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How To Plan A Backyard Barbecue

When the warm weather sets in, it’s time to start thinking about lighting the grill and having the gang over for a cookout. There are a ton of reasons to celebrate, and tons of ways to do it. Any type of party can be great outdoors. It can be for any reason or no reason at all. And it can feature just about any kind of food you can imagine! So let’s get started on the planning.

Set A Date

When you want to plan an event, the first step is to choose when you’re going to host it.

Of course, that is often tied to why you’re going to host it. Will your cookout be to celebrate a special event? Graduations are often held in early summer. Birthdays can fall throughout the summer. And of course, there are holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.

But you don’t need to have a special occasion to host a get-together. Sometimes it’s just fantastic to provide an opportunity to unite the old gang or have the extended family in one place.

have friends over for a summer get-together

Whatever the reason, the first step in planning is to pick a date to hold the celebration. Try to choose a time when you know it won’t interfere with other events. For instance, if you know there’s a wedding among your friends the same weekend, it’s probably not an opportune date for your cookout. If “everyone” usually goes to the town park for 4th of July fireworks, you may not want to complete unless you know people are looking for an alternative.

Also try to avoid going up against major sporting events, unless that’s the reason for the party. For instance, the NBA championship often takes place around the end of May and beginning of June. You might find that a large number of guests are migrating to your TV room instead of enjoying the outdoors!

Of course, summer isn’t the only time to host an outdoor BBQ, but in most regions, it’s the best time since it’s when the weather is likely to cooperate. But in milder climates, you could have the cookout at other times of the year, too.

Let Everybody Know!

First, you’ll have to determine how many people you can invite. And that has to be based on how much space you have as well as how much you want to budget.

Remember to allow enough room for people to move around. You might want to allow space for games, too, so that limits the general “occupancy” of the area.

Once you know how much space you’ll have available, you should allow about 8 to 10 square feet per person. So if you have 800 square feet of open space, you may be able to handle up to 100 people.

Generally, about 80% of invitees will RSVP that they’ll be attending. Of course, there will always be a few who show up that hadn’t replied. And a couple won’t show even though they planned to. One or two might even arrive with an unexpected “ +1”. All of that should balance out, though,

Once you have a date and know how many you can invite, you’ll need to get the word out. This could be as simple as a text message or more formal. It all depends on the tone of the get-together. More formal events should also allow more “lead time” to allow guests to plan.

Be sure to let your guests know what kind of gathering it will be. For instance, if you want to have a potluck, give them enough lead time to prepare something. Also, you can start asking for other help as well, such as decorating, clean up, etc.

Trying to help your teen plan a backyard parties with their friends? Check out our tips for helping without getting in the way!

How Much Food And Drink Do You Need

You’ll also have to plan what you’ll need in terms of food and drinks for your cookout.

If you plan a potluck, decide early what you’ll provide yourself and what you’d like your guests to bring. For instance, you might handle the meats but ask guests to provide salads, rolls, desserts, and drinks. One way to divide the responsibilities with a potluck is by name. Ask people whose last names start with A through D to bring desserts, E-M provide salads, etc. But you can be inventive in how you handle it.

You’ll have to pick a general menu regarding what you want to grill, too. Hot dogs and hamburgers may be the easiest option, but steaks are pretty barbecue-friendly, too. You could go for a lot of other dishes, though, depending on your skill level and the type of grill you own.

Try to take into account any special dietary needs some guests may have. That doesn’t mean you have to be knowledgeable about every issue. But if you do know that someone may have issues with certain types of food, it’s always good to reach out and ask how you can accommodate their needs. However, a good start is to offer several types of meat as well as a vegetarian option.

Looking for healthy options for your cookout? Find some great ideas here!

plan a great cookout with hot dogs, hamburgers and more

Count on about a pound of food per adult, and a ½ pound for children. Be sure to offer a variety of drinks, too. Not everyone will want to drink alcoholic beverages. Include soda, water, and juice on your shopping list.

In general, the number of drinks coincides with the time spent at the gathering. Allow two per person during the first hour and one per hour after that. So if you expect people to be there for about four hours, that means five servings per person. But that has to be broken down by the number of adults and children and the expected number who will or won’t drink alcohol.

Get the most out of your cooler with these tips!

Don’t forget plates, dishes, and flatware. The type you’ll use depends on the type of event. But we do recommend using reusable materials whenever possible! It might mean more work cleaning, but it does help the environment and save you money in the long run.

Ice cream is always a favorite, too. You can even mix up your own flavors – including adult options (although alcohol does complicate the freezing process). Sure, you can buy, but the idea of making your own can add something special to the event.

Seating, Decorations, And Music

You’ll also want to be sure to have enough seating for your cookout. Not everyone’s going to be seated at the same time, but you should have enough chairs just in case.

If you don’t have a large supply of folding chairs yourself, you may be able to rent them from a local business. Some community organizations may even rent you the ones they use in their hall.

Depending on the type of gathering, you may also want to decorate in some way. If the party is to celebrate an accomplishment or a holiday, balloons, signs, and table decorations

Music is also great for any event. Spend some time before the day of the party setting up a track list on your computer. You can set the mood for the whole day with the right selections. Or rely on an app like Spotify to pick the music for you. You can just choose a few songs, a style, or a mood, and it will fill in the rest for you.

Be sure that your sound equipment is powerful enough for the area. Remember that it may sound great when you’re alone, but when the yard is full of people, the sound can get muffled by bodies and overridden by talking. You don’t want it so loud that people can’t hear each other, but you do want a nice audible background. (Don’t forget to respect the neighbors, too!)

Assigning Jobs For The Day Of The Cookout

You’ll likely also need to request some help for the day itself. This could be with the setup, cooking, cleanup, organizing games, or many other activities.

As the host, it’s important for you to be able to greet your guests. It doesn’t have to be overly formal; you just need to be free to say “hi” not too long after they arrive. So you might need help with other tasks.

Be sure to ask a couple people if they can arrive earlier to help get things in order, including your tables and chairs and other equipment. Some people might take it on themselves to come and help, but it’s always better to be sure.

If there’s that one special grill master in the group, ask them if they’d mind sharing their skill for at least part of the day.

Got a charcoal grill? Learn how to get it started quickly and easily!

provide a variety of types of food at your BBQ

Are kids attending? You may need an older child or an adult to help younger children with games. Older kids can normally organize themselves but can sometimes use a push in the right direction to get them moving and away from their phones.

One area of special importance comes up if you have a pool. Here, you need to insist that someone is always watching the pool throughout the day. It’s probably best to have several people share the responsibility and take turns. However, there is too much risk to overlook this important part of pool safety.

In general, some people will naturally stay around to help with cleanup. But don’t be afraid to ask for help as things starting winding down!


A cookout is a wonderful time to hang out with family and friends. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. You may plan it around a special event, or “just because”. In any case, a few basic planning steps can help it go smoothly and be more enjoyable for all!

About Us

Tom and Sarah Greenwood are the dynamic duo behind “Yards Improved,” dedicated to the joys and challenges of gardening, pool maintenance, and lawn and patio care. With Tom’s passion for landscape design and Sarah’s enthusiastic approach to gardening, they share their journey of transforming their backyard into a thriving retreat. We strive to offer practical advice aimed at helping you enhance your outdoor space.