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Summer Entertaining: How to Host a Successful, Stress-Free Fete

BY Sandy Lindsey TIMEJune 19, 2022 PRINT

Warm weather and sunshine lift our spirits, encouraging us to host a get-together. Whether a Fourth of July BBQ or an elegant summer tea, the best events are made even better with these tips, tricks, and tweaks.

The Theme

The first step to getting good friends or family together outside to enjoy delicious food and delightful conversation is to pick a theme. Do you want to host a classic BBQ, a pool party, or an evening cocktail or dinner party? Maybe you want to get more creative with a beer tasting, a cheese and wine pairing, or an ice cream party (perfect for a kid’s birthday). Or, how about a luau, Mexican fiesta, pizza party, picnic, or garden games tournament?

The chosen theme sets the tone and style for the invitations, menu, and just about everything else. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. That’s the best part about a consistent theme: It makes everything seem bigger and better.

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A stressed-out host will only put a damper on the event, so keep it simple. (Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Festive Food

The guests will bring the great conversation, while the host supplies the food and drinks—which also don’t need to be elaborate, even for a dinner party. A stressed-out host will only put a damper on the event, so keep it simple. Plan your party menu and prepare or partially prepare as much of it as possible in advance, factoring in time for reheating.

Before the party, practice any new dishes you plan to serve. Next, organize your ingredients down to the last spice shaker. Let the decision of using disposable or real dinnerware be in tune with the party’s theme. Paper or plastic is best with kids, but if you’re dining al fresco, it can blow away; some hosts recommend buying inexpensive plates just for outdoor entertaining. This is also the time to make sure you have enough seating, and if not, plan to borrow or rent some.

Refreshing Libations

When the weather is hot, there’s nothing better than a cool drink sliding down your throat. For a large party, create a chilled water station to keep everyone hydrated. You can make even this most basic drink—water—exciting by serving it in large, clear beverage dispensers festooned with fruit to make it an infused concoction (think raspberries and blueberries for a red, white, and blue Fourth of July). For variety, fill another dispenser with tea and one more with lemonade.

Break out the beer tubs for the canned and bottled drinks—it’s a summer tradition—but then go one easy step further with some pitchers of pre-made, big-batch cocktails. Sangria, mojitos, and margaritas all have a seasonal elan.

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(Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock)

Set the Scene

If you haven’t already, do your spring cleaning now, and break out the party essentials well in advance. That way, you’re not scrambling for sunscreen (apply it to your face, arms, legs, etc!) or bug protection (citronella candles, a bug zapper, or bug spray), or sending your significant other on last-minute trips to the supermarket for napkins, soda, or cases of water. Ice is the exception; save time to get plenty of it the day of the event.

Also, consider the theme and your crowd. Would party favors such as cheap sunglasses and flip flops, or something else that is fun, inexpensive, and enhances the experience, be appropriate? For a pool party, hand out goggles and safety floats. You get the idea.

Entertainment Area

Don’t forget that kids have lots of energy, particularly when they’re on summer break. If you’re hosting a family fete, be prepared to keep the little ones entertained. Doing so allows for more adult conversation and sends your guests home with kids ready for bed.

If there’s room, dedicate an area to the kids with their own music and some outdoor toys. These can range from bubbles, balls, chalk, hula-hoops, a kiddie pool, and sacks for a sack race, to games such as cornhole, horseshoes, croquet, pickleball, or jenga, depending on their age. If you do it well enough, you may find the adults lured over as well. If you want to go all out, or the group is large enough to warrant it, consider renting a bounce house.

Sandy Lindsey is an award-winning writer who covers home, gardening, DIY projects, pets, and boating. She has two books with McGraw-Hill.
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