Summer gatherings can be made special with adding in extra details wowing your guests. The warm weather encourages guests to go outside and enjoy each other’s company away from the confines of the indoors. But as delightful as it is, summer entertaining brings a handful of factors that can complicate hosting. Luckily, there’s no reason to stay inside. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about stress-free summer entertaining.
#1 Design a Summery Tablescape — Let’s start with the most exciting part of party planning — the table décor! Since summer parties are often held outdoors and lean casual, it’s totally fine to stick to a buffet-style serving situation. We always recommend keeping the china in the dining room and opting for chic tableware that’s much less fussy. The next step is to pick a theme and execute it! Here are some of our favorite summer tablescape ideas:
- Backyard boho featuring macramé table runners and bamboo plates. Drippy wax candles and unfussy centerpieces are a must.
- Dusty tones that use dusty pink and green table linens and plenty of complementary seasonal florals as centerpieces.
- Classic picnic featuring a red and white checkered tablecloth and picnic baskets used as décor or centerpieces.
- Summer fruit placed on linens in bright strawberry or watermelon prints and bowls overflowing with fresh fruit. Consider adding fruit into your floral arrangements for a centerpiece that goes with the theme.
- Garden party featuring floral table linens, tons of fresh flowers and stylish garden accessories used as table décor.
#2 Prep Food a Day Ahead — The great thing about summer foods is that we can prepare them ahead of time. Many premade summer staples turn out just as good, and in some cases even better, than if you make them fresh on the day of the party. Pasta salads, fruit salads, kabobs, taco fillings and other dishes can be prepared the night before, leaving you with less to do the next day. Keep everything covered and chilled in the fridge until it’s time to eat. Oh, and don’t forget to marinate your grill and smoker meats!
#3 Stick to Outdoor Cooking Only — Your guests are going to want to spend time outside if it’s nice out. That means you won’t be able to linger in the kitchen and cook while mingling with your guests. The solution? Prep side dishes ahead of time (pasta salad is always great for that) and choose dishes that can be cooked outside on the grill, in the smoker or even with a propane steamer (clambake, anyone?). Make sure your grill tools are clean and ready to go and set up a folding table for prep and serving. Be sure to position the grill so the wind blows it away from your guests.
#4 Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Guests to Bring a Dish — If it’s a regular summer gathering or holiday picnic — not a shower, birthday party, engagement party, etc. — then it’s perfectly acceptable to ask guests to contribute. If that’s your game plan, be sure to let them know the theme of the party as well as what you plan on cooking so they can choose their dishes accordingly. Don’t feel ashamed to encourage guests to bring their own beverages too, but always make sure to have plenty on hand in case guests decide to bring food instead.
#5 Create a Shaded Lounge Area — Ultimately, your most important role as a host is to make sure that everyone who attends your gathering is comfortable and happy throughout the event. That means providing them with the basics: food, drinks and shelter.
Ideally, you should have a shady section of your outdoor space so that people can get respite from the hot sun. Make sure there are enough chairs for everyone to sit in! You should also open up the house just in case some people prefer to relax indoors.
#6 Keep the Bugs Away — It’s summer, which means bugs are out and about. Make sure to light citronella candles and keep bug spray on hand to keep the bugs at bay. Try your best to deter critters from feasting on the buffet by covering food with plastic wrap, bug nets or kitchen towels. You can also buy handy serving trays with built-in bug nets designed specifically for outdoor dining. Genius!
#7 Set a Rain Date — The weather is unpredictable during the summer months, so you want to make sure you have a backup plan in case there is unpleasant weather. Monitor the forecast and make the call at least three hours before the event’s start time so that your guests don’t prep their dish for no reason.
#8 Get Serious About Your Cooler Plan — If you’re having more than one or two friends over, you’re going to want to make sure you break out the big cooler – your 50- to 150-quart, ideally — so you can stock it with enough beverages for the whole day. If you have a small cooler, fill it with bottled water or clean ice with a scoop so guests can keep their drinks cold. Make sure to pack it strategically and consider using dry ice (closely following safety precautions, of course) if the temps are especially high. Dry ice is ideal for large parties because it takes up less space, allowing you to pack more into the cooler.
#9 Keep Water on Hand — On a hot summer day, water is the one thing your guests will request more than anything else, so make sure they don’t have to go looking for it. In addition to keeping bottled water in the cooler, you may also want to invest in large beverage coolers filled with ice water so your guests have plenty of H2O when they need it. Consider filling the receptacle with cucumber, citrus, herbs and fruits to encourage everybody to stay hydrated.
These tips for summer entertaining will make your event a breeze. And even though you’re hosting the party, don’t forget to enjoy yourself, too! Grab a refreshing beverage, an appetizer and hang out with your closest friends and family!