As Memorial Day, the official kick-off of summer, approaches, visions of beach days, getaways, and—of course—outdoor soirées fill our minds. So, what are you waiting for? Bring on the warm weather, gear up for some fun in the sun, and throw an epic event to kick off the season. Try one of these four perfect party plans, complete with décor and menu ideas.
A garden party is a great theme for a bridal or baby shower, but if you don’t have a special occasion on your calendar, that’s OK—make one up! Invite your girlfriends over for brunch or lunch and dine al fresco under a shady tree or patio umbrellas.
The Scene: Use vintage tablecloths or placemats to create a romantic look—try white on white or bright summer colors. Choose three types of flowers and tuck them into glass vases in various shapes along the center of the table. You can use whatever vases you have on hand, just keep them low enough so guests can chat easily across the table.
Serve: Try a refreshing but hearty salad, like roasted veggies with shrimp and goat cheese or spring greens with grilled chicken, strawberries, candied pecans and gorgonzola. Then finish the meal with a light dessert, like a fruit tart.
Sip: To keep cool, serve sparkling lemonade and iced water. And don’t forget the champagne!
Make the most of daylight savings and set up an outdoor dinner party. Whether you invite four or 24, plan to have seating for all guests, but otherwise, don’t worry about making it too formal. Summer dining is all about relaxing and enjoying the beautiful outdoors.
The Scene: Your décor should be relaxed and unfussy. Try placing mason jars in white paper bags tied with twine on the table, then inserting brightly colored dahlias or bunches of baby’s breath for an inexpensive and current look. Use lanterns and candles (pick up inexpensive ones at IKEA) to create an intimate glow.
Serve: Summer is prime time for a menu full of tons of ripe, delicious fruits and veggies. For a farm-to-table feel, hit up the farmer’s market and pick up tomatoes, squash, or any other seasonal produce that entices you, and create your menu around that.
Sip: Visit your neighborhood wine store and ask for recommendations of local wines and craft beers that would compliment your dinner selection.
Don’t limit festive cocktail parties to the holiday season—hey, people need an excuse to dress up no matter what time of year it is! Start the party at cocktail hour, before the sun goes down, then let it glimmer into the evening.
The Scene: Spruce up your backyard or patio with covered cocktail tables (you can rent tables and linens from a local party rental vendor). Hang paper lanterns from trees or awnings, place votive candles on the tables, and line your bushes and fences with tons of twinkle lights.
Serve: Pass appetizer bites around the party and set up a make-your-own bruschetta bar with several meats, cheeses, fruits, spreads and nuts to choose from. Guests can get creative and fill up at the same time!
Sip: Choose a specialty cocktail like a watermelon martini or lemon drop to host and ask guests to bring a bottle of wine to share.
Sometimes, the laid-back feel of summer calls for a good, old-fashioned, backyard BBQ. Invite a big group of people over, keep it casual, and let guests mingle and eat around the house and yard.
The Scene: There’s definitely no need for major décor for this event. Just clean house, break out some fun and colorful paper plates and napkins, and focus on the food and drinks!
Serve: Nothing smells more like summer than burgers and dogs on the grill, but if you want a lighter menu, throw on fresh fish and summer veggies. Instead of a traditional pasta salad, serve orzo with spinach, basil, pine nuts, garbanzo beans, and feta tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Sip: Serve a summer brew, chilled white wine, or margaritas. Then, sit back and enjoy the taste of summer!