There's nothing like tentatively dabbing the fresh ketchup stain on your white linen dress in your friend's back garden. Nothing beats pretending to be comfortable perched on the edge of a flower bed when all other seating options, even the heavy dining room chairs that were ceremoniously dragged from inside, are taken in the first ten minutes. There isn't anything quite as rousing as the smell of charred, smokey meat wafting through the summer air...
Yep, with outdoor socialising allowed in groups of six (or between two households) in England, it's peak time for the great British BBQ and your diary is about to be heavily booked up with them. While the whole process would be wildly inconvenient in any other circumstances (did you miss the bit about the ketchup stain?) this might just be the only year that you won't take the party indoors to shelter from the usual rain interruption. So, it's time to get good at them.
The rules don't stray too far from general party hosting - plan ahead, don't run out and make sure there's enough space for everyone - but with a few extra considerations, you might just look forward to the Saturday afternoon when it's you turn to fire up the grill.
We've merged the fun, the practical and the plain old essentials to bring you the Grazia Guide to hosting a grown-up barbecue to be proud of. No disposable coal trays here, though. We're talking legitimate, bona fide, Instagram-able garden party vibes. Read through to find out how to pull it off without a (heatwave induced) sweat.
Grazia Grown Up BBQ
Spare us the eye roll, because the value of planning ahead couldn't be any higher. BBQ's are probably the most high pressure, dinner-orientated gathering you'll have because for a significant part of food service, you'll be cooking on demand with an audience. Lessen the stress by getting everything, and we mean everything, ready the day before. Marinate your meats, chop your veg, assemble any skewers, assemble the grill and write yourself a little note with the order and duration of the (few) things you'll need to cook on the day.
The main event. Contrary to TV, films and dodgy stereotypes about men and BBQs, the only thing to remember while at the helm of the grill is to be confident in what goes where, which cooks when, and how much you've already cooked. Save yourself the hassle and eliminate any whispers of 'cooking to order' immediately. We're buffet only and guests can help themselves to hot food once batches are done. The biggest frustration is arriving at a barbecue and having to wait hours before actually eating anything. While I'm sure the ambient music will be delightful and the company even more so, people come to barbecues to eat, so set that as high priority and the rest will fall into place. Make sure the grill is lit and ready at a medium heat (you can hold your hand over it from a few inches for a couple of seconds before pulling away) as people arrive. Save the exhibitionism that normally comes with barbecue bravado for the food. Family favourites like sausages and burgers are a must, but take the opportunity to show (or fake) some culinary flare with some fish or interestingly flavored chicken pieces. Vegetarians will be hoping for something hot too, so don't skimp on the halloumi, corn and stuffed mushrooms.
Despite your best efforts, food will not be ready as quickly as hungry guests hope for, so be sure to put out an array of snacks ready for as soon as people start to arrive. Trusty faithfuls like crisps, dips, veg sticks and hummus will do the trick, but also try to have as many side dishes set up at your buffet station from the outset too. Forget what you've heard, because side dishes can be just as exciting as whatever's coming off of the grill too. Opt for a colourful and inviting salad like this watermelon, goats cheese one by Shared Apetite. Give the classic potato salad a twist and opt for the sweet variety instead. Spice things up with a jalapeno coleslaw. So many options, only so much table space, but if there's one thing you really commit to, make it a full and comprehensive condiment offering.
Here's where you can up your prep game once more. Make sure that as many beers, wines and soft drinks as you plan to offer are in the fridge as early as possible. Then roughly 15 minutes before your first guest is expected, fill a bucket with ice and decant your makeshift bar into there. Make sure that a bottle opener and a selection of glassware is nearby and your guest will take care of the rest. The best of them will remember to bring a bottle, so anticipate a few extra additions when you're allocating space. If you want to go the extra mile (and trust us, you should) prepare a generous amount of punch to offer guests as they arrive to keep them occupied before you start barbecuing. Other than that, just make sure there is plenty of ice available throughout the day.
