Always a pleasure to write and style for @womansdaymag! The full feature is available in the July issue — on newsstands now, as they say.
1. Plan Ahead
Throwing an effortlessly chic party requires some smart planning. If you’re serving heavy appetizers instead of dinner, plan on about 10 pieces per person. If you’re serving dinner after the apps, plan for 6. It’s always a good idea to have about a quart per person of beverages; consider having unique flavored syrups to mix with sparkling water or lemonade as a refreshing offering.
2. Define the Space
Have you ever noticed that people have a tendency to wander when you’re hosting a party outdoors? As the host, you need to tell them where the party is by defining the space. Line the perimeter of your space with TIKI torches to create an intimate area, then arrange seating, lighting, food and drinks within that area and use table torches to highlight areas of interest, like beverage stations and the dessert table.
3. Stress Less
To avoid being a stressed-out host, ask for help: Assign a friend or family member to fill up drinks, pass food or get everyone to the table. Give your partner specific jobs like cleaning up the table or managing the music. And if you’d like a little help with the food, it’s absolutely fine to ask people to bring specific dishes. Just remember to take a deep breath and relax before guests arrive. A relaxed host means relaxed guests.
4. Keep Cool
Ice, ice baby: It’s the key to a successful party. If you run out of ice, your party is basically ruined, so be sure to have enough on hand. For an outdoor party in warm weather, my general rule of thumb is to have 2 pounds of ice on hand per person. I keep one large cooler full of just ice at all times.
5. Master the Mood
Lighting and music are two of the most important things for creating an ideal party setting. Place a couple of TIKI Brand’s Clean Burn™ Tabletop Firepieces at the center of your table. They create an intimate environment without a smoky mess when combined with TIKI Clean Burn Torch Fuel. No one wants to talk through smoke and soot while having a conversation with the person across from them. And of course, music sets the mood. Try kicking off the party with some jazz and then as the night progresses, turn to your favorite pop hits to keep things fun.
6. Create Comfort
When you’re outdoors, you want to enjoy the evening as long as possible and that means keeping guests comfortable. Drape a few chairs with a blanket or throw so that when the temperature dips, guests can wrap themselves in an extra layer of warmth and keep the conversations flowing.
7. Feed the Crowd
For outdoor gatherings, the grill offers a lot of finger-friendly options. Grilled chicken tossed in barbeque sauce, corn on the cob and baked potatoes are easy and allow guests to help themselves. Set out a few make-ahead appetizers, a simple cold salad and platters of your grilled food, then add little signs with labels for a touch of elegance, and to let guests know what they’re grabbing.
For a truly intimate evening, you might want to consider asking your family and friends to put away the smart phones and unplug for the evening. An easy way to do this is to let people know in advance that the party will be unplugged and then include a small tray on the table for guests to put their cell phones for the evening. Make a short announcement while giving a toast, thanking everyone for powering down.
9. Master Conversation
I have a rule at my parties. No D.R.I.P.s. Avoid conversation about dieting, religion, illness and politics. These topics are boring at best and incendiary at worst. As the host, your responsibility is to circulate, making connections between guests that spark conversation. Try a party game like ‘celebrity’ to keep things fun. Have each of your guests write down the names of five celebs on slips of paper and toss them into a hat. Then, split into two teams. One person from each team has to get their teammates to guess as many celebs as they can in one minute by describing each one without using any part of the celebrity’s name. Fun!
10. Take Care of The Environment
I set the table with real linens, dishes, cutlery and glassware whether I’m inside or out. It doesn’t matter if they match as long as they work together! And I’m a big fan of melamine for outdoors so you don’t have to worry about breakage. It’s easy to throw your linens into the washing machine and the dinnerware into the dishwasher. You’ll create less waste. Be sure to have garbage cans and recycling bins easily accessible so you can leave your space as beautiful as it was before the party.