Nothing says summer like an outdoor soirée, and while things are more relaxed this time of year, there’s plenty to consider before sending an invite. Here, one of the industry’s most sought-after event gurus shares simple tips to ensure happy guests.
Whether conceptualizing an intimate A-list wedding or planning a large-scale White House bash, Bronson van Wyck and his team at Van Wyck & Van Wyck think of every detail large and small to make sure that a party runs smoothly. Entertaining in the summer months presents its own set of considerations, especially as parties tend to move outside.
While heat, bugs, and melting ice can present a challenge, Bronson says summer parties start off on the right foot with guests arriving in a better mood than at other times of the year. “There’s a much greater chance they’re not rushing from a meeting or stressful work situation, since the summer is generally more relaxed,” he says. But laidback vibes don’t mean the host should drop the ball. “Plan carefully. There’s no such thing as too much shade, too much ice, too much bug spray, or too much tequila!” Read on for more of Bronson’s pearls of wisdom, and then get to planning your best summer party yet.
1. PREPARE BIG BATCHES OF COCKTAILS
A host should be spending time with their guests, not wasting time mixing drinks. Instead, make big batches of cocktails in advance and serve them in pitchers for easy access and easy refills. Drinks should be served fast, and this rattan pitcher will do just the trick.
2. THINK ABOUT SHADE
On a hot, sunny day, shady spots are often the most popular places at the party. Set up your bars or create lounge areas in shade. Or open up rooms of the house if the party is outdoors, so guests can gather for a respite from the sun.
3. DON’T SKIMP ON ICE
Order four times as much ice as you think you need. Have you ever had a warm glass of Sancerre? I’ll pass. Ice has never looked so fine as it will in this bucket. Keep it full and arctic cold, and have a stash of extra bags in the garage freezer.
5. POTTED PLANTS MAKE EASY DECOR
Consider incorporating potted plants and herbs as part of your table décor. You can enjoy potted plants long after the party and keep them on the back terrace throughout the summer where they’ll be on hand for your next gathering. I like a mix of vessels—terra cotta, old baskets, galvanized tin buckets—whatever you may find in the potting shed or the back of the garage.
6. SERVE BOTTLED BEER
Keep it easy (and save from washing all that glassware) by serving beer from the bottle. There are so many interesting craft beers from all over the country, and they’re often conversation starters. Don’t leave anyone hanging (and thirsty)—scatter several chic bottle openers throughout the party for easy access.
6. ELEVATED PICNIC STYLE
Be prepared for extra guests with additional seating on the ground. Pull out rugs, floor cushions, and pillows from the house for cozy, picnic-style seating. Kids can take a nap or guests can linger under the stars. There’s a total solar eclipse in August, and this would be the perfect place to take it all in.
7. CONSIDER YOUR MOTIF
Blue and white always feels right for summer. I like that during this time of year, life feels more relaxed and undone. You can find the perfection in imperfection. These napkins with ragged, irregular edges are just that. Mix them in with some of your own blue and white. I often prefer it when things don’t match.
8. THOUGHTFUL SEATING
Think about how you put people together, even for a backyard BBQ or an afternoon clambake. Rarely do people remember the food or the decorations, but they will remember their dinner companion and hopefully leave with a new friend. I love the majestic horse on these placecards from Connor. They remind me of Athena, my horse back in Arkansas.
9. TRY A BONFIRE
I like the magic, drama, and functionality of a bonfire. It is part entertainment, part warmth, and can even serve as part kitchen. It casts a dancing glow on everyone’s faces that you can’t replicate with modern lighting and inspires guests to get a little closer. There is something about a fire dwindling into the wee hours that makes me think of long summer nights.
10. KEEP BUGS AT BAY
Keep baskets of bug spray on hand for guests. Consider including a roll-on version for ladies to prevent a splatter of spray on her summer sundress.