Summer is the perfect time of year to host an al fresco get-together, but whether you’re catering for a handful of guests or a crowd, there are a few things to consider to ensure your party goes off with a bang.
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Tidy your garden
With the warmer temperatures and lighter nights of the summer, it makes sense to host your party in the garden, but just as you’d tidy indoors if you were hosting an inside bash, make sure your garden is in tip-top shape before your guests arrive.
Cut the grass, prune overhanging shrubs and deadhead spent flowers to create an inviting setting. A few colourful pots or baskets of flowers will also lift your outside space.
When deciding on the guest list, make sure you’ve got enough seating for everyone. Don’t just focus on chairs; place beanbags, oversized cushions and blankets in the garden for some variety. Dot seating around the garden to avoid guests crowding in one space, placing seating in both shady and non-shady areas. Bear in mind that some guests may choose to sit indoors, so keep patio doors wide open to let your inside and outdoors merge into one.
Hang up colourful bunting along fences and walls to create a celebratory vibe and match tablecloths to colours in the garden or a particular theme. Vases of freshly plucked flowers from the garden create eye-pleasing table centrepieces.
A warm welcome
Ensure guests feel at ease the moment they walk through the door, especially those that don’t know each other well. Assign someone to take care of coats or bags and show people where the bathroom is if they need it.
If you want guests to mingle, throw a few games into the mix to break the ice. Think croquet or boules on the lawn. A treasure hunt or craft table set up to paint pebbles will keep younger guests entertained.
Since it’s summer, make the most of the season’s bounty. Add homegrown herbs, salads and tomatoes to dishes, and keep menus light and carefree. A BBQ always goes down a treat, but bear in mind that you can’t play host and keep an eye on burgers at the same time. Enlist help, therefore, in this case.
A finger buffet is also a great idea: you can prepare many dishes beforehand and easily serve them when guests arrive. You might wish to go for a theme, such as Mexican, or if you have an outside stove, knock up a few pizzas for an Italian-inspired soiree.
Desserts don’t need to be overly fussy. A bowl of fresh strawberries and cream or chunks of juicy watermelon always get the thumbs up at this time of year.
Include summery cocktails on your drinks menu list, as well as Pimm’s and elderflower cordials. Berries epitomise summer, so add strawberries, cherries and raspberries to your concoctions, topped off with a refreshing slice of cucumber.
As night begins to fall, there’s no need to bring the party indoors. Keep the al fresco gathering going by dotting solar lights or candles in jars throughout the garden to lighten up your space. Opt for citronella candles, as these also help to keep biting bugs at bay. Dainty fairy lights draped across a tree or shrubbery also look very effective.
Keep guests warm by lighting a fire pit (perfect for toasting marshmallows) and drape a few throws or blankets on chairs for those seeking extra warmth.
Prepare for all weathers
It’s a good idea to keep your eye on the weather forecast in the lead up to your party, but the unpredictable nature of our climate means you should always prepare for the possibility of rain.
Make sure you’ve got enough indoor space to accommodate everyone if the weather turns. If you have bi-fold or patio doors, fling these open so guests can mingle inside and out to suit changing weather or temperature fluctuations.
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