Warm breezes and longer days help everyone relax a bit more in the summer. Summertime can be the best time of year if you’re planning a graduation party, a birthday party, a baby shower, a bridal shower or just a simple gathering with your neighbors. Your options for entertaining on a budget expand when the weather cooperates and you can be outdoors. You can go more casual with your social plans than in the thick of the traditional-filled winter holiday season.
Start with a theme
If you don’t know where to start planning a gathering, start with a theme and then extend that idea into your decorations, music, food, drink and activities. A baby shower has its own theme established, but you can also go patriotic around Memorial Day, Labor Day, Flag Day or the Fourth of July. Other options are to pick a tropical theme or a fiesta theme or just pick some colors you like and build a theme around them. You can even ask your guests to dress all in white or in blue or pink to fit your theme. Don’t forget you can repurpose some items in your home and bring them outside. You may even want to transfer your dining table outdoors for a more formal indoor/outdoor themed evening.
Whether you’re grilling, picnicking or just serving food outdoors, summertime gives you a chance to play with your decorations. You can throw a beach towel or quilt over your table instead of a tablecloth and then decorate around that backdrop. A bright beach towel with scattered seashells, vibrant plastic plates and napkins or clear ones that show the pattern establish a fun theme. Or you can go natural with a burlap tablecloth and stones to hold napkins in place. You can even grab a drop cloth from the hardware store and paint your own design on it – or make that part of the fun and have your guests decorate it.
Ribbons can be used to add color and fun to the setting. Hang them from trees, wrap them around your chairs or drape them over a pergola or gazebo so they flutter in the breeze. Use flowers and plants from your garden to decorate your table and a buffet. Fruit works well as decoration, too. You can even create placeholders out of lemon pieces and toothpicks – but watch out for bees.
Serving your guests
When you’re outdoors, think about their comfort and safety. Be sure to tell them where you’re entertaining so they know to avoid high heels if, for example, you’ll be hanging out on a lawn. You may want to use paper and plastic to avoid breakage, but be sure these items are study enough to avoid spills. An alternative to wine glasses is to serve drinks in regular drinking glasses that tend to have a thicker base. Choose your menu carefully with items that are simple to eat. Don’t forget to provide sunscreen, bug spray and lighting for when it gets dark. You can get creative with your candles, too, and put them inside a tin can with holes punched in the sides. Or bring out your Christmas lights and hang them around your yard.
You can have fun with your serving items, too. Repurpose cardboard berry boxes as salad bowls, just line them with parchment paper to keep dressing from dripping through the bottom. Freeze pieces of fruit in your ice cubes to make your drinks more colorful and tasty. Don’t forget the simple trick of adding a twist of lemon or orange peel to a drink or to a dish of sorbet for a touch of elegance.
When you’re setting up for your party, look around your home for fun items that can be repurposed for serving food or to hold utensils. At a beach-themed party, put snacks in kid’s beach buckets and include a plastic shovel for serving. You can put napkins and utensils in flower pots, baskets, buckets and low vases. One clever hostess brought her child’s toy kitchen outside and uses it to set up a dessert bar.
While just being outdoors on a nice summer evening with friends and family looking at the stars and fireflies can be enough entertainment, add music and a couple of casual activities for a more memorable evening. If kids are at the event, bubbles, water balloons and a lemonade stand add to the fun, along with glow stick necklaces and a place where they can do a simple craft or make friendship bracelets.
Another clever idea is to create a photo booth out of a wood frame hung from a tree or just a backdrop of ribbons along a fence. Add some props like feather boas and hats and your guests can entertain themselves taking photos.
For a more elaborate evening, yet still low-key, buy or rent a projector for your own outdoor movie night. Set up a video with your laptop and provide movie-themed snacks.
Summertime offers lots of opportunities for fun – with a little imagination even a simple pizza night or barbecue can become a treasured memory.
Michele Lerner is a freelance writer with more than twenty years of experience writing articles and web content for newspapers and magazines on topics related to real estate, personal finance and business. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, NewHomeSource.com, Realtor.com, Bankrate.com, Insurance.com, HSH.com, The Washington Times, NAREIT's Real Estate Portfolio, and numerous Realtor association publications. Her latest book, "New Home 101: Your Guide to Buying and Building a New Home" and her first book, "HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time" are available now at Amazon.com or from MicheleLerner.com.