Nothing says summer more than a classic, all-American barbecue. With August underway, there isn’t much time left to squeeze in that last great outdoor barbecue. How do you balance providing mouth-watering food and entertainment for your guests? Here are some simple tips and tricks for your best barbecue yet.

Decorate the Space

At any perfect summer barbecue, the focus is sure to be on the food and company, but that doesn’t mean you can’t entertain in a beautiful and inviting space.

Keep your space light and enjoyable. Place wildflowers in assorted jars and vases around tables. String simple lanterns and lights where you can- bonus points if they repel bugs. Add pops of color with pillows or pennants made from paper or burlap.

Get creative with patio furniture, chairs, sofas, pillows, and blankets for seating outside or simply ask guests to bring extra lawn chairs. Having a variety of seating options can promote mingling and ensure that everyone gets a spot to rest and enjoy some fantastic food and company.

Pro-tip: To keep your space neat and beautiful, provide labeled bins for waste, recycling, and dirty dishes in an easy-to-spot area. This will make clean-up duty much easier.

Plan the Menu

The best grilling recipes are the simplest grilling recipes. Assorted beef and veggie burgers, brats, ribs, and wings are sure to delight all of your guests. You can create endless varieties of easy to put together meat, veggie, and fruit skewers. Add some sides of grilled corn on the cob, beans, and biscuits. And, if you prepare all the ingredients together—clean, slice, and marinate the night before—all you need is to cook them! Minimize your preparations and enjoy time with friends and family.

Provide easy to make and enjoyable to devour desserts. Throw some peaches and pineapples on the grill and pair them with ice cream. Make some classic Minnesotan fruit salads or bars, or set out an ice cream sundae bar- no one will be able to resist. Food and Wine and The Food Network offer the best recipes and food tricks so that you can make the best of your summer barbecue menu. Just don’t visit these sites hungry.

And don’t forget about the drinks! Offer an assortment of water, soda, juice, and beer in labeled coolers for ease, and encourage guest to BYOB. Tie a bottle opener to the handle of the coolers so that a beverage is always on hand.

Pro-tip: Ever notice that most of the trash from parties involve scattered, half-full cups and drinks with bugs in them? A simple solution: provide stickers so the guests can label their drinks and offer muffin liners that guests can poke their straws through to place over drinks and keep bugs out.

Entertain Your Guests

Need entertainment ideas for a variety of friends and family? For fun game options, gather a variety of frisbees, footballs, and soccer balls and set them out, along with yard game classics, such as croquet, corn hole, bocce ball, or ladder golf to entertain your guests. If you are barbecuing with a competitive bunch, create a tournament of your favorite game- maybe flag football or lawn darts? Also, consider having some bubbles and sparklers on hand for the younger audience.

And what summer party is without a fantastic music playlist? 8tracks and Pandora offer endless playlists that you can personalize or you can get creative and make your own.

Pro-tip: Supply a basket full of sunblock and bug spray. This is as essential as staying hydrated on a hot summer’s day by the grill. No one wants to go home sunburned and covered in itchy bug bites!

Even though summertime nearly over, it doesn’t mean that you can’t plan a few more perfect summer barbecues. Get your creative juices flowing, get those recipes grilling, and invite some friends over! And just in case you are looking to upgrade your outdoor living space, check out our landscaping page!