Hosting family and friends for parties is a great way to enjoy the warm, beautiful days and cool breezy nights of summer. From casual barbeques to elegant dinner parties, here are some suggestions for creating memorable, personalized events this summer.
Select a Unique Holiday or Theme for your Event
Searching for theme ideas? Patriotic Memorial Day or 4th of July celebrations are classic, but consider a unique holiday to spice things up, and give you direction as you plan decorations and menus. The summer calendar is littered with fun national appreciation days to help get you started, such as National Cheesecake Day, S’mores Day, Hammock Day, and International Picnic Day. An added perk is that guests are less likely to have other commitments on non-traditional holidays, and are able to kick back and relax if they don’t have another party to get to.
Experiment with Beverages
Whether you’re a top-notch chef or a champion at defrosting frozen appetizers, personalized cocktails or mock-tails are a quick and easy way to step up your menu.
For novice bartenders, lemonades are a great medium for experimentation. Whip up your own homemade batch or simply combine fresh ingredients with a preferred store brand. Add your favorite fruits, such as strawberries, peaches, or blueberries, and fresh herbs like basil, thyme, or mint for a sophisticated flavor.
If you are unsure about the alcohol preferences of your guests, you can always stock a small bar with easy mixers on ice. Champagne, rum, and vodka can easily be blended with any of the cocktails featured above. Break away from storing your carefully crafted cocktails in a cooler full of ice stashed in the corner by incorporating an outdoor wicker bar onto your patio. A simple bar counter can fit into almost any sized patio and offer a sophisticated setup for guests to gather and pour their drinks
If space is truly limited, incorporate serving stations into essential furniture with elegant coffee tables and ice chests.
For other great, summer-themed, non-alcoholic beverage inspirations, check out the creative cocktails here.
Set the Scene
Guests will mingle and congregate as your set-up dictates. So carefully consider the atmosphere that you want to create and use your space thoughtfully. For an open, social atmosphere, a large circular setup encourages everyone to get to know each other.
For groups that are too large for one big circle, or to create a more intimate environment, clusters of wicker patio furniture, blankets spread on the lawn with comfortable pillows, or cocktail tables encourage guests to socialize in smaller groups with wicker chat sets.
If many of your guests will be meeting for the first time, provide entertainment for them to enjoy in smaller groups. Board games on tables and lawn games in the yard are a great way for guests to break up awkward silences. Additionally, it is important to consider the personal needs of your guests when planning for seating. An older crowd, or parents of infants, might require cushioned, comfortable furniture on a firm surface, while a younger crowd can more easily gather on benches or blankets.
Plan for Kids
It can be difficult for guests to relax when they’re checking in with the babysitter, so consider including children in your invite and planning for their enjoyment as well. For more intimate parties, consider hiring a qualified babysitter to take kids into the house for a movie, or organize outdoor crafts and games while adults relax. A sturdy wicker coffee table can be easily converted into a craft table with a colorful cloth covering and by providing construction paper, beads, or the materials and directions for a planned project. If your goal is to allow the adults to relax, set the area off to the side, and surround it with balloons and ribbons to attract younger ones and keep them content. Let parents know in advance that you will be setting aside a special area, and ask for craft recommendations to ensure that kids will be entertained.
If older kids or a babysitter are present, consider allowing kids to work on a presentation or play that ties in the theme for the party. For National S’mores Day, encourage the children to come up with a fun, whimsical performance detailing the discovery of the first s’mores. Allow them to gather and plan in their own space during the first half of the party, then pull comfortable furniture, picnic blankets, and pillows into the lawn and allow them to use the patio as a stage to bring the event to a close.
Make a Manageable Menu
Entertaining should be enjoyable for the host as well, so evaluate your budget, personal skills, and needs as you plan your event. Catering is a great way to remove the stress of menu planning completely, and can meet any price point. For example, taco bars and carryout BBQ are affordable, easy options to consider if you don’t want to worry about cooking for a crowd.
However, for summer, there is nothing more classic than firing up the grill, and there is plenty of room for creativity outside of traditional burgers and hot dogs. Let guests create their own skewers with a buffet consisting of a variety of meat, fruit, vegetable, and marinade options.
For more delicate cuisines, such as seafood, infuse smoky flavors by grilling in foil. To serve food buffet-style, a long, outdoor dining table can be pushed against a wall in a smaller space, or set to the side in a larger space.
Whatever the menu, feel free to show it off as much creativity and culinary expertise as you desire, but remember to plan a menu that allows you to prepare as much ahead of time as possible so that you can enjoy time relaxing with your guests.
Karen Styles is passionate about home improvement and interior design. She is a key team member at Pergolas of Distinction, one of South Australia’s largest home improvement companies. In her spare time she enjoys tackling DIY home improvement projects around the house and garden and, of course, entertaining family and friends outside in the Aussie summer.