Summer is one of my favorite times of the year to entertain. Probably because I am more relaxed in the summer months and entertaining has a more casual vibe. Today I am sharing five tips that make summer entertaining a breeze!
1. Give a gracious welcome!
Some people get overwhelmed or nervous about inviting people into their home because they don’t have magazine worthy homes or Pinterest-like table scapes. But while people will certainly appreciate the details you executed, what they are really going to remember much longer is how you made them feel.
One of the best ways you can make people feel welcome in your home is to greet guests at the front door with a big smile (and possibly a drink!). Isn’t it so awkward when you arrive at someone’s party, ring the doorbell and knock several times to no avail? Then you start looking in windows making sure you’re in the right place. Don’t let guests start off a visit to your home in this awkward state! Be ready for them or have your husband, roommate, or child on the lookout for arrivals!
Once guests enter your home don’t ask guests if they want a drink. Instead ask “What can I get you to drink?.” Having a tray of cocktails or iced tea ready to be poured makes guests feel like they aren’t putting the busy host out. Light hor d’oeuvres out ready for nibbling gives a gracious welcome as well.
As with any gathering you host, make people feel welcome by introducing guests who may not know each other. And offer a conversation starter so you can tend to other things if needed: “Laura, I want you to meet Sarah and Rob. They just got back from Tuscany!”
Another way to put people at ease is to give them a job! Ask them to toss the salad, turn the chicken on the grill, or uncork the wine. People like to feel like they are useful and are more likely to fall into natural conversation this way.
2. Create ambiance.
Lightning and music are simple and inexpensive ways to make your home and backyard even more inviting. Candles are great but battery operated flickering candles might be the best invention ever. I’ve had mine for years and they come on automatically at 6 o’clock every evening in the summer. It makes me so happy to look out on my patio and see them flickering as the sun goes down. (Make sure to get the outdoor kind so they don’t melt!) String lights also add a special touch to summer dinner parties.
As for music, there are so many great Spotify channels to go with your theme – Italian cooking, Oldies, whatever. No fancy built-in speakers needed. Get a Bluetooth speaker on Amazon and slip it behind some flowers.
And let’s just say nothing destroys ambiance of summer entertaining more than pesky mosquitos. You might want to call a professional to spray before a big event. We’ve also had luck with the mosquito product in our Summer Favorites Guide.
3. Decorate Simply and Seasonally
During the summer months it’s so nice to draw on the natural beauty around us and not have to spend so much on flowers and decor, particularly when entertaining outside. I will incorporate seasonal flowers from Trader Joe’s (tutorial in this post) with the placemats, glasses, and napkins I’ve collected over the years. If you buy things you truly love you will probably love them for many years!
Tip: seasonal and sturdy flowers are less likely to wilt. Or make life even easier by using potted flowers.
4. Use Light and Summery Foods
When my husband and I were newlyweds we made the mistake of cooking WAY too much food for our first outdoor dinner party. When it’s hot outside people generally don’t eat as much, so less is more when it comes to variety in a summer dinner menu. My go-to is Barefoot Contessa’s Orzo pasta because it can be served at room temperature. Add shrimp or chicken for a main dish or use it as side dish for fish.
On that note, avoid heavy and piping hot foods in the middle of summer. No one wants a big lasagna when it’s 101 outside! Stick with lighter and seasonal foods, incorporating summer produce in your menu like tomatoes, summer squash, peaches and berries for dessert. If food is going to be served outside, consider putting over ice. (But I think best to serve food indoors when possible!).
5. Involve Children
I think it’s so important to involve children in the prep work of being gracious hosts. It teaches them lifelong lessons – and divides up the to-dos! I’ll have my older girls sweep the patios and clean the windows as part of their weekly chores. (Because spider webs are just not inviting!).
We also brush up on manners before guests arrive and I remind them of last names if needed. Children may be off to bed shortly after guests arrive, but I think it’s polite for them to practice greeting adults and welcoming them into our home. Be sure you are following our manners series for more tips on gracious children’s manners.
What are your tips for gracious summer entertaining?
Photos: Audrie Dollins
Lilly Dress / Blue Striped Dress
Orange Pillow Cover / White and Orange Throw
Orange Striped Beach Towel / Lanterns
Garland by Gracious Garlands
Orange Wine Glasses (old from Pottery Barn) Similar here and here and stemless here and here
Napkins (Antique) Similar
Little Girls Dresses via Busy Bee Kids