Outdoor Entertaining: Throwing a Great Summer Soirée
Shaded lanais and inviting pools mean the outdoor fun never has to stop here in Southwest Florida. As kids get out of school and the slower season begins, summer is a great time to connect with family and friends. Outdoor gatherings are often casual and can be very versatile, so don’t feel obligated to prepare a full dinner each time you throw a party. A few snacks, a couple drink options, and some good friends are enough to create memories. Here are a few tips to help you plan a fun, easy summer party.
keep food simple and seasonal
The last thing you want to do is stress about a full meal, so choose options that are light, simple, and seasonal. A theme can provide a helpful launching point for your party if you want to host something a little more structured. For an outdoor movie night, popcorn, soda, and a little something sweet like s’mores are perfect. A menu for a fun dinner party for your gal pals can be built around a delicious cocktail or two. Family and friends over for a grill out might enjoy “make your own” style food where people can build personal pizzas, burgers, or meat and veggie skewers. No matter what you choose to do with food and drink, buying pre-chopped ingredients will be a huge help on the day of the party.
A casual outdoor party is also a great time to accept help—make it a potluck and either assign dishes or let people know the theme so they have some direction. If you want to get high-tech about it, create a text group or cloud-based spreadsheet where guests can write down what they are bringing so you avoid duplicate dishes.
When it comes to snacks and appetizers, food that’s unaffected by heat is a great way to cut down on both mental and physical party preparations. Nuts, popcorn, and chips provide salty sustenance throughout the party and thankfully don’t require refrigeration.
keep cleanup easy
Craft paper makes an attractive and easy base for both your serving and dining tables. You can use a marker to label the paper above or below each dish so people know what you’re serving. At the end of the night, the paper can be recycled along with paper straws and plates. Another way to shorten cleanup time is to serve food in the trays they come in, so resist the temptation to pull out all your platters.
Now that you have the food under control, it’s time to make sure your guests have a place to enjoy their snacks. While people will naturally take turns sitting and standing throughout the party, no one should have to stand because there isn’t room. If you find you don’t have enough chairs, ask people to bring their own or make picnic-inspired seating areas with blankets and cushions. Consider repurposing indoor items for a few hours to help you create enough room for everyone to kick back and relax. When setting up these different spaces, think about height. You don’t want people sitting on chairs next to people on picnic blankets if you can help it. That doesn’t facilitate the best conversation opportunities as one looks down and the other cranes their neck.
Lawn and water games are a fun way to get everyone involved. For lawn games, put them in the shade and make sure they are close enough to each other so people can talk as they play. If people will be in the pool, put floats, noodles, and pool games in an easily accessible place. If your group is competitive, consider giving out fun prizes to the winners.
beat the bugs
Unfortunately, we do have to worry about the bugs in Southwest Florida and they can put a damper on the festivities. Consider placing a few bottles of bug spray in a basket so everyone can use them as needed. There are plenty of options that will protect the air around your party. If classic citronella candles don’t appeal to you, something like a Patio Shield Repeller (available at target.com) is a great way to keep bugs away from tables and seating areas.