The Easy, Beachy Backyard Party


Lauren Conrad has planned your next party. It's going to be awesome and stress-free—and, if you follow her rules for entertaining, it just might make your marriage better. Not bad, right?

By Lori Berger
Photos by Yoni Goldberg Styling by Tara Swennen, Wall Group Hair by Kristin Ess, Kristen Ess Hair Makeup by Amy Nadine, Dior Manicure by Kait Mosh, Cloutier Remix for Formula X using "The System" Props and Food Styling by Kate Martindale, Art Department

Summer's simplest suggestion: Turn your next celebration into a beach-themed picnic… even if you live hundreds of miles from the shore. It's one of Lauren Conrad's favorite ways to entertain, so we got her to share her secrets, including prepare-ahead recipes, adorable dessert ideas like these sand-dollar cookies, and low-key yet festive D.I.Y.s. See below for the how-to's.


Lay your tablecloths at angles so they look thrown-on, and don't hesitate to use mismatched chairs. Homey touches balance the formalness of an elaborately set table.

No exaggeration: It took longer for our photo crew to figure out the perfect spot in the yard to position the gorgeous table you saw above than it did for Lauren Conrad (with the help of her creative collaborator, food and prop stylist Kate Martindale) to set it with the glasses, dishware, linens—the almost everything—she brought from home. Perhaps it's not surprising, given that Lauren has built her business on showing women how to effortlessly achieve her exquisite-yet-relatable style. Now, having successfully conquered the fashion world (with two collections, Paper Crown and LC Lauren Conrad for Kohl's), the publishing business (nine books, including eight New York Times best sellers), and social media (nearly 10 million followers combined on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook), the entrepreneur is moving her lifestyle empire into a cozier locale:your house. With the launch of her online fair-trade retailer, The Little Market, from which most of the tabletop items in this story were sourced, and the publication of Celebrate, her recently released book on entertaining, the 30-year-old entrepreneur would seem to be morphing into a millennial Martha Stewart. "Those are some big shoes to fill," laughs Lauren at the suggestion, "and I really don't see myself doing that."

In other words, don't mistake her appreciation of a pretty aesthetic for a pursuit of perfection—because it's anything but. "I always try to make sure that the party I'm putting together isn't perfect," she's quick to point out. "Anything that looks too put-together is too fussy for me. If it feels fussy, then people might not be comfortable. A successful party is about comfort and making people feel welcome." So simple… and so smart. Follow that advice, along with the rest of her entertaining rules, and become a happier hostess, starting now.

"I start with some sort of inspiration, whether it's from my travels for The Little Market or something that's happening in my life, and build on that. For this story, I wanted to bring the beach vibe that I love to a barbecue. I drew on the blues and sea-glass colors of the beach and used organic elements like bamboo utensils."
"It's very easy to get caught up in a party theme and just keep taking it further and further until you know it's become cheesy. Sometimes doing more work does your party a disservice."
"The thing that was great about the menu for this barbecue is that it wasn't time-sensitive. The food doesn't need to be a certain temperature, and a lot of it could be prepared the night before. It was also created with the idea that dinner won't be served at a specific hour—guests can help themselves when they're hungry—so that takes away the stress of rushing food onto the table before it gets cold."
"I love a theme party. For one birthday I rented out a speakeasy and everyone wore costumes from the 1920s. But now that I'm throwing parties with my husband, William, I have to keep in mind that he prefers—how do I say this— easier themes than what I've done in the past. He doesn't like to feel that he's asking friends to go out of their way. So now we do a birthday hoedown because everyone owns a pair of cutoffs and a plaid shirt. I'm learning how to compromise!"
"We had several people staying with us for a holiday weekend, and on the first night, I was in the middle of preparing an indoor clambake when a pipe burst in the guest bathroom and flooded the kitchen. We had to shut off the water, and because it was a holiday weekend, we couldn't get a plumber out for at least two days. We spent the next day at the beach, so when we got back to the house we were full of sand and had no showers. But the hose in the backyard still worked, so we hosed off and even washed the dishes out there after dinner. The situation was disastrous, but we all kept laughing and actually had fun."
"I am constantly purchasing one-of-a-kind textiles when I travel for The Little Market—they make great tablecloths and runners. I've been collecting brass candlestick holders for years, and I used them for my wedding. And I have a collection of teacups I display in my dining room. My husband doesn't get why I love them so much. To be fair, I don't share his passion for guitars. I mean, I guess I can understand why he might not see the beauty in a gorgeous, hand-painted teacup. [ Laughs ] We each have our own things, and that's healthy."
"If the host is caught up all night in the details or stressed that things are not going according to plan, then no one is going to enjoy themselves. You can dream up the most beautiful table scape and food, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you are having as much fun as your guests and enjoying each other's company. The point is to celebrate—and that means everyone."