The number one thing that gets me through winter (and let’s be honest, the very wintry spring we had this year!) is thinking about how gloriously wonderful summer will feel when it finally arrives. I start making a mental bucket list of all of the things I want to do when warm-weather hits, and at the top of my list is usually entertaining outdoors. My friends at Better Homes & Gardens have been getting me extra excited for some al fresco celebrations this summer with their annual Summer Entertaining Guide! It’s chock full of great entertaining tips, cocktail recipes and outdoor decor ideas (oh, and a giveaway for a $250 Crate and Barrel gift card!). Flipping through this inspiring guide got me thinking about a few of my own favorite summer entertaining tips:Low maintenance decor. Eating outdoors doesn’t necessarily have to mean paper plates and plastic cups (though I’m fine with that approach too!). These days there are so many pretty options for unbreakable melamine plates and extra sturdy glasswaref or your outdoor tabletop. Pick linen napkins with a busy pattern – it’s easier to hide stains – and use some layered Turkish towels instead of a tablecloth for an inexpensive and low-maintenance table covering.

Shareable menu.Summer entertaining is the best time to take a casual approach to hosting; your guests will feel relaxed and laid back if the event and the menu lead the way. I love shareable meals for summer parties, like a make-your-own grilled pizza party. Or toss tons of protein and veggies on the grill for passable kabobs or fajita ingredients.

Transportable tableware. The chances are, you are going to be carting a lot of your tableware out to the patio from your kitchen if you’re entertaining in the summer. I like to grab an oversized tray and load up the plates, utensils, and linens on top before the party starts so it’s easy to tote outside when we are ready to eat. Use mason jars to hold utensils, and a pie dish to corral smaller items like butter, salt and pepper, and condiments.

No-fuss cocktails. Make a big batch cocktail in a pitcher so that you can easily set up a small bar outside without having to bring out tons of bottles and bar tools. Sangria is a delicious make-ahead option, or infuse iced tea with fresh herbs and berries and leave the alcohol on the side for guests to spike their drink.

Be sure to head over to the Better Homes & Gardens website to check out the Summer Entertaining Guide for more summery ideas to get you inspired, and while you’re there, be sure to enter the giveaway to win a $250 Crate and Barrel gift card — it’s the perfect way to dress up your outdoor space this summer!

Please note: This post was created in partnership with Better Homes & Gardens. All opinions, images, and content are my own. Thank you for supporting brands that support this site!