Now that we are getting together with friends and family again, and with summer in full swing, cookouts and pool parties are more popular than ever. If you are gathering your besties together for some much-needed socializing, here are some tips for creating a fun atmosphere that everyone will talk about long after the party ends.
- Choose a theme to match your mood. Everyone likes a theme – it gives them direction when it comes to what to expect, what to wear, and what to bring. Plus, themes kick the party flare up a notch. They show thought and effort, versus throwing some mismatched cocktail napkins around a bowl of chips. Your theme can be holiday-based, seasonal, or just for fun. This summer, think about 4th of July, the pool, the barbecue, or sports as jumping off points for themes. The theme can center on a color, an activity, or just about anything, but once you’ve chosen one, it will give you direction for all of the next steps.
2. Serve a signature cocktail or non-alcoholic drink that goes with your theme. A fruity concoction for a pool party, craft beers for a barbecue, and a red-white-and-blue showstopper for 4th of July all enforce your theme and add a festive touch to your party.
3. Then, give your drink a cute name and write it on a small chalkboard easel. Place it next to your drink and watch the smiles as people read the board and you hand them a special drink that will set the tone for the party. Think Pool Party Paloma or Patriotic Punch.
4. Have your table or countertop planned out in advance, so food can be displayed and served easily. Intersperse plates and dishes with anything decorative that supports your theme. Remember the rule of presentation: Create a display of varying heights and shapes. Put utensils in a vase or glass, use serving plates that elevate some of the dishes, and incorporate boards, bowls, and plates for visual interest.
5. Play music! Music is a natural ice breaker that immediately sets the tone and puts people at ease. Choose a playlist that matches your theme and creates the kind of vibe you’d like for your group. Your music should sound different for a formal dinner party than it does for a pool party. And keep it at a volume that allows people to speak freely without shouting.
6. Let lighting set your mood. Avoid too many lights, as they tend to make people uncomfortable. Better to dim the lights where people are socializing and reserve brighter lights for where they are really needed, perhaps over the food or lighting the way to the restroom. Candles are especially elegant, and tiki torches or twinkle lights are perfect for outdoor parties.
7. Plan dishes that can be prepared ahead of time and pulled out throughout the party. Put refrigerated dishes out first when people are hungriest, then move on to snack foods, cheeses, and the like that are safe to leave out for several hours. The key is to keep your workload minimal once the party begins.
Remember that everyone is there to see and spend time with YOU, so planning ahead will allow you to relax once everyone arrives. With these steps in place, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor and not just host the party, but thoroughly enjoy it.