May 19, 2013

Perfect Summer: Early summer’s the perfect time to entertain

It’s summertime, and whether your livin’ is easy or not, it’s a great time to entertain.

It’s summertime, and whether your livin’ is easy or not, it’s a great time to entertain.

This is a perfect time to plan an outdoor party because the temperatures aren’t scorching and summer vacation time hasn’t kicked in. Throw a party soon, while everyone is still in town and ready to kick back before kicking off summer.

If you like theme parties, the possibilities are endless. Have a fiesta, a luau, a lovely afternoon tea, a fondue extravaganza, a salad supper, Italian feast, wine and cheese tasting – well, the list is endless. And more good news, warm weather months are a great time for casual entertaining. Being outdoors makes any gathering more fun if the weather cooperates and you’ve taken care to get rid of pesky insects.

After you decide on the theme, the date and time, get those invitations sent. Today hosts are sending invitations by mail, by e-mail, Facebook, a phone call, and yes, even a text. But remember, the more formal your event, the more formal the invitation should be.

The more a person entertains, the easier and more fun it becomes.

Planning and preparation are what makes a party fun, not only for the guests but the hosts. Here are some tips from experienced hosts and hostesses:

• Start preparations early. Don’t stay up all night before your party trying to find this platter or that vase. Get out what you’re going to need several days in advance so you won’t have to go in search of things you don’t use very often.
• Set a budget and stick to the amount you plan to spend and the number of people you decided to invite. It’s easy to get carried away on both counts.
• If you are inviting guests by phone and leaving a message, check later to make sure the person got the message. A wrong number means you’ve left the information with a stranger and the intended guest is left out.
• If you’re entertaining outside, remember that if the weather changes all those people need to be able to come indoors and not be crowded in your home.
• The Kansas wind can be tough on centerpieces and table linens. Keep flower arrangements low, and you may need clips to secure table clothes if there is more than a slight breeze.
• Stringing lights in some of your trees adds a festive touch to any yard.
• Check to make sure you’re hitting all the senses. Not only should the party look inviting, it should smell delicious and great music should be playing. Make sure lighting is pretty and the music is not so loud it hinders conversation.
• It’s always nice to send each guest home with a party favor. But put the favors where you won’t forget to hand them out as people are leaving.
• If you’re having a large gathering, get help. If a caterer is cost prohibitive, consider using kids who are looking for summer work. The help you’ll have gathering up dirty dishes and keeping the serving dishes filled is worth the money.
• As a host, remember to look relaxed, even if you’re not. A frazzled hostess takes a lot of fun out of the party.
• Use paper plates, plastic cups and utensils only if it’s a very casual party. Serving in and eating off of actual dishes makes any party a nicer event.
• If you are indoors, you may need to rearrange furniture so that the traffic flow is easier and rooms won’t feel crowded.
• Clean your house several days before the party, then spruce it up a bit the day of the event.
• Check the table linens, napkins, placemats and other items you are planning to use to see if they need to be pressed or have stains you weren’t aware of.
• If you’re serving a large buffet, put the serving pieces on the table to make sure it will all fit.
• Do every bit of food preparation you can before the day of the party, and make decisions on serving pieces.
• Make sure your guests are greeted when they arrive. No one likes to arrive and have to wander in not knowing where they’re going. If you’re not able to answer the door, get someone to serve as the official greeter.
• Put a little bouquet of flowers in the powder room and light a fragrant candle. Leave the light on so people won’t have to search for the switch.
• It’s true guests do look in your medicine cabinet, so remove any personal items you don’t want them to see.

Having a party big or small, formal, informal or very casual, takes planning, but once your guests are there and you see them enjoying themselves, it’s all worth it.

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