The months of June, July and August go by particularly fast in southeastern Wisconsin, but it’s not over yet! Traditionally, Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall as the kids are heading back to school, the sun is setting earlier and the nights are getting cooler. But, don’t let the end of summer stop you from extending precious time at your custom lake home and enjoying the views and the water. Entertaining is essential to summer, so continue to do so and think about planning a gathering before the official change of seasons. Before everyone is back into a more scheduled routine, it’s important to take time to slow down and reconnect, and there’s no better place than your backyard or lakeside. Enjoy the beautiful weather and celebrate summer’s end, as this time of year is the best time for outdoor entertaining!

If you are going to host an end-of-season party, use these entertaining ideas and party tips for a final summer gathering that’s fun for everyone, including you.

Guest List:

Let your guests know about your gathering at least a week in advance. For a casual event, a few days is enough notice. Ask your guests to RSVP by a specific date as well.

Avoid schedule conflicts by planning parties for after-work Friday nights or earlier than expected Sunday mornings. How about a brunch party with mimosas and a bloody mary bar?


picture of a fire pit with wooden chairs around it

Prep Your Space:

Once you’ve invited your guests, it’s time to start preparing for your party. If you break it up and do a little every day, it will come together stress-free. Consider hiring a lawn service to tidy up the outdoors so you only have to clean up the outdoor living areas if you’re planning to have guests mainly outside. When taking care of the indoors, focus only on the areas the guest will see, such as the main living area, hallways, bathrooms and kitchen.

Make a checklist of what you have and need for entertaining. Plan for enough chairs, coolers, ice, candles and serving pieces. If your gathering will include a boat ride or evening bonfire, be sure you are prepared for that too.

If you are having a dinner party, you will need to decide on real or disposable dishes. Real dishes create a more formal outdoor dining experience and they’re more environmentally friendly than the throwaway version. However, it’s okay to use disposable plates, cups and napkins at your party too. If you’re hosting a more casual, easy party, it might simply be better to use disposable dishes.

picture of lower screen porch with a blue couch

Simple Foods:

To keep the party and entertainment simple, plan a make-ahead menu around what’s in season. Take advantage of the fresh vegetables and fruits you can get at the local farmers market. On the big day, you’ll be glad you got a head start, and the flavors will still be enhanced.

Easy Bar:

A self-serve drink station where your guests can help themselves is an easy and friendly bar. No one will expect you to provide a full bar at a casual party; you can simply stock the basics: wine, beer and a cocktail. Select a signature cocktail and keep the ingredients on hand.

picture of a home bar and a pool table



A welcoming party space doesn’t have to cost a lot. Fresh seasonal flowers (cut from your own gardens) and greenery add a pop of color and natural fragrance indoors and outdoors. Simple candles on the tables create a warm, cozy environment in the evenings. Simple decorations set a relaxed mood and will make your home more inviting as well.

picture of a dining room with white chairs and dark wooden table custom built by Colby lake home builder to celebrate summer's end


Create a playlist on Pandora or Spotify that matches the theme of your party. Make sure it’s music that will keep the party light and fun while keeping an upbeat vibe. Many custom homes today have a Sonos or other music speaker system indoors and outdoors to keep the party rolling.

Be Prepared:

As the summer days get shorter and fall lingers around the corner, be sure to have items guests may need on hand as it moves into the evening. Consider having blankets, bug spray, and, of course, no bonfire is complete without s’mores supplies.

You also need to think about anything that might prevent entertaining outside and have a backup plan. For example, if thunderstorms are in the forecast, be prepared to bring the party inside. Set up food tables and a bar area and let guests help themselves inside.

picture of a home with a swimming pool and fire pit at dusk to celebrate summer's end

Have Fun:

The most important key to a successful end-of-season party is to relax and enjoy. Neighbors may be going back to the city for the winter, so enjoy these final days with them, have fun and keep a casual atmosphere while you celebrate summer’s end.

When it comes to party planning, do what’s natural to you, and everything else will fall into place. The most important thing is that you take time to connect with those around you, whether it’s a farewell to the lake neighbors, an informal dinner on the deck or any other reason to celebrate. Anytime friends and family gather and share conversation and laughter, memories will be made. Use these outdoor party ideas to make the most of the season’s farewell as you celebrate summer’s end.