Summer is here. Just knowing that triggers a long, slow exhale. Saying “summer” actually sounds like a long, slow exhale. The warm summer sun and the soft mild breezes make us reflexively close our eyes, put our feet up and relax. “Formal” is put into mothballs until next winter and we unpack “casual” for its season in the sun.
If you’re like me, that means a lot of outdoor summer entertaining. A LOT. And there are some tricks to it. Here are some of the tips I’ve accumulated over the years to make sure the focus stays on fun when you take the party outdoors.
1. Weather. Check the weather the morning of your get together. Send a quick email to your guests reminding them that the party will be on the patio and to bring a sweater or light jacket if the forecast is cool. This simple, thoughtful gesture will be a surprisingly big hit with your guests.
2. Comfort. Have a few blankets, bug spray, citronella, and sun screen on hand depending on the time and place of your get-together. If you plan for the conditions when summer entertaining, you can keep your guests a lot more comfortable.
3. Interaction. Planning a little competition or game that gets everyone involved and active can make for a great time. Whether its badminton, bean bags, volley ball, croquet, horseshoes, kick ball, or whiffle ball, some of the best memories for kids and adults involve a friendly game outside.
4. Food & Drinks. Plan a serve-yourself style menu for both food and drinks. Help everyone with their first drink and then let them know to help themselves. Have appetizers and snacks set out as guests arrive. Drinks and ice can be kept in coolers, and the main course can be brought out at the appropriate time and served buffet style. Make everything in advance so all you have to do is grill. Grilling is a fun part of every party. It allows guests to visit and participate in the activity. And there’s usually no shortage of volunteers who are willing to help and impart their culinary wisdom.
5. Simplicity. Use prepared in advance food trays to serve smaller courses or drinks. The trays make serving outside easy. And clean up is a breeze.
6. Safety. Glasses, Bottles and dish ware can be risky depending on your crowd. Bare feet and broken glass can easily move your party to the emergency room. So, when using glassware outside, use a less expensive option. That way if something breaks, it’s not great grandma’s Waterford. And you’d be surprised at how many great looking plastic options are out there today.
Think ahead. Plan for simplicity. Prep your food ahead. Check the weather. Plan for the comfort of your guests. Play a game. It makes everything easier and lets you attend your party and not just host it. A well-planned outdoor party only needs a slight nudge for the good times to roll.