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Family BBQ

Classic and unfussy, these are the essentials for a relaxing grill-and-chill

When the weather gods decide to bless us with a stormless afternoon sky, what better way is there to show our appreciation than to throw a barbeque? Whether you’re celebrating Labor Day or having one “just because,” it’s easy to become so caught up in recipes, drinks and décor that you burn out before your first guest arrives. But never fear! These tips will help you get back to basics so you can greet your guests with a relaxed smile instead of your usual, frazzled, “It’s already 3?!” face.

1. Keep Your Set Up Simple

Where will everyone sit? Is there enough room to have food, drinks and diners at one table? Probably not. Consider setting up at least two different tables — one for food and one for dining. Let guests serve themselves from your buffet table and sit down at the dining table. Only hot food goes on the buffet table. Toppings like ketchup, mustard, cheese and pickles should all go on the dining table. Prevent traffic jams at the buffet table by putting prerolled silverware at each end.

2. Keep Drinks Simple and Delicious

No one wants to be mixing drinks all night — and you absolutely shouldn’t have to. So stop offering drinks that call for ice or mixers. Instead, fill two tubs with ice and designate one for adults and one for children. Put water bottles in both. Then include different juice boxes for the kids and different beers and wine coolers in the one for adults. Set up a smaller, separate table nearby with a colorful tray or tablecloth that holds glasses, bottle openers, and napkins.

3. Make It a Pot Luck

You can entice people to come over with a simple promise of grilled meats and cold drinks. Stick to basics like burgers, hot dogs and corn on the cob. Let your guests bring their favorite side dishes and drinks. There’s no shame in asking for help. And in our experience, most people are happy to oblige, even if they just bring a bag of chips and six pack.4. Let Music Set the MoodEvery group has their own preference for party music, so we won’t wear you out with suggestions. You already know what to play. The trick is to make a good playlist in advance so you don’t have to skip over the more embarrassing items in your collection or listen to something that doesn’t jive with the mood you want to set. If you don’t have an outdoor speaker system installed, also consider the best place to put the boombox so everyone can hear without having to shout their conversations.

5. Bust Out a Game

When it comes to outdoor games, adults and kids are just the same. Horseshoes and corn hole are absolute classics. But you can even try a DIY game like lawn bowling. Just fill 10 empty plastic soda bottles with water (food coloring optional!), grab whatever ball you have and go for a strike. You want something that’s going to be fun but not a lot of work. The less equipment the better. Even a bucket of colorful sidewalk chalk or some squirt guns will get everybody laughing. If you have a pool, fill it with floats and toys.

6. Don’t Fuss Over Décor

This isn’t an art gala, it’s your backyard. You really don’t need to overdo it here. If you want a little extra pizzazz, consider stringing up a few simple strands of white Christmas lights on the deck or around the patio. Toss some picnic blankets on the lawn and, if you’re feeling super fancy, maybe bring out some tea lights in mason jars after sunset.

7. Do Some Bug Control

Don’t let your guests get caught in that enormous spider web. Make sure you take 10 minutes to sweep the patio area and remove the most unsightly bug traps. Eliminate standing water as that’s where mosquitos love to hang out. If you and your guests haven’t been doing BBQs as often as you’d like because you all get eaten alive, consider installing a mosquito misting system to make it a more comfortable place to lounge.

8. Don’t Forget Dessert

It’s an essential part of any party, but you don’t have to be fussy. Buy cupcakes from your grocery store’s bakery or get snacks from that local place you love. You can even get a few tubs of ice cream and freeze single-size servings ahead of time. All you have to do is take a cupcake tray, put in cupcake liners and put a scoop (or two) of ice cream in each. Cover the tray with saran wrap and remove from the freezer when you’re ready to serve. You can even make a little custom ice cream station with sprinkles, maraschino cherries, and chocolate syrup so everyone can customize their own dessert.

9. End the Party When You Want

We all have those guests who just don’t seem to want to go home. But how can we get them to leave without being rude? Simple. Ask them what food you can send them home with. It works like a charm.

Whether it’s the first BBQ of the season or the last, shouldn’t the focus be enjoying great company, great food and great weather? What are your best tips for throwing the perfect backyard BBQ? We’d love to see them in the comments.

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