During heat climate months, few issues are extra magical than gathering mates within the nice outside. There’s one thing about being surrounded by nature, within the sunshine, or close to a physique of water that creates immediate connection, and lots of of my favourite recollections of all time occurred when internet hosting or attending an outside social gathering in summers previous. Have you ever seen that even the only meals tastes higher al fresco? I nonetheless bear in mind when, rising up, my mother would pack a cooler of hen salad sandwiches, traditional potato chips, and sliced watermelon, and after a day spent taking part in on the park, these humble components tasted like heaven.
However, anybody who’s hosted an outside social gathering is aware of that they don’t come with out some challenges. Blazing solar, mosquitos, and diligently attempting to maintain scorching meals cold and warm meals chilly can put a snag in even the best-laid plans. Slightly advance planning goes a great distance, so to kick off outside social gathering season, we teamed up with our mates at Haven Well Within to inventory your toolbox with every part you could know to host an outside social gathering with ease. Tip primary? Wear one of many model’s attractive and breathable linen pieces so that you received’t break a sweat, regardless of how scorching issues get within the kitchen.
My hope is that you just’ll get impressed to seek out the following open night in your calendar (yep, weeknights work, too!) shoot a couple of texts to some mates, and seize the groceries for this menu you can truly whip up after work (particularly if one in all your pals needs to leap in and assist). Scroll on for every part you could host your most enjoyable outside social gathering but—as demo’d by the Spanish-inspired yard dinner I hosted for mates final month.
(Casually) Set Expectations
Keep the vibe chill. An invitation units the tone, so for a easy outside social gathering, don’t overthink it. In my opinion, a gaggle textual content or e mail is the best way to go. And I’ve discovered that after I make issues very easy on myself, I’m naturally inclined to ask mates over extra continuously.
Include the details. In addition to arrival time, I like to let people know the approximate time we’ll be eating so we’re not firing up the grill multiple times over the course of an evening (i.e., “come at 4 to swim, burgers at 6!”)
Provide a loose dress code. Swimsuits? Shorts? Summer dresses? Since summer parties can have drastically different dress expectations, everyone will appreciate a few clues as to what they should wear.
Tips for Cooking Al Fresco
Make it no-cook. Summer is the perfect time to curate a delicious spread of store-bought staples with a few artisanal treats. Assemble a snacking board full of delicious cheeses, olives, crudités, dips, dried fruit, nuts—really your options are endless. Green goddess dressing is downright addictive, and the perfect accompaniment for any type of seasonal veggies.
This citrus salad is as simple (and beautiful) as it gets—the ultimate example of assembling a few ingredients with wow factor! Just peel and slice a variety of oranges and grapefruits, arrange in overlapping circles on a platter, then douse with olive oil, big pinches of salt, thinly sliced onion, and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand.
Serve it room temp. One thing I learned in my catering days is that way more dishes can be served at room temperature than you might think! Grilled meats, roasted vegetables, dips and spreads are all dishes that can be prepped when everyone shows up, and hang out for an hour or two on the counter before meal time. Remember that anything with dairy or mayonnaise-based dressings should be chilled until it’s time to eat. Removing the pressure to keep everything super hot (or cold) will allow you to be a way more chill host.
Take some shortcuts. The goal is to be able to relax and hang out with your guests, so no matter how experienced a party-thrower you are, it’s great to have a few hacks up your sleeve. To save tons of time, try a “semi-homemade” approach. Buy the main course from a fave spot (like a roast chicken from the deli, or bagels from your favorite bakery) and fill in with homemade sides and salads that can be made in advance and will make it feel like you cooked it all.
Advance prep is key. Speaking of which, you don’t want anything on your menu that will have you cranking out food like a short-order cook when guests are there. When planning the menu, choose items that can be cooked almost entirely in advance—or, if you’re grilling, have items already marinating or seasoned before guests show up so that all that’s left to do is throw them on the grill.
Keep dessert easy. A bowl of yummy candy, some berries and whipped cream, cookies from the local bakery—just a little something sweet will ensure your guests leave happy.
Outdoor Party Set-Up Tips
Decide on your food format. Since I started my career in catering, naturally my first step to planning any party is thinking about how I want to serve the food. Is it buffet-style, seated and served, family-style, straight off the grill? There are so many options that create a different feel and flow, and for this laid-back gathering, I placed a few family-style platters on the table so that everyone could help themselves and linger for hours.
Create space for lounging. Sometimes it’s nice to forego a traditional dining table and chairs in favor of a comfy spot where everyone can settle in for good conversation. It makes people feel at ease, and any time I can kick off my shoes and curl my feet up on a sofa for a good chat with a glass of wine, I’m in my happy place. That said, if you don’t have an outdoor living room, you can still achieve comfy vibes on the fly. Pull out a couple chairs from inside the house, throw a few pillows on a deck or outdoor rug and create a makeshift lounge space for the evening.
