Summer Entertaