Summer Party Decorating Checklist

Use this checklist to ensure that you have everything you need to decorate your yard, create a beautiful table and set the mood for the perfect summer party.

  • Chairs. If you're hosting a party in your backyard, make sure you have enough chairs for all your guests. If you're going to be seating some of your guests in folding chairs, consider using chair covers. They'll keep your table looking lovely by dressing up the seats, which can be unsightly.
  • Tablecloths and table runners. Choose a tablecloth that fits your table. Try a brightly colored one or a summer-themed pattern.
  • Napkins. Make sure you have enough napkins for all your guests. You can even mix and match different sets. Paper and cloth napkins come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. When you're picking out napkins, select colors that will coordinate with your tablecloths, table runners and place mats.
  • Napkin rings (optional). A napkin wrapped in a decorative ring can dress up a table setting, whether it's placed next to or on top of the plate. If you don't have napkin rings, use pretty ribbons tied in bows.
  • Dinnerware. Consider your menu and the tone of your party. Are you hosting guests for hors d'oeuvres and cocktails by the pool or a sit-down dinner under the stars? For a casual party, paper and plastic make cleaning up a breeze, and there are many eco-friendly options available. If your party is more formal, consider setting your table with brightly colored china pieces. Make sure you have enough plates for each course. Are you serving soup, salad and bread? If so, you'll need dinner plates, salad plates, soup bowls, dessert plates and bread plates.
  • Flatware. Consider your menu and make sure you have enough flatware for all your guests. For dinner, you'll need dinner forks, dessert forks, knives, butter knives and teaspoons. If you're also serving soup or salad, you'll need additional forks and spoons for those courses. Plastic flatware makes cleanup a breeze after a casual party, but use your regular flatware for a more formal gathering.
  • Glassware. Set your table with wine and water glasses for adults and juice glasses for children. Plastic and paper are convenient and attractive for a casual party, while glass works best for formal occasions. Make sure you have enough for all your guests.
  • Cups or mugs. If you'll be serving tea or coffee with dessert, you'll need enough cups or mugs for all your guests. Again, paper and plastic are good alternatives to china when the party is a casual get-together.
  • Water pitcher. Make sure your guests stay well hydrated on warm summer days. Place a pitcher of water on the table so that guests can refill their glasses without having to leave the table.
  • Salt and pepper shakers. If your table is particularly long (to accommodate a large number of guests), you may want to include salt and pepper shakers at each end.
  • Centerpiece. Assemble a summer centerpiece for your table. Try an arrangement of different-sized candles with a scattering of seashells or stones. Plastic beach buckets filled with sand also make sturdy candleholders. Pair them with other beach toys for a whimsical theme.
  • Barware. Assorted cocktail glasses (martini, highball and old-fashioned) will encourage guests to whip up their favorite drink. 
  • Bar tools. A corkscrew, bottle opener, cocktail shaker, strainer, muddler, jigger, bar spoon and cocktail picks will provide guests with everything they need to pour their own drinks. Colorful cocktail umbrellas add a dash of summer whimsy to cocktails, and wineglass tags will ensure that guests never confuse their drinks with someone else's.
  • Ice bucket or cooler. An ice bucket or a cooler at the bar or the dinner table is a summertime essential. It will let guests keep their drinks cold without having to run back into the house to get more ice. 
  • Coasters. Hot summer days and cold drinks bring the inevitable water rings on your tables and drips on your guests. Avoid this problem by leaving coasters on surfaces where guests might put down their glasses.
  • Serving dishes. Make sure you have enough serving bowls and platters for each dish.
  • Serving pieces. You'll need serving pieces for each dish, including spoons, forks, a bread knife, a cake knife and a cake server.
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