Outdoor party seating. Embrace a mismatch when setting up your dining area—few of us have loads of outdoor dining chairs, so use what you’ve got! I have a couple of 6′ folding tables that I keep on hand in the garage, and when I’m seating a group of eight or more, I pop them up in the backyard and top with linen tablecloths.
What To Drink at an Outdoor Party
Calculate your quantities. For any party drink, plan on 1 1/2 drinks per person per hour. If you’re batching cocktails, use 8 ounces (1 cup) as a standard drink size for your calculations.
Pitcher drinks are your friend. Sangria, margaritas, punch—take a batched approach and let guests help themselves. Less time spent bartending means more time sipping cocktails yourself. A few favorite pitcher drinks? My Classic Margarita and this Strawberry Rosé Sangria are about as perfect as they come.
Choose one cocktail and stick to it. No need for a myriad of options—choose a signature drink and make your life easier. Aperol Spritz is a summer cocktail beloved by all, perfect for an Italian menu. Or, try a Blood Orange Margarita for a delicious twist on a classic.
Ask guests to bring a bottle. Wine is the perfect thing for guests to contribute. If they ask, share what you’re serving so they can consider a solid pairing (though when it’s really hot outside, you can never go wrong with a chilled rosé or dry sauvignon blanc).
Fill up a huge carafe of water. Staying hydrated is a must for an outdoor party, and a host’s responsibility is to make sure there’s water within easy reach. I like to fill up a large carafe or beverage dispenser with water, ice, and fruit or herbs to make it festive.
Have a fun non-alcoholic option. There are all kinds of reasons why someone may not be drinking alcohol, and one way to create a welcoming vibe for everyone is to provide at least one festive non-alcoholic option. Sparkling lemonade, minty iced tea, fizzy water with fruity garnishes—a little thoughtfulness goes a long way. These hibiscus spritzers are just as good if you swap the Prosecco for sparkling water.
Outdoor Party Essential Supplies
Bug Spray. Bugs are an annoyance in some parts of the country more than others, but here in Austin, I’m always wary of mosquitoes crashing an outdoor party. I love this clean bug spray that features an effective strain of Indonesian citronella and a citrusy, vanilla scent.
Citronella Candles. For wide-sweeping, bug-repelling support, nothing beats a citronella candle. I’m fully here for any and all outdoor party essentials that do double duty to perfection.
Cooler. While serving your outdoor party dishes at room temperature keeps things easy-breezy, there’s no getting around it: In the summer heat, drinks have to be served chilled. An easy solution? Durable coolers that are easily portable. This hard-sided cooler is available in a bunch of various sizes, so you may customise yours to get precisely what you want. Or, in the event you’re trying for one thing somewhat lighter, I like this beachy cooler bag.
Sunscreen. No matter the exercise, sunscreen is my #1 summer season non-negotiable. It’s my greatest anti-aging, wellness trick within the sport, plus no visitor needs to get up the following morning with a sunburn—ouch! But know this: Not all sunscreens are created equal. Browse our favourite clear choices for a protected, however efficient sunscreen.
What to Wear for an Outdoor Party
An identical set. I like an identical tank and shorts in linen—it seems to be put collectively however looks like pajamas.
Breathable supplies. Cotton, linen, and silk are summertime classics for a cause. They look lovely and hold you cool, naturally.
A swimsuit. If you’re partying at a pool, lake, or seaside, go together with a cute one-piece paired with cutoffs or a maxi skirt for the last word easy vibe (that’ll additionally permit you to dive in everytime you really feel prefer it!).
Outdoor Party Games and Activities
Yard Games. Games and activities are a great way to encourage guests to get up, chat, and continue the fun. Nothing beats bocce ball, croquet’s a traditional for a cause, and issues are undoubtedly getting aggressive in the event you escape the cornhole.
Dance Party. PSA: Even in the event you suppose you don’t have strikes, everybody can dance. Because right here’s the reality—dancing’s about letting unfastened and having a superb time. I discover that as issues get later into the night and if I swap up the music to one thing with somewhat extra vitality and beat, friends will naturally hop up and begin dancing. Slightly Harry Styles doesn’t damage, both—belief me, he’s everybody’s jam.
Card Games. The potentialities are countless with a tried-and-true deck of playing cards. Ask friends to volunteer their favorites and train the group. Don’t be shocked when the sport will get heated.
Conversation Starters. Need to brush up in your dialog expertise? I can assure you’re not alone. Feeling somewhat timid about beginning up my social life once more, I put collectively an inventory of 30 conversation starters to inspire thoughtful and engaging chats. Keep a few of these in your back pocket and you’ll step into every interaction with confidence (and curiosity!).
Set up an Outdoor Movie Theater. This is one of my favorite ways to create a casual, but memorable outdoor party experience. Set up a projector and string up a white sheet for the clearest picture. This option is a little pricey, however belief me, setting it up the primary time will persuade you to host film nights each week. Add to the combo a couple of blankets, pillows, and outside lanterns to create a comfortable oasis the place friends will really feel snug lounging about. And don’t you dare overlook the popcorn and sweet!