Rules of Stress-Free Summer Entertaining
Summer is the of course easiest time of year to entertain - open up the doors, grab some fresh flowers, think about grilling, & let the wine flow!
Painting by Gayle Asher
THAT SAID, I personally find the first couple times I entertain each summer to be a bit tricky. Where did I put that wine cooler thing that we got last year? Do I have any good-looking paper plates or fun napkins left in the pantry? (Not unless you count Dora the Explorer-themed ones from years ago!) The ice bucket is clean but the silver tongs are tarnished. Wouldn’t it be nice if I had a tray to lug all this stuff out from the kitchen to the back deck? Now there’s an idea! On and on, you get the idea.
Last night was very fun & deserved celebration of my first daughter to graduate from high school. We had great group of family & a few friends over to mark the occasion - including four generations of Prince women, as Avery’s great-grandmother made the pilgrimage from Florida to be there!
But the timing & my coordination were a bit of a jumble as my younger daughter was in middle of Final Exams for her Junior year (not the case when the invite went out but she got Strep throat & had delayed schedule). And I’d been tied up with extra doctors’ appointments of my own all week. So yes, some mayhem for sure — and not a lot of time for planning.
How could I streamline things so that impromptu gatherings are easier and more turn-key?? Here are my takeaways for myself — please chime in if you have other suggestions and ways you think about this when you entertain!
1. Stock up on picnic supplies — paper napkins, cups, plates, cutlery.
It pays to have everything waiting for you, ready to roll. For up to eight guests, I use cloth napkins and have good assortment. But for nine or more people, I prefer the ease of paper napkins — & found that I had exactly zero on hand yesterday. I made a last minute run to the grocery store & found these cute napkins below (called “Lulu’s Palette”). They didn’t really go perfectly with my color scheme, but I liked them nonetheless!
I’m going to stock up on assortment of dinner, luncheon & cocktail napkins that go better with my decorating colors - blues and greens. Amazon has plenty to order online, or maybe you have a favorite shop for them??
2. Be true to yourself and simplify, simplify! As you know, I am a design magazine junkie and never met a decorating coffee table book I didn’t like. Which is great BUT it has the unintended consequence of making me try to be (do?) more than is really practical for my lifestyle. I swoon at every tablescape, such as these from Elle Decor:
Or I think back to my mom’s and my grandmother’s things - how they always had variety of place settings and glasses and somehow made it seem effortless to maintain all that. How about Charlotte Moss’ potting shed or Bunny Williams’ pantry?
Bunny Williams cupboard, courtesy of One Kings Lane
I mean, it makes your head spin it’s so beautiful and efficient!
But at the end of the day, I’m not a set designer and I don’t have limitless time to pull this kind of stuff together — I just want it to look like I cared and then I want to be able to relax and talk to my guests - aka my friends:) SO in that spirit, I need to edit out all the one-off pieces I have that don’t go with the others and not try to keep so many little bits that MIGHT work for a certain theme/event SOME DAY.
Both images Rebecca de Ravenel via One Kings Lane
In essence, having a party allows you to see what works easily for you, your family, your guests — vs. what is FORCED. So bye-bye to some of my one-of-a-kind anachronistic little items and hello to more user-friendly ones!
3. Not everything you use for indoor entertaining can work outdoors: you need some specialty items for entertaining outside. I’m frugal by nature so I hate the idea of having to have two sets of something instead of a solid multipurpose one. But filling up my heavy quart-size cut crystal pitchers with water last pm made me rethink this. What if I had a great looking, lightweight plastic one that could hold MORE water & save me 3 trips inside & out? A novel idea to me, and I’m on it:)!
Perhaps next up some attractive melamine plates? My mind reels at the possibilities…
4. Having help doesn’t always help. Before you hire someone or ask someone to help you, you need to do know what they’ll be helping you with. If you are not sure what your plan is - where the drinks will be served, if you’ll have ice in small bucket or large tub, what kind of hors d’oeurves you’ll have and what bowls they’ll go in, you may just be complicating things by asking someone to go through the motions with you.
Photo: courtesy of Serena and Lily
Take 20 minutes alone to figure out the flow or how it will work and THEN ask for help. It will make a huge difference for everyone!