How We Organize a Backyard BBQ for 100+ People

Backyard BBQs have been a tradition in my family since before I was born. It started as a small, annual gathering of friends in my parents’ old backyard, usually around 40 people. When my parents moved to the farm, they took advantage of the extra acreage and turned that event into 100+ bash. It’s a completely awesome way to mark the end of the summer.

Playing host to over a hundred guests is no small feat. It takes good planning to keep everyone safe, fed and amused. For someone looking to host their own 100+ person backyard BBQ, I’d make the following suggestions.


1. Have a Separate Fridge for Alcohol

When you have this many people over, you really don’t want them rummaging through your family’s refrigerator.

The more party guests you have, the greater the chance someone’s going to go digging in there for booze and inadvertently smash a jar on the floor or dump milk all over the inside of the fridge. Both are really lousy things to have to clean up (trust me) especially while you’re trying to entertain a hundred people.

Besides, do you really need all those people seeing all your fridge contents? I know I wouldn’t. The world doesn’t need to know how much chocolate-raspberry yogurt I buy.

One of the greatest party-related purchases we’ve made over the years has been a small, craft IPA beer fridge for the basement bar. It keeps people out of the main fridge and makes it easier to grab a beer for someone quick.

I would also recommend reading reviews to find the best small fridge for storing drinks that is available in your areas (I know the big brands are different in different regions.) I find that small fridges are more prone to breaking than a lot of other appliances so it’s definitely something you want to research first.


2. Start Prepping Food in Advance

And I mean WELL in advance. A week sooner at the latest. Making enough homemade hamburgers to feed a hundred people takes hours, and I’ve found the only way to do it without losing your mind is to stretch it out over the course of a few days. For things that are best made on the day of the party, like salad, you should at least get the ingredients ready so you can throw it together quickly (cut up veggies, make the dressing, etc.)

As for figuring out how much food to make? That’s more of an art than a science and something you can only learn from experience. I tend to rely on my brilliant mom to help figure it out. But there are two rules to go by, in my mind:

  1. If guests are bringing food like dessert or side salads, make LESS food than you need.
  2. If guests are NOT bringing any food, make MORE food than you need.

In our group of friends, people insist on bringing tons of food to every event and we’re always left with way more than we can handle. So, if we know a hundred people are coming, we’ll make around 80 burgers, because there’s always some people who turn them down and enough side dishes that no one will need seconds.


3. Help Everyone Get Home Safely (or Stay Over)

Drunk driving is something that has had a significant impact on my family (and most my family’s close friends). For that reason, we’re diligent in making sure that every since one of the hundred people who come over either have a designated driver or a place to sleep over at our house.

We encourage people to bring tents, trailers or air mattresses if they want to drink heavily. We also keep a list of the designated drivers and check in with them to make sure they’re being good.

Yes, it’s sort of nosy, but monitoring everyone’s consumption is a key part of being a good host.