An adequate amount of seating is always going to be a challenge, even in the most generous of garden spaces, but do your best to make sure that the area is as open as possible to allow (and encourage) mingling. If you're inviting neighbors, it'd be sensible to ask if they can bring over a couple of their garden chairs to throw into the mix. If not, a few cushions tactfully placed around will invite people to make themselves comfortable wherever. If you're going for an early evening barbecue, anticipate a transition indoors, or to adapt the outdoor space to be just as accomodating. Set up fairy lights ahead of time that are easy to switch on should the party continue into the night time, have a couple of blankets on hand and anticipate another wave of hunger a little later on.
MORE: Grazia's pick of the best garden furniture
Best Garden Furniture - Grazia
Back by popular demand, shoppers have another chance to get their hands on the super stylish Rattan Effect Corner Sofa & Cover Bundle (£269.95), perfect for making the most of the Bank Holiday sunshine. Available in cream or grey, the stylish seating comes complete with comfortable seat and back cushions, three year warranty and UV protected wicker. With this great value bundle, shoppers can style out their gardens just like Christine Lampard, but without the celebrity price tag! Aldi's Corner Sofa & Cover Bundle is available to pre order online only from 29th August but shoppers must be quick – as with all Specialbuys, once they're gone, they're gone.
Crafted from natural rattan and painted wood, the three oval-shaped tiers make it a real feature piece.
Defeat the chill and add charm to your outdoor space with Abura. This industrial-inspired chimenea is the most stylish way to while away those evenings.
The set includes a six-seater curved sofa and two matching stools. The height of the glass top table is designed for dining, an ideal centrepiece for any patio or conservatory.
Nothing says al fresco like classic bistro chairs. Crafted with a durable rattan frame and horizontal striped casing, these bring a contemporary twist to a warm-weather classic. It's worth the wait list to get your hands on these.
Available in a vast variety of colours, this hammock is the perfect way to lounge in your garden, terrace or on your balcony.
This Lyon duo lounging set from KETTLER combines the traditional shape of wing-back chairs with a modern weatherproof design for relaxing in the garden, on the patio or indoors. The five-piece set includes a pair of large and comfortable armchairs with two footstools and a round side table.
Made from durable poly rattan, this retro-inspired sofa has a single seat cushion and angled legs.
The four seater rattan-effect sofa also comes with a small coffee table with a glass table top, the perfect place for keeping your summer beverages close to hand!
A two-seater sofa, two armchairs, a small table and two stools - this contemporary chic set is perfect for your garden or terrace. Ready to enjoy the perfect summer evening with some friends and cool drinks.
This dining chair set will ensure that your garden is as beautiful as the rest of your home.
One of the best value hanging seats we have found and its still in stock!
Available in grey and black. The piece comes with 4 x deluxe flip back armchairs (with 8 cushions) - 4 x rattan footstools (with 4 cushions) - 1 x table with tempered black glass top.Weatherproof & UV light resistant rattan material - Requires assembly - Low maintenance - Builds into Compact Cube for Easy Space Saving.
Whether you're sprucing up a garden room, conservatory or making a cosy chill out corner on your decking, our Lois nest of tables are a fantastic finishing touch, offering both fashion and function for indoor or outdoor areas. Perfect as a stand alone piece or paired with additional pieces from our Lois range, they are all cleverly designed to easily mix and match.
Whether you're off to the nearest beach for a staycation or you're setting up camp for a party in the back garden, this UV-protected and water-resistant tent is made to protect you from both rain and sun - well, British weather is notoriously fickle, after all.
If you are looking to recreate Love Island fire pit, this could be a smaller but chicer option.
Solid acacia wood, powder-coated aluminium, fresh white seats – these outdoor chairs have got style covered from all angles. Designed to be matched with our Topa dining sets, they'll give your garden the upgrade it needs.