Whether it’s intimate dinner with friends or a casual backyard barbecue with the family, hosting summer parties is always fun and exciting. The preparation, however, can be stressful and challenging. Below is a hosting guide and a sample menu to help you plan for your next summer bash.

Use Colorful Tableware

It’s the perfect season to play around with colors, so start with your tableware. Use brightly colored plates to add an eclectic feel to the table. Don’t worry if they don’t match—mismatched dinnerware makes the affair appear more laidback. Scour flea markets or yard sales for inexpensive but attractive china that you can mix and match.

Decorate with Seasonal Flowers

You don’t need a full blown floral centerpiece to make your décor interesting. Just grab two to three empty jars and stick in a few stems or sprigs of seasonal flowers in each one. Wild flowers also work well for a rustic table setting.

Incorporate Food into the Décor

To make things even easier, make food part of your décor and take advantage of seasonal produce to brighten up the table. An appetizer platter or a bowl of mixed berries can even double as your centerpiece.

Go for Mood Lighting

Mood lighting is key to setting your party’s atmosphere.  Turn off overhead lights and use lamps or candles. If the party is outside, hang paper lanterns together with string lights over the table or trees for a cozy ambiance. Don’t forget to light up pathways and steps to avoid accidents.

Set Up a Beverage Station

A dedicated drinks station is a great way to encourage people to start conversations with others. If it’s a large party, set up multiple stations so that your guests don’t have to line up for refills.

Stick to Easy Recipes

To make your hosting duties as stress-free as possible, create a menu that’s easy to prepare and can be made ahead of time. Leave last-minute grilling a few hours before the party starts and set the table the day before. Here’s a sample menu to get you started.

Appetizer: Summer Appetizer Plate with Honey

Remember that your appetizers should be light and not too filling. This sampler platter features a variety of yummy starters drizzled with locally sourced honey. Get the recipe here.

Salad: Freekeh Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette

Freekeh is green wheat that’s harvested at an early stage, then piled, sundried, and roasted. If you can’t find any in your local farmer’s market, you can use wheat berries as substitute. Try the recipe here.

Main course: Neely’s Wet BBQ Ribs

This St. Louis-style pork ribs is perfect if you like sticky ribs and don’t mind getting your hands dirty. Go here for the recipe.

Dessert: Coconut and Berries Popsicles

Berries are abundant this season and making popsicles out of them is a nice way to cool down after a hearty meal. Check out the recipe here.

Drinks: Raspberry Lemonade

Raspberry_Lemonade

Nothing says summer like an ice-cold glass of homemade lemonade. Turn this into a cocktail by adding a splash of vodka or rum. Grab the recipe from here.

Extra Tips

  • Don’t be shy to ask for help. Delegate tasks like manning the grill or setting the table so you can focus on other things.
  • If your guests offer to bring something, say yes! Appetizers or dessert can be that one thing off your mind.
  • Make sure you’re well stocked on drinks and ice to minimize supply runs.
  • Avoid repeating flavors. If you use strawberries for appetizers, think of something else for dessert.

A summer gathering is all about casual entertaining. Keep things simple and don’t worry too much about imperfections. Instead of slaving away at the kitchen all day, relax and enjoy the company of friends and loved ones.

Featured photo credit: Table Dressing/Chris Ford via flickr.com

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