A guide to throwing the perfect summer party
11 January 2018
Melissa Cowan on Houzz
The weather is seriously heating up, it’s light until 8pm and everyone is in the mood to socialise and drink sangria (rather than stay home and watch movies). Summer usually means an abundance of parties – from Christmas catch-ups to New Year’s celebrations, to “just because” gatherings of family and friends.
If you find yourself hosting a summer party, here are some ideas to have on hand that will make it a soiree to remember.
Photo by Elizabeth Home Decor & Design, Inc
Set up a self-serve drinks trolley
Setting up a drinks trolley to allow your guests to serve themselves will save you a lot of time during the event. Whether you’re planning for your summer party a long time in advance or throwing it together at the last minute, putting together a drinks trolley is an excellent idea. And being on wheels means you can easily cart it outside.
Tip: Pack your trolley full of everything you may possibly need, from liquor to cocktail shakers, straws and citrus. Keep a back-up supply nearby for when anything runs out.
Failing being able to have a drinks trolley, making sangria or punch before the party is delicious and easy. The great thing is that the mixed drinks will only get better as they continue to infuse with the added ingredients (like orange). Just make sure to keep it in the fridge until the guests arrive, and then periodically fill it with ice.
Offer your guests citrus-, mint-, strawberry- or cucumber-infused water to keep them cool on hot days; no one wants to get dehydrated. Also, keep a few ice buckets on hand to fill with ice and hold your water bottles. Try combinations of a few ingredients for variation, like strawberry, lemon and basil, or watermelon and mint.
Tip: Use thin slices and cubes so the flavour can infuse more quickly.
Photo by Dreamy Whites
Use mason jars for … everything
What can’t you do with a mason jar? They make fabulous cocktail containers and beautiful makeshift vases. Plus it’s much quicker to make a big batch of cocktails in the blender and then pour it into the jars, rather than trying to mix them in each jar.
Jars also make for lovely candle holders. Add pebbles or shells at the bottom of the jar to create a beachy vibe (and to help prevent them from tipping over).
Tip: When using jars as vases, make sure they are filled with enough water to weigh them down, and that the flowers or branches put in them aren’t so heavy that they’ll topple over.
Display your garden cuttings
Plant cuttings are a surefire way to add vibrancy to your party. Use mismatched vessels for floating them in with water, and mix up the types of plants you feature. Succulents look particularly beautiful, but flowers are also a great option.
Give the foliage a home among the food to create a rustic and relaxed tone to the party. You could even intersperse herbs in pots for your guests to pick and sprinkle on their food.
String up some fairy lights
Who doesn’t love fairy lights? Lighting is one of the quickest ways to add ambience to a space. Stick to warm light to prevent the lighting from sticking out too much from its surroundings.
Tip: Before starting, measure the area where you want to use the fairy lights – and then add on a few more metres for slack.
Photo by Terri Clark Interiors
Paper lanterns are a great way to add a colour injection into your party. You have the option of having purely decorative lanterns, or ones containing small lamps or lightbulbs. As an added bonus, a “grazing centrepiece” of fruit and vegetables is a stunning and unique way of presenting your offerings.
If you don’t want to go to the effort of stringing up lights, or your party will only be during the day, consider putting up some pretty bunting instead. If your soiree will be continuing into the evening, put out a few light blankets for your guests to drape over themselves. You might be surprised how much the temperature can drop once night falls.
Prep your music situation
In my opinion, music can make or break a party. When choosing your sound system (unless you have a pre-existing one), bluetooth speakers are great because they can be easily moved from room to room. Tailor your music playlist to your guests – are they into the classics or the latest hits? A combination of the two will likely be a crowd pleaser. Try and estimate the amount of time your guests will stay (and take into account that there’s always one or two that stay well into the night!) and then make your playlist long enough. Five or six hours will usually cover it.
Tip: Rather than having one huge, really loud speaker, have a few smaller ones and put them in different spots around your house. Place them above ear level to stop your guests from getting blasted with noise.
Get out the fancy stuff
When people think of summer parties, they usually think of disposable plates and cups and paper serviettes. If you want to break the mould, and trust your friends not to break your teacups, go all out with your special crockery. Don’t worry about them being perfectly matching – mismatched crockery will be totally “boho chic”.
Prepare easy finger food
Light finger food is much easier to handle than a giant meal, especially when the weather is sweltering. Buy your ingredients seasonally to ensure freshness and cost-effectiveness. Dips, crackers and cheese always go down a treat. So that your guests don’t have to line up for their snacks, place a couple of food stations in different locations so they’re more spread out.
Tip: Be sure to include a few vegetarian options if guests have advised they don’t eat meat – or even if you’re not sure of their eating preferences.
Make sure there are shady spots available
Getting burnt and overheated is the quickest way to turn any guest into a sweaty grump. If your guests will be by the pool, put out some outdoor umbrellas. If they’re going to be on the grass, pop up a tent.
Get the pool ready
Having a pool party? As well as the obvious chores like making sure it’s clean and leaf-free, chuck in some inflatable pool toys for your guests to lounge on. Nothing says summer party more than an inflatable flamingo.
Photo by decor8, LLC
Remember that your highest priority for the party is for you and your guests to have fun. If you’re worried about your guests not knowing each other, or if you get a little uncomfortable in social situations, have a few conversation starters on hand. I particularly like “What’s the most annoying thing your mum does?” or the more conservative “What’s your favourite book of all time?” Relax, most guests will be more than happy to pour their own drinks and serve their own food.