Warmer weather and longer days set the perfect stage to gather new and old friends for a summer BBQ.

A simple party can be great for reconnecting with old friends and getting to know new friends better. Hosting your own shindig is a fantastic way to connect different social circles over good food and drinks.

Read on for a few simple steps you can take to host a killer cookout!

Create a game plan.

 Planning ahead is the best way to make sure your event is awesome. The first step is deciding on where the gathering will happen. If you don’t already have a grill or outdoor space of your own, check out the nearest park. Make sure that you double-check your local Parks Department rules before booking a spot. You’d be surprised at the number of regulations that park-goers must adhere to, from serving alcoholic beverages to the type of fuel you can use to cook your food. Once you’ve made sure you’re not going to be breaking any rules, call to reserve a space and you’re all set.

As the event gets closer, work on getting the supplies you’ll need for hosting. Mow the yard if people will be coming to your home. The night before, prep food, drinks and activities so you have less to worry about the day of the event. When people arrive, you want to be free to host instead of scrambling to prepare things last minute.

It’s easy to spend too much money when you’re trying to prepare a nice event. The good news is, by planning and watching for summer promos at your local stores, you can get everything you need without blowing the bank. Grocery stores know that ingredients for BBQs will be on everybody’s lists, so they’ll be competing for your business! Watch out for deals on all the supplies you’ll be needing.

Know your crew.

 How many people do you have food and drinks for? Can guests bring a plus-one? What kind of crowd do you want? Planning and keeping track of your attendees will help prepare for your event. Keeping a running number of expected guests will make sure you don’t over-buy food and drinks in preparation.

If people will be bringing kids, you’ll need to make sure there are family-friendly activities and that your event time and location works for all ages.

Barbeques can also serve as the perfect place for networking with old and new colleagues. If you’ve been trying to introduce a friend and a coworker because they work in the same field, invite both to your event!

As for the invitations, online email invites or “evites” are typically free and efficient for keeping track of RSVPs. If your guests are all on Facebook, you can create a private event that allows you to communicate with guests directly and track attendance easily. If you plan on a large number of guests, Eventbrite is another great way to keep track of guests and even their plus ones.

Invite guests to help.

 Putting together an event with food, drinks and activities can take a lot of time and energy.

Reaching out to friends for help is an easy way to divide the work, making it easier on you while allowing friends to participate in the preparation.

If you’re planning a big event with lots of mouths to feed, a potluck style buffet is a great structure- it’s affordable and convenient for everyone. If you use an online invitation, try making a list of items guests can bring and ask them to comment their selection so nobody shows up with duplicate bowls of potato salad.

Let the games begin!

Figuring out food and drinks can be time consuming, but you can’t forget about the fun factor. You want to give our guests a reason to stick around once the food’s been eaten!

Frisbee, cornhole, volleyball and board/card games are popular and easy to facilitate with large groups. Games with simple rules and a competitive nature are best for getting everyone in on the fun. If you provide enough activities to fill the afternoon or evening, chances are your guests will find themselves joining in and maybe even making new friends!

Another crucial element of your gathering is background music. Make a playlist with some variety, keeping the differing tastes of your guests in mind. An eclectic playlist with a mix of genres, decades, and well-known sing-alongs will be sure to keep everyone in good spirits.

Enjoy your hard work!

The most important part of a memorable summer barbecue is enjoying your hard work. Planning the details in advance, asking friends for help and keeping everyone engaged in the fun will allow you to enjoy your event along with your guests.