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5 Must-Have Items for Backyard Entertaining

A set of blue and green dishes; string lights above a patio; a beige patio sofa set
Gibson Home/addlon/Pamapic

Summer is the season of outdoor entertaining—but how can you make your gathering stand out? Just be sure these must-haves are ready to go!

Outdoor entertaining is all about finding the right balance of practicality and style. The pieces you choose should be durable enough to stand up to the elements and the needs of casual entertaining, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. Instead of disposable pieces that won’t last past one party or one summer, anchor your outdoor space with some of these long-lasting and timelessly stylish pieces.

Outdoor Seating

A beige outdoor sectional set; a pair of black patio chairs with teal cushions on a patio

Outdoor seating is crucial to your patio entertaining setup. That being said, there’s a pretty broad range of styles and pieces you can choose, from full-scale furniture to a more casual, compact bistro set. Questions you might want to consider when choosing outdoor furniture include:

  • How much space do I have?
  • How many people do I need to seat?
  • What does my ideal style look like?
  • What kind of entertaining will I be doing?

For a simple but still sturdy and attractive bistro set, try the Flamaker 3 Piece Patio Set. The stylish wicker bistro set features two comfortable, cushioned chairs (multiple cushion colors are available) and a coordinating flat-top table. The set has a modern, angular look while still prioritizing comfort, practicality, and durability for a patio set that will hold up to summer weather.

If you’ve got more space and want to really upgrade it, consider a full-sized patio set like the Pamapic 7 Piece Outdoor Set. The multi-piece set for a larger outdoor space can be assembled in several arrangements: a sofa and chairs, a sectional, and even a table to accommodate any size or shape of outdoor spaces. Choose from four different colors, all with washable cushions on a classic rattan base.

Waterproof Speakers

A person holding a portable orange speaker; two lantern-shaped speakers

Outdoor entertaining needs an outdoor-friendly source of music! Waterproof speakers are a must-have for any patio party, whether to avoid damage from incoming weather or because there’s a pool nearby. Look for a wireless-enabled set of speakers to stream your favorite music directly from a device to your speakers for high-quality sound without dealing with cords.

If style is a priority for you, the Pohopa Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers are a great option for outdoor speakers. This set of two Bluetooth speakers, at 10W per speaker, aren’t just waterproof and automatically linked—they’re shaped like lanterns and even feature a set of LED lights (in either plain white or multicolor) to allow them to double as part of your outdoor décor. Battery life varies based on volume and light levels.

Looking for something super-easy and portable? From the sound masters at Bose comes the Bose SoundLink Micro: a waterproof, portable outdoor Bluetooth speaker for reliable outdoor sound. It has up to six hours of battery life and offers the possibility to sync with a second SoundLink speaker for a more complete, surround sound.

String Lights

Two patio spaces with string lights hanging from above

Beautiful string lights are a must-have for any outdoor space, providing both light and elegant decor. These strands of bare-bulb lights are very on-trend, but they’ve also been around for a while, proving that they’re the kind of outdoor decor that doesn’t necessarily go out of style. It’s definitely worth the investment to find a style you like and maybe even buy a couple of backup strands!

You can start simple with the Brightown Outdoor String Lights: a classic, stylish set of lights to light up your patio or other outdoor space. The string features warm white incandescent bulbs for a warmer glow (as opposed to cooler, blue-hued LED lights) and comes in 25 ft, 50 ft, or 100 ft lengths. They’re also made with weatherproof technology to withstand outdoor temperatures and weather.

For a similar look but a sturdier design, consider the addlon Commercial Grade Outdoor String Lights. Each 48-foot strand is heavy-duty, weatherproof, and commercial-grade, with insulation that can protect the strand and sockets from heat, cold, sun, wind, rain, and other weather events. The 11W incandescent bulbs provide plenty of warm lighting and a class bulb shape for timeless style and long-lasting, reliable lighting.

An Outdoor Rug

A black and white striped rug on a porch; a black and white striped rug in front of a door

Finding the right outdoor rug can add some much-needed texture and comfort to your outdoor space, whether that’s a porch, a deck, a backyard, a patio, or something else. Many outdoor rugs are made from polypropylene, a plastic “yarn” that has the advantage of being easy-to-clean and relatively durable. However, polypropylene rugs also tend to look cheap and feel unpleasant underfoot.

An alternative is to find a rug made mostly from cotton yarn, which is a natural fiber that’s still affordable and easily cleaned. Consider something like the LEEVAN Black and White Striped Outdoor Rug, an outdoor rug made from hand-woven, stain-resistant cotton in a casual, farmhouse stripe and four different sizes. With a low pile and a vacuum-friendly surface, it’s a great choice for high-traffic areas, and the cotton material is UV-resistant and dries easily even if it gets wet from rain.

Black and white neutrals are a can’t-lose color palette, especially for large pieces like rugs—it goes with everything! The EARTHALL Black and White Striped Rug offers a few different stripe patterns for varied style, but all in the classic neutral colors to go with as many different styles as possible. Made with a hand-woven blend of cotton and linen, the rug stands up well to the elements outdoors and is actually eco-friendly! It’s easy to clean, too: Just vacuum normally or wash using cold water.

Melamine Dishware

A set of blue and green dishes and bowls; a set of blue and teal glasses
Gibson Home/Optix

When hosting an outdoor gathering, finding the right dishware can be a bit of a balancing act. You want to be environmentally friendly and avoid single-use disposables, but you don’t want to worry about nicer dishes getting damaged during a casual outdoor meal. Melamine dishware is your new best friend. Sturdy and easy-to-clean but super affordable, these dishes give your table a polished, high-effort look without breaking the bank or taking forever to set and clean.

A good starting point might be the Gibson Home Brist Melamine Dinnerware Set, a 12-piece including four dinner plates, four dessert plates, and four bowls. They’re all made of chip-resistant melamine for easy dining that’s “classier” than plastic but still has easy cleanup and no worries about breakage. The set comes in several different color and pattern combinations, so you can coordinate with your favorite decor (or just your favorite colors).

Glassware gets the same treatment with the Optix 20-ounce Plastic Tumblers. Easy to clean and unlikely to break, these tumblers elevate your entertaining without trotting out your nicer glassware. They’re dishwasher safe and colorful to set a fun but casual table for summer entertaining.

Want even more outdoor decor trends to play around with? Consider outdoor kitchens—one of 2021’s biggest summer trends—or take a look at our roundup of the best fire pits to add a campfire vibe to any yard. It’s all about finding the pieces that work best for you and your entertaining needs!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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