Perfect Pairings for Your Summer Events: Theme & Food Ideas

Add some zest to your cookout, party, picnic, or family reunion!

The summer season is a great reason to bring loved ones together, and delicious food plays a big role in creating lasting memories! Elevate your summer shindig to new heights – create an unforgettable experience with an engaging theme and tasty foods that perfectly complement the occasion. Get inspired by these fantastic ideas to take your party to the next level.

Theme and Food Ideas for Summer Events

Backyard Carnival 

Food: Carnival food means indulgent treats – “fun food”!

  • Offer typical carnival food like grilled corn on the cob, corn dogs, and popcorn.
  • Make soft pretzels smothered in butter – add Everything Bagel seasoning, garlic parmesan, or cinnamon sugar for a yummy twist to this carnival classic.
  • Set up a DIY hot dog or nacho-building station with various toppings for guests to create a personalized meal.
  • Deep-fried treats are synonymous with carnival food – consider offering deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried Twinkies, or deep-fried pickles.
  • Serve traditional carnival sweets like cotton candy, funnel cakes, frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, caramel apples, and snow cones.

Drinks: Make different flavored lemonades (strawberry lemon, raspberry lemon, etc.), cotton candy mocktails or cocktails, and slushies for guests to enjoy.

Pro Tip: You can even rent a popcorn, cotton candy, or snow cone machine to add to the party ambiance.

Beach Vibes 

Food: Think coastal – here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing. 

  • Host a seafood boil and serve crawfish, shrimp, crab legs, clams, and corn on the cob with flavorful seasonings for a festive and communal meal. 
  • Serve shrimp cocktail, fish tacos, crab cakes, ceviche, and fresh oysters. Include beach-inspired salads on the side that capture the flavors of the coast, like Shrimp Cobb salad.
  • Make seafood pizza – a quick online search will give you all sorts of recipes for pizzas topped with fresh seafood like shrimp, clams, or lobster, along with various cheese, vegetables, and sauces.
  • If seafood isn’t your jam, host a beach bonfire and serve up foil packet meals, hot dogs, s’mores, and other treats you can grill or cook over the fire.

Drinks: Make coconut water smoothies, cocktail or mocktail Daiquiris, Sea Breezes, or Mojitos.

Cowboy Cookout 

Food: Channel the Wild West with a Western or Cowboy-themed barbecue party – think hearty and rustic dishes.

  • Host a chili cook off to see who can cook up the best bowl of chili – use SignUp to invite family and friends to compete! 
  • Serve barbecue classics like smoked brisket, ribs, chicken, and sausage links with grilled corn on the cob. Offer a variety of BBQ sauces, buns, and condiments for guest customization.
  • Consider serving up the yummy sides you used to see in old Westerns, such as cornbread in a skillet, chuckwagon beans and coleslaw.

Drinks: Provide craft beers, iced tea, lemonade, or a signature cocktail like a Cowboy Mule or Lone Ranger Lemonade.

Farm-to-Table Fête 

Food: Tap into locally-sourced farmer’s market and seasonal foods for this “support local” party theme.

  • Use locally sourced, grass-fed beef to make juicy burgers. Serve them on freshly baked buns from a local bakery and top them with farm-fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and onions from your local farmers’ market.
  • Host a cheese pairings party – visit your local cheese shop for help pairing up various fresh cheeses, jams, honey, nuts, pickles, and breads from local artisans.
  • Create a DIY salad bar with fresh summer veggies from local farms and a range of dressings.
  • Grill up locally-sourced peaches or slice fresh melon for an unbeatable sweet treat.

Drinks: Serve freshly-made watermelon juice or lemonade, locally-made wine or cocktails made with fresh herbs, fruits, and local spirits.

Luau Summer Party Online SignUp

Hawaiian Luau 

Food: Bring the flavors of the islands to your celebration with traditional Hawaiian dishes.

  • Serve a slow-roasted pig or pulled pork – this classic Hawaiian dish is typically made by slow-cooking a whole pig in an underground imu oven, but pulled pork made in an Instant Pot will do! Serve it up on slider buns with cabbage slaw, teriyaki sauce, and grilled pineapple.
  • Set up a build-your-own poke bowl station with diced ahi tuna or salmon (sushi-grade and fresh), mixed greens, rice, and various toppings, such as sesame seeds, dried nori strips, green onion, cucumbers, avocado, and pickled ginger. Don’t forget the sauce options – soy sauce-based dressing, sesame dressing, and spicy mayo are popular options.
  • Make Lomi Lomi Salmon, a refreshing salad and staple at Hawaiian luaus made with diced and salted salmon, tomatoes, onions, and sometimes green onions.
  • Serve coconut and pineapple popsicles for dessert, or get creative and make haupia, a coconut-based dessert that resembles a firm pudding. Made with coconut milk, sugar, and cornstarch, it is often served in squares and is a deliciously creamy dessert.

Drinks: Think guava juice and tropical fruit punches, coconut cocktails like Piña Coladas and Coconut Mojitos, Blue Hawaiians, and Mai Tais. 

Mexican Fiesta 

Food: Spice up your summer event with a fest featuring Mexican food.

  • Offer deep-fried tortilla chips, queso and salsa as a pre-meal appetizer.
  • Set up a build-your-own taco bar with a variety of fillings such as seasoned ground beef, grilled fajita-seasoned beef and chicken, and vegetables. Offer tortillas, salsa, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, and various toppings. 
  • If you prefer a sit-down meal for your event, consider serving traditional Mexican dishes like mole, fajitas, tamales, and flautas.
  • Serve Mexican street corn and Mexican rice on the side.
  • Don’t forget the tres leches cake, sopapillas, or churros for dessert!

Drinks: Offer guests Agua Frescas, Jarritos or Fanta sodas, Horchata, Mexican beer (Corona, Dos Equis, etc.), and Margaritas.

Remarkable Recipes Reunion 

Food: Organize a potluck reunion party (using SignUp to prevent duplicate dishes) for family and friends to share their most special dishes and treats.

  • Ask attendees to make something from a special recipe handed down through the generations or a dish that has significant meaning to them / is near and dear to their heart.
  • Party guests could also have the option of serving up a special food creation they invented themselves to be added to the “remarkable recipes” list.

Drinks: Serve guests Grandma’s famous hibiscus iced tea, cousin Jan’s signature cocktail, and other drinks with special memories attached to them.

Pro Tip: You can get a copy of some special recipes prior to party time, print enlarged copies, and hang them as part of your party decor. They will make great talking points and anyone interested in making the dish or dessert can easily snap a photo with their cell phone. 

As you embark on planning your unique summer events, remember to customize these ideas according to the preferences and dietary needs of your guests. The key is to relish the time spent together and savor the mouthwatering cuisine that brings everyone closer. Incorporate decorations, music, and activities that complement the theme to create a fully immersive experience. May your summer events be filled with joy and memorable moments!


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