Whether it’s to celebrate Memorial Day, graduation or no reason at all, hosting a shindig under the sun is a fitting way to kick off the summer. Some careful consideration when it comes to eats, drinks and ambiance will go a long way to make sure a good time is had by all.
PUMP THE JAMS
Music makes the difference between just hanging out and a true celebration. A portable outdoor speaker is an easy alternative to a full-out outdoor sound system; just connect your smartphone via bluetooth and click your favorite party tunes. Or fake an impromptu speaker by putting your phone inside a bowl (the shape will help amplify the sound) and pressing play on Pandora. Whatever you do, just make sure your playlist features Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” already a slam dunk for the song of the summer.
Look to lighting to set the mood. String lights are a fun and easy way to make your space feel festive. Try stringing a set or two along your deck railing or twist them around a tree trunk. Lanterns provide a subtle glow and instant ambiance; light a real candle inside or sub in a LED-powered pillar or votive to up the safety factor.
TIME TO TOAST
Refreshing drinks are the centerpiece of a successful bash, but you’ll want to spend your time having fun with your guests, not playing bartender. The key to a low-maintenance drink plan is prepping ahead of time for self-service. Fill a galvanized tub or cooler with ice to hold sodas, and juice boxes and beer. Use easy-to-pour pitchers or spouted coolers for lemonade or fruit punch for the kiddos (or spiked for the grown-ups). In the wine department, look for screw-top bottles so guests aren’t left hunting for a corkscrew.
For a fun alternative to the usual barbecue menu of hot dogs and hamburgers, try veggie and meat kabobs on the grill. Prepare steak, chicken or shrimp skewers ahead of time and have guests assemble their own veggie kabobs with sliced pepper, cherry tomatoes, onion wedges and zucchini chunks. Staples such as potato salad or coleslaw are classic side dishes, but serve only if you can confidently keep them cold for the whole day. (Nothing like mayo in the hot sun to tempt the food-poisoning gods!) Fruit salad, corn on the cob and vinegar-based slaws and salads all hold up well over the course of an afternoon and don’t need to be reheated for latecomers. Cookies, popsicles or brownie squares leave guests free to grab their sweets as they like without having to ask for help slicing and serving.
With all the essentials accounted for, the guest list is up to you. Cheers!