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May 16th, 2013

Outdoor entertaining tips

When planning an outdoor event, choose an underlying theme and let it guide your decor, activity, food and beverage choices (maybe even your attire!). It will help you focus when making decisions on party elements. Hot themes for summer 2012 include Palm Springs in the 1960s (play croquet, decorate with a Pucci-inspired color palette, serve retro-inspired drinks in kitschy glassware). A Great Gatsby-inspired garden party (think about making this one a costume party!) is also hot for summer.

* Welcome your guests with a signature cocktail. Fill a large wine glass with Prosecco (as yummy as champagne but less expensive) and place a fruit-flavored Popsicle in each. The presentation looks amazing and the Popsicle keeps the Prosecco ice-cold. Guests can either dip their Popsicle and sip their drink or let the Popsicle melt and enjoy.


* Use garden urns as ice buckets. Keep your beverages chilled and create unique (and multiple) drink stations by simply filling urns with your favorite beverages and displaying throughout the space. This looks great, eliminates the need for servers and keeps guests from backlogging a bar or kitchen area.


* Add a tropical summer look to plain glass votive holders by wrapping the exterior with a large palm leaf, use a string of raffia to secure it.


* Try a fresh twist on the potluck by hosting your own "festival.” For a “Jazz Festival” run with a New Orleans–vibe, invite friends to send you their top five jazz picks to add to a playlist. Each guest can bring a Cajun-inspired dish and cocktail. Why not host a rib fest? Have friends prep their own rack, have a cookout and a taste testing! (This works well for a Southern-themed party as well. Think cowboys and chili.)


*Take care of your guests, fill buckets or baskets with outdoor essentials like sun tan lotion, sun glasses, bug spray. Your guests will thank you and won’t need to pester you throughout the day or evening.


* Decorate your drinks! Drop petals of edible flowers into the water in an ice tray… freeze and voila! Your ice has become a signature element to your beverage displays. 


* Things can still get chilly in the summer. Fill baskets with colorful and inexpensive wraps and place them throughout the space. Guests will appreciate the comfort they provide, especially in the evenings. Invite your guests to take their wrap home with them as a small party favor. Every time they take the wrap out they will remember the wonderful time they had at your party.


* Utilize rental services: Short on glasses, serving pieces or tableware? Consider using a rental service for all your party needs. From seating and tableware, party rental companies have everything you need at a fraction of the cost of buying. The best part? You can return dishware unwashed!


* For your summer centerpieces incorporate a little rustic charm. Run vintage wine crates down the center of a table and fill with seasonal fruit (peaches, apples) place flowers in a varying size of tin cans (labels removed) or vintage tea tins and scatter them among the crates. The look is whimsical, rustic and affordable! For an evening centerpiece, place tall (clear) glass bottles with taper candles down the center of a table, keep the look casual and non static by staggering the bottles (don’t make them all in one straight line)


* Bold, fun wallpaper makes unique and affordable table runners… (Graham and Brown, have a great selection!- Other unique and affordable table runner ideas: decorative moss, a plank of rustic wood topped with flowers in vintage vases


* Activities make a summer party. Be sure to have plenty planned. Play croquet, horseshoes… or screen a classic beach movie outside. Make your own fun outdoor photo booth—have various sizes of frames in baskets along with baskets of accessories (faux moustaches on a stick, glasses, hats and boas). Hang a sheet as a backdrop and place a digital camera on a tripod. Have an affordable photo printer on hand so guests can leave with a copy of their photo.


* Don't stress! A summer party is all about relaxation. The most important element of a party is a host who expects to have a good time. Let everyone help. The best part of summer entertaining is that it is almost always informal. Your friends are resources -- do you have a friend who can mix a mean cocktail? Perhaps someone knows some great magic tricks (perfect to keep the guests amused while you clean up). Use your friends, by assigning one small task to each you will free yourself up for your most important role . . . host!


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Janette  Ewen

Janette Ewen has been one of Canada’s leading décor and lifestyle experts for more than a decade, passing on her passion for design and fashion to avid fans through magazines, newspapers and television.

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