Home entertaining tips: Summer entertaining guide for fun in the sun
Tips and ideas on hosting a summer party.
If the long and beautiful days of summer have you envisioning backyard parties with friends and family, then it’s time to start planning to host your very own get-together. With a little advance planning and the following tips, summer entertaining can be relaxing and delightful for both you and your guests.
First, decide what type of party you want to have. Most summer parties are casual, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing some elegance to the outdoor dining experience. Don’t hesitate to take out the nicer table linens, dishes and serving pieces. Consider your guest list, and the type of food you would like to serve. There’s nothing more difficult than trying to cut a steak on a flimsy paper plate. On the other hand, if your menu permits, nothing beats the convenience of paper products. These days, you’ll find many beautiful choices and matching accessories at your local party supply store.
Consider adding a theme to your party such as 4th of July/Americana, Luau, Mexican Fiesta or a Beach Party. There are plenty of themes to choose from and you can easily find paper products, decorations and music to compliment them. You can also plan your menu and activities to coordinate with the theme. Have some fun by serving grilled tequila lime chicken, margaritas and hang a piñata or wear a sombrero for a Mexican themed party. Decorate with sand, shells and nautical items, play Caribbean music and do the limbo while serving up some great seafood!
When planning your table setting, get creative! Fill vases with bouquets of fresh flowers, or use store bought flowers to make lovely arrangements. Plant flowers or herbs in small planters and group them as centerpieces. Add floating candles to water filled vases or bowls. Use terra cotta flowerpots to hold utensils or tie them up with raffia or ribbon. Purchase some small garden tools to serve dips, spreads and salads. Place baskets filled with condiments on the tables. Buy inexpensive trivets or candle holders to use as decorations and to help weigh down tablecloths or place mats.
A couple of weeks prior to your party, you’ll want to send out invitations or make phone calls to invite your guests. Also, this is a good time to make sure that your yard is looking its best. Keep your gardens and plants looking immaculate by maintaining and watering them often. Prune the bushes and fix any outdoor eyesores. Cut your lawn and do any last minute yard work a couple of days before the party.
You’ll be organized and spend less money if you set a budget, plan your menu in detail, make a shopping list and then stick to it. If you are on a tight budget, consider providing the main course and asking guests to bring the side dishes and desserts. When planning your menu, you may think of the traditional barbecue fare such as grilled hamburgers, steaks and chicken. While these are all great choices, don’t be afraid to try things like shrimp, homemade kabobs, and different vegetables on the grill. Don’t forget to marinate meats a head of time for the most flavor. Some good side dishes are cold salads and dips that can be prepared ahead of time and taken out just prior to serving. Nothing says summer like a cool, crisp salad with all of the great vegetables that become available at this time. End the meal with a spectacular summer dessert like strawberry shortcake or ice cream sundaes. Be mindful of handling your food safely. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot, especially in the warmer summer months when bacteria can take over. Don’t leave food sitting out for long periods of time, and consider using the convenient serving trays that are available which allow you to put ice underneath the item to keep it chilled.
Let’s not forget one very important menu item and a must for hot summer days – the beverages! Serving sangria, complete with citrus slices, in pretty glass pitchers is both impressive and refreshing. Other beverage options include iced teas, lemonades, and iced beverage tubs and/or coolers filled with sodas, bottled water and other canned or bottled items of your choice. Don’t leave out the frozen drinks! Get a blender (or two) out and have lots of fun preparing both alcoholic and non-alcoholic daiquiris and margaritas.
It’s essential to consider the comfort of your guests, so plan for plenty of seating and provide shady areas if possible. Placing benches underneath trees and using umbrellas are good ways to achieve shade. Place citronella candles or oil burners throughout your yard to keep the bugs away. Also, have sunscreen and insect repellent spray on hand. If you have a pool, hot tub or sauna that guests will be using, remind them to bring their bathing suits, towels and a change of clothing. Have an area for changing and some extra towels for those that forget theirs.
Plan some activities to keep your guests occupied. There are tons of fun outdoor games to play like bocce ball, volleyball, croquet, and horseshoes. If children will be attending, have some items readily available like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, shovels, pails, beach balls, jump ropes and water guns. Consider other games such as relay races, water balloon tosses and scavenger hunts.
When the sun goes down it doesn’t mean the party’s over. If you have an outdoor patio fireplace or fire pit, this is a great time to use it! Or, move the party indoors and offer guests after dinner drinks and desserts in the air-conditioned and insect free confines of your home.
Most of all, remember to relax and enjoy your guests. The lighthearted days of summer are for sharing with friends and family, the time spent and memories made are the true treasures of hosting a summer party.