer picnics that offer employees creative arts and crafts, outdoor games, and even talent shows to encourage teambuilding and offer a fun mental break. One of our favorite activities we planned was a natural dye workshop featuring the artist Maria Cauldron. It was a creative and sustainable activity that brought guests back to their summer camp roots.” —Jen LeibowFor a corporate client, Glow Events used a tie-dye workshop as a summer camp-inspired teambuilding activity.For a corporate client, Glow Events used a tie-dye workshop as a summer camp-inspired teambuilding activity.Photo: Courtesy of Glow Events

“We have chic little backgammon sets and simplified instruction cards on all the cocktail tables where guests could pick up a game. Rosé naturally included. Also, live music somehow always feels so much more liberating outdoors. Nouvelle Vague performed for us playing Italian, French, and American jazz standards with a sexy swing to it for our Au Soleil launch in June.” —Nicky Balestrieri

“For outdoor summer events, we often try to bring in a great water element. If we're working with a pool we will do floating custom logos or gobo projections. We also like to do fun entertainment in or around water. We have done everything from living statues, floating orb performers, choreographed water fountains, and synchronized swimmer dancers.” —Chad Hudson, president, Chad Hudson Events, Los Angeles

How do you keep guests comfortable in an outdoor setting?
“For outdoor affairs, comfort is key. If it is hot, keep drinks really cold, and think of options to provide shade for your guests. Palm paddle fans are always a nice and pretty addition. Keep blankets handy if it gets cool at night, and ensure your guests know the terrain in advance so footwear can be appropriately selected.” —Alison Slight

“How many lawn parties have you ruined your heels in? Or how many loafers full of sand and gravel have you endured at summer events? [At Au Soleil,] we solved this with a custom pair of espadrilles from the affordable, sustainable, and timeless brand Soludos. Guests arrived at the party and were immediately offered a transplant to something more functional to the environment. Basically, they got their goodie bag up front and went home with their fussy shoes in Soludos boxes with their names on it.” —Nicky BalestrieriThe Gathery gives guests custom espadrilles at Le Meridien's summer events.The Gathery gives guests custom espadrilles at Le Meridien's summer events.Photo: Courtesy of the Gathery

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