Suns out, masks are off, friends are back together- and there is no better place than outside. Except for the wind, the rain, the glaring sun, and the bugs – sound fun? C’mon’ over!
The signs of a great summer gatherings are people hanging out, slouched into comfy furniture, the fire going, the laughter happening, the drinks being poured and no ones in a hurry. So are some of my favorite Summertime Entertaining Tips.
Plan the Menu and Keep It Simple. When planning for outside, lean toward food that doesn’t require a lot of work during the party. I almost always include a Crudité’ platter, a fruit platter and charcuterie- why? Because I can heap, pile, mound and make them look amazing, and because they are full proof crowd pleasers. Here are some of my tips for trays:
Crudité’– Prep everything before and have fun with the shapes. Slice, make sticks, drag a fork down the sides of the cucumber and then slice to add a ruffle texture. Then pack, seal individually and chill until you’re ready to plate. Depending on the main course alter the veggies and use what it is in season. If you want to add green beans, or sugar snap peas or asparagus – blanch for a softer texture and brighter greens. The colors of veggies will pop, against almost any serving tray. Think outside the box for serving. Add a dip, and I usually cheat here (great…now everyone knows). You can buy a great hummus, or dill dip at the store. For hummus put it in your great looking dish – drizzle with olive oil, parsley and black sesame seeds and viola……beautiful “homemade hummus”. For the dill dip, add fresh dill, some paprika and add in a pinch of red leaf lettuce. It looks like a picture-perfect dip!
Charcuterie – Pull out a great tray, wooden boat or even better grab some of our amazing charcuterie paper. Whatever you choose, add your cheeses spaced around your board, add your salami or other meat in a few different places, find some cute small dishes or bowls and fill with olives, nuts, honey or honey comb or jam. I love to put oversized glasses filled with ice and topped off with grapes or chocolate. Throw on some crackers and you’re done!
Fruit Platters – These are also impressive and so easy. Set out melons, prosciutto, grapes, and slap a big mound of goat cheese drizzled with honey and topped with chopped nuts or fruit dip in the middle and so pretty!
Designer Tip – For any of the boards above, take the top off a lemon or lime and hollow it out. Set it upright on a napkin ring and fill it with dip for individual settings. Plus, it keeps those losers from double dipping!
Do Dry Runs unless it is an impromptu gathering, I dry run almost everything. To do this I figure out my appetizers, menu, drinks, etc. and then I start gathering all the dishes, platters, stone-wear plates, weird objects…that I want to use. I lay it all out, label what goes where with a post -it notes, and then stack it away until the party. This makes my life so much easier. I know what goes where. It also allows me to find unique pieces that get the wow to serve in, items that will elevate dishes.
Get your play list together with music that fits the scene.
Why stress out- two words……dry run.
Set the Look and sprinkle it throughout your house. Pull from your yard, you don’t need flowers. You can use tree branches, sticks, grasses…to adorn your party. Just add them to stylish budvase. My Summertime Entertaining tip is to add them in other areas your guests will go and where they will see. The entry, the drink stations, the bathrooms…This lets them know you got this – you know how to entertain. Here are some ideas:
Grab from the Garden – I like using the flowers in the yard that we let go native. We have tried so many options, and last year for my birthday Doug had our landscapers fill the area with plants. We are starting to notice signs of life this spring and I can’t wait to see what pops up (if they don’t …..I’m coming for you)! However, I always can find interesting branches or flowering limbs or even grasses to fill the containers. Don’t forget grocery store flowers added at the base of an amazing branch arrangement can be a showstopper. Similarly, use your herbs for the drink and food tables for garnish.
What to do Where– some ideas to get you rolling.
Entry – Put a little bar cart, tray or table at the entry and greet your guests with a spritzer shot on ice, (that’ll get the party started), and a fruit or veggie kabob. A glass for champagne or a sip of a signature drink always work too. You can do the spritzers ahead by chilling in the shot all day in the fridge, then set out on ice, right before the party and add ginger ale or flavored sparkling water. If you really want the “wow”, freeze some flowers in an ice bowl to hold the drinks.
Have some of the naturals or flowers that you are using throughout the party on the entry table.
Bathrooms – I think it is always fun to make a little freshen up station in your bathroom when entertaining. Again, have some of the naturals or flowers you are using on the counter in a cute vase or container. Add a tray of dental pics, mouthwash and mini cups. Make your guests feel special in every room they use.
Drink Stations – Make drink stations self-serve so you only refill as needed. Serve a variety of drinks, and have a fun signature drink using a great dispenser or fun carafe. For example, make a great sweet tea with fresh fruit, you can set out whiskey, vodka and garnishes so it can be both alcoholic or nonalcoholic.
Plan ahead and freeze fruit in your ice cubes for an added touch and more flavor.
Sit and Stay a While – Make it comfortable to your guest to find a spot. It is so annoying to have a wimpy paper plate full of food and a drink in your hand and there is no landing spot. Announce landing spots with decoration, lighting, seats… you do not need a fancy table – here are some Summertime Entertaining tips:
Set up a folding table, run brown paper down it and add a great paper table runner. Dress up with bright melamine or unexpected plates on wood trays as chargers, cloth napkins, individual vases with buds or greens, a limb wrapped in lights overhead and stools, or chairs for seating. Hang a tarp or a flag as a backdrop for the wall or a tree to ground or define the space.
- Use an eclectic mix of tableware for a laid-back feel. Pair your crisp white plates to ground the setting and add fun patterns or florals for a great outdoor vibe.
- Run cinder blocks down your lawn, put pallets on top, adorn with paper, a table cloth, or runners and throw down some floor pillows for seating.
- Cover anything with pillows and it will call your name for a sit. If the forecast looks good, grab indoor chairs, furniture, and pillows. Just do not drink too much and forget to bring them in if there is rain (guilty)
- Buy smart things and bring them out all summer long and use in different ways. A vase for flowers this party can be for the salad dressing for the next.
Plan for the Sun Going Down and for Mother Nature – Battery-operated flameless candles give off the same mood and light as traditional ones, except they stay on when the wind pics up. I use tons of them at outdoor parties- this will create automatic ambiance.
Hang an old vintage chandelier with Christmas lights or outdoor bulbs. Run strings of lights through trees, or throw them in mason jars and hang from a branch in your huge centerpiece- golden!
As far as mother nature goes, she’s a little like me, she’s going to do what she wants, so have a plan. I have been to functions where the thunder claps the rain starts and everyone ends up wet and, in the kitchen – now what.
If there is a potential for bad weather, don’t just wish or pray……. plan for what happens next.
In summary, I was at a party Saturday night, first of all, how great is it to be out again and with friends? I will never take that for granted. But we were all around the fire, laughing, reminiscing, drinking, and eating and it couldn’t have been more comfortable or enjoyable. Then the perfect dessert – brilliant! – an ice cream freezer wheeled out on the patio with ice cream sandwiches, ice cream drumsticks, cones and more. So simple, but so fun. So, my tip is keep it simple, but put thought into it. Because there is something about Summertime Entertaining that when done right, it becomes totally memorable.
Thanks, guys, for a great night!
**Most products featured in the images can be found at THE LOFT by Lee Douglas Interiors**