The summer holidays are here and the long days and warm weather call for a celebration from beach picnics, family BBQ's to alfresco happy hours. However, not all parties are created equal and The Wooden Furniture Store is here to show you how to plan the ultimate summer party. Whether you're setting the scene or planning a menu, our summer entertaining guide if full of clever ideas from how to transform your outdoor space to keeping children entertained, we've got cocktail recipes, easy cook food and even DIY flowers. We think we've got everything that you need to pull off a great summer party without breaking into a sweat!
Before you start - 4 tips
Where? We don't think that there's a better place to hold a summer party than your back garden, you have easy access to a toilet, electricity for lights and a place to go if it all goes wrong or everyone gets too cold.
Image from chefexchange.com
Guest list? Think about who do you want to invite for the party. Try to be selective, because if you decide to invite all your friends and family it will be a nightmare to cook and seat everyone.
The date? When picking the date consider the day of the week - we think it's always much nicer and more relaxing for everyone to socialise at the weekend.
Image from msn.com
Invitations? It doesn't have to be anything fancy, you could call or send out emails but we love the hassle-free way to do it using online personal invitations from Greenvelope.com or paperlesspost.com.
Image from brooklynlimestone.com
Moving your guests from place to place is a great way to keep the evening moving along and keep everyone talking. Start with appetizers and drinks on the patio, move into the garden for dinner, gather around the fire pit for dessert (if you can’t have fire, a heat lamp is a good idea - perhaps you can borrow or hire one?).
Image from lights4fun.co.uk
And wouldn't it be great to get comfy with snacks on soft grass & fresh air while watching a film at the end of the evening?
Where to sit?
Comfortable seating is a must when it comes to creating a relaxing party vibe in your garden. Try to choose furniture that's not only cozy but can brighten up your space, like these three contemporary ideas.
Image from pizzazzerie.com
Having a long table in your garden is great way to seat larger groups or small intimate parties as they are a good way to bring everyone into the conversation. Put two or three tables together if you have to — the dramatic effect will be worth the effort. Use white tablecloth for a more elegant touch and wooden dining chairs.
Image from solebich.com
Place your table in the shade. There’s nothing worse than trying to enjoy a lovely meal al fresco when the sun is beating down on you! Keep your guests comfortable by pulling the tables under the shade of a tree, awning or invest in some umbrellas.
Image from curbly.com
Who needs chairs if you're keeping things casual? Why not throw a picnic party? Seating can be as simple as laying out blankets, sheets, and quilts. Not only is it easy and fast but it encourages a comfy, casual setting for lots of late-night chats and summer socialising!
Decorating the table
If you want a summer of stylish al fresco dining take a look at our pick of place settings inspirations.
image from crateandbarrel.com
We love this blue neutral tabletop piece paired with gorgeous peachy florals and vintage-inspired glasses.
Image from nicolefranzen.blogspot.co.uk
Bunches of bright and colourful flowers can transform any table setting but look particularly magical on a summers days scattered next to delicious party platters, bottles of wine and clean white china. Instantly chic, sophisticated and uplifting.
Image from redbookmag.com
Get crafty with your table. Take a roll of brown paper and run it down the length of the table - it's cheap and can go straight into the recycling once your done. If you've got time, this idea of painting on the place settings is great.
Image from weddingmagazine.co.uk
Go wild with your table arrangements. Picking flowers and foliage from your own garden is cheaper than buying them. Look at your garden anew and clip a little something unexpected to tuck into your bouquet. Daisies look charming in jam jars alongside lavender, cow parsley and flowering chives.
Let there be light
Lighting plays such a major role in garden entertaining. When the sun starts to set, all you need is a little ambient lighting - just hang strings of lights on the patio, the fence, even tree branches, and add some hurricane lanterns or tealights.
Image from countryliving.co.uk
Create a romantic spot by twisting a string of white lights around a cluster of trees in your garden. Not only will this create an enchanting place to sit in the evenings, but it will be charming to look at from inside your home.
A mass of jam jars with tea lights makes for a lovely centerpiece and lighting all in once. We're loving this set-up and would definitely want to be a guest at this table. Can you pass the wine, please?
4 simple cocktails
We've found four delicious summer cocktails that are as easy on the eyes as they are to make. The beauty lies in their simplicity - each cocktail can be prepared with five ingredients or less, not counting the usual refrigerator items (sugar, for example, or limes) that you likely already have on hand.
Image and recipe from damndelicious.net
Raspberry Limoncello Prosecco - amazingly refreshing, bubbly and sweet - the perfect summer cocktail.
Image and recipe thekitchn.com
Rose Lemonade - combine a bottle of rosé and store-bought lemonade in a pitcher and top with club soda.
Image and recipe from buzzfeed.com
The Paloma - top one or two shots of tequila with grapefruit soda and finish with a slice of lime.
Image and recipe from tasteslovely.com
This refreshing cucumber lime margaritas - made with just 3 ingredients: cucumber juice, tequila and lime juice.
Image from aprettylifeinthesuburbs.com
Give guests a healthy option with fresh flavored waters. Fill a big drink dispenser with ice water, flavored with fresh ingredients for a healthy thirst quencher on hot days - try lemon, lime or orange slices, fresh mint leaves, cucumber rounds or berries.
5 easy food ideas
Who wants to be stuck in a kitchen while the party reaches full swing outside? On the other hand, who wants to serve guests tired old chips and dips, however time-saving they may be? Here are our favourite selection of crowd-pleasing food ideas that utilize the best summer flavors without forcing you to slave over a hot stove.
Image from thedebrief.co.uk
Prepare an aperitivo board filled with your favourite cheeses, prosciutto, artisan bread, olives and in-season cherries or raspberries. This balances salty and sweet and is the perfect palette for a glass of red wine or cocktails.
Image from halfbakedharvest.com
There are few finer ways of spending an evening with friends than round an over-sized griddle of fajitas with all the trimmings. The pulled pork takes a little prep but are more than worth it for the end effect of DIY-ing your own fajitas from a irresistibly moreish buffet of tortillas, pork, grilled peppers, diced avocado and cheese. Yum!
Image from natashaskitchen.com
Teach your guests the art of crafting their own sushi. Set up station with bowls or rice, diced avocado, shredded cucumber, prawns, smoked salmon, tuna and crab mean for the filling and have soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi to finish. What about making how-to-cards for guests to follow?
Image from recipecritic.com
Quick and easy to make, these quesadilla quarters are a great option. You can go to town on the fillings - sauteed onion, peppers, ham plus of course melted cheese or try a dessert filling such a peanut butter with chocolate sauce.
Image from redbookmag.com
Save the best till last. Ice cold prosecco is heavenly turned into a grown up dessert. Chill well and pour over a scoop of sorbet and serve with a spoon!
This is definitely the most important and overlooked elements to planning any party. Save yourself the pressure by creating your perfect playlist ahead of time, not two hours before guests arrive. This will give you the time to curate a selection of songs to set the mood you want for your party. It’s also a good idea to give the playlist a test run and see if it puts you into a happy mood. If you’re not the best DJ, websites like Spotify have plenty of playlists to set the tone for your gathering.
And not forgetting some entertainment...
Image from fourseasons.com
So the grown-ups can kick back with the sangría, have some diversions for the kids - plenty of blowing bubbles, perhaps a sprinkler or a slip ’n slide or a water balloon piñata.
Image from clipzine.me
You can also buy a few inexpensive disposable cameras and let kids serve as official event photographers or hang a giant picture frame from a high tree and make a fun photo booth.
Don’t feel pressured to put on the perfect night. Summer garden parties are usually more casual, so little touches (a gourmet cheese here, signature cocktail there) will wow guests into thinking you’re the next Jamie Oliver!