Planning the perfect BBQ party can be both time-consuming and stressful. So to help streamline the process of planning a BBQ, we’ve put together a step-by-step list of how to plan a BBQ party, some helpful BBQ party ideas to make the day run smoothly as well as some of our favorite BBQ party recipes.
6 Steps to Take the Stress out of Planning the Perfect BBQ Party
Step 1: Consider the Kind of BBQ Party You Wish to Throw
Are you looking to create an intimate dinner setting among close friends or a grand scale gala for your neighborhood to enjoy? When creating an interesting event, it is important to consider the mood and theme of the night (or day) and plan your BBQ menu and BBQ party decorations accordingly.
Step 2: Draft a Guest List & Check the Forecast
Make sure the theme complements invitees appropriately. For example, if you choose to throw a couples-only event, it would not be wise to ask a newly-single girlfriend to the gala. Additionally, try to create invitations or make calls three to four weeks in advance to allow for proper RSVP time. Include an area reserved for food allergies in your invite to ensure the proper menu for all guests. Depending on where you are having the BBQ, you might want to suggest proper attire such as swim suits for a BBQ pool party, sweaters for evening or sneakers if you’re having your party on rocky ground by a lake.
Step 3: Prepare a BBQ Party Menu
While guest preferences and food allergies are important considerations, budgeting is the key to creating a proper BBQ party menu. In addition to keeping expenses in mind, consider your personal cooking skills as well. Should your skills be that of a novice, do not attempt an elaborate dish that will frustrate you and possibly put you behind schedule on the big day. Be honest and do not find it shameful to grab deli or bakery items, or you can always throw a potluck BBQ party so everyone can enjoy making and bringing their favorite recipes. When creating your BBQ party menu, keep refrigerator space, grill size and oven capacity in mind. Use individual cans and bottled drinks or your favorite punch in a large outdoor beverage dispenser – that way you can enjoy the party instead of hanging out in the kitchen making drinks. For more BBQ party menu ideas, check out our Recipes page.
Step 4: Take Inventory
Go through all of your kitchen drawers and cabinets to ensure you have all the proper utensils, place settings, and serving utensils that you will need. Be creative! Brainstorm and consider household odds and ends that can be used when creating an elaborate decor. Make sure you have enough tables and seating for the same number of invited guests. You might want to add a couple extra seats, just in case someone brings an unexpected friend.
Step 5: Create a Buying Guide
Time to shop! Include ingredients, hors d’oeuvres, cleaning supplies, trash bags, plastic containers, decor essentials, serving stations and table accessories when making your list. Don’t forget the lighting (candles or string lights), condiments (mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce) and mood music.
Step 6: Create a Check List & Tie-up Loose Ends
Create a schedule for yourself a week before the big day to cut down on pre-party jitters and stress. We’ve created a schedule for you to begin with, but feel free to add details that are relevant to your party:
One Week Before the BBQ Party
- Check accepted invitations (invitations were sent out 2 weeks ago)
- Clean the house, especially the kitchen and bathrooms
- Prepare and clean patio/yard/deck and seating (refer to our How to Clean a Deck article)
- Prepare grill and get propane
- Prepare or purchase dishes, silverware, serving utensils, cups, napkins, etc. You may want to consider using shatterproof Beverageware/Serverware in case your party gets a little out of hand
- Create a parking plan that adheres to the street laws in your neighborhood
- Create a designated smoking area if necessary and add a container for cigarette butts
- Choose the location of the BBQ grill which should be on solid ground (not grass) and away from any flowers, fences or where children will be playing
- Designate a pet area (consider using Pet Gates)
- Create supermarket list and don’t forget food allergies and vegetarians
- Clean serving trays and create a serving station
- Throw out anything you don’t need in the refrigerator and freezer so you will have space for all of your BBQ food
- Get cheap plastic containers so guests can take home leftovers
- Designate trash cans with liners in strategic areas
- Download & gather music
- Depending on how your area is set up, guests might repeatedly enter and exit your home. Make this easier by using an Instant Screen Door so you can leave doors propped open.
Night Before the BBQ Party
- Begin adding marinades to meats (if applicable)
- Clean and prepare vegetables
- Check for necessary cooking and serving tools
- Set up outdoor heaters in case the party goes into the night (if you don’t want to use an outdoor patio heater, consider using an Outdoor Fireplace)
- Set up the mister in an area away from the tables so guests can stay cool while continuing to mingle outdoors
- Add bug repellents
- Make sure all electronics are charged and ready to go
The Day of the BBQ Party
- Get yourself ready as soon as you get up — you’ll think you have time after everything is prepared, but it is inevitable that something will come up
- Get plenty of ice
- Prepare side dishes, salads and desserts (consider using an Iced Serving Bowl)
- Setup food areas
- Setup beverage areas. You might want to consider a Inflatable Serving Bar that sets up fast and keeps drinks cold for hours
- Setup and fill your Outdoor Food Prep Station near the grill
- Sort out the guests seating and if children are coming, keep in mind where they will be playing and running around. You might want to use some waterproof tablecloths on the tables so you can easily wipe them down if spills occur
- Set up decorations, music and outdoor lights (consider Solar Patio Lights, beverage dispensers and vases, and set up Outdoor Speakers)