Ditch the fancy and fussy in favor of laid-back entertaining that leaves you more time to enjoy the fun

Summertime calls for a distinctly unfussy approach to entertaining, and thankfully so —because who wants to sweat over planning a summer soiree? Make things easier on yourself by hosting outdoors instead of in, getting guests to pitch in and embracing low-key, budget-friendly decor. From DIY flowers and quick extra tables to a beachy outdoor bar, these 10 ideas will make your party planning easier.

1. Whip up an extra table with sawhorses. Short on outdoor dining space? Hunt down a few sawhorses and top them with a length of board as big as you want your table to be. You can paint the board, cover it with a cloth or butcher paper, or leave it as is.

2. Fashion a wooden crate into a drinks container. If you line it with plastic, any old crate can be a rustic-chic open-top cooler for keeping soda and beer on ice. It won’t keep it cold as long as a real cooler, but it should do the trick at a party.

3. No crate? Use whatever you’ve got. An old wheelbarrow, a garden cart, an enamel bucket or even a toy dump truck can be lined with trash bags and filled with ice to make an impromptu drinks cooler.

4. Dress up candles with woodsy details. Curl a wide green leaf and drop it into a glass jar — then fill the jar with water and float a tea light on top. Or use lengths of birch bark (available at craft stores) to wrap the outside of a jar or candleholder, and fasten them with twine.

5. Make beachy candles with mason jars and sand. 
Filled partway with sand, a mason jar of any size can easily become a chic candleholder. To make hanging lanterns, wrap the mouth of the jar with flexible wire and hang the jar from the branches of a tree. For safety, use battery-operated candles for hanging.

6. Use soda bottles as vases. A row of tall, slender soda bottles lined up in the middle of a table makes a pretty (and supereasy) centerpiece. Just plunk one bloom in each vase, and you’re done! Try gerbera daisies, cosmos or sunflowers.

7. Seat everyone at one big table. Who wouldn’t love coming into a backyard set up like this? Put two or three tables together if you have to — the dramatic effect will be worth the effort.

8. Use old crates as trays and servers. Vintage wooden soda crates make the perfect receptacle for toting glasses, vases, napkins and other essentials out to the garden. Or use one to dole out flatware, standing utensils upright in simple mason jars.11. Boost ambience with lanterns and signs. Flank the entrance to your party area with a pair of big lanterns and lean a sign nearby — it can announce the menu or simply say, “Welcome!” 

9. Go wild with your arrangements. Plucking flowers and foliage from your own backyard is cheaper than buying them, and it can be more fun, too! Push yourself to look at your garden anew and clip a little something unexpected to tuck into your bouquet. Dandelions look charming in mason jars, flowering chives are utterly romantic, and an artichoke would make a dramatic centerpiece in a mixed floral bouquet.

10. Boost ambience with lanterns and signs. Flank the entrance to your party area with a pair of big lanterns and lean a sign nearby — it can announce the menu or simply say, “Welcome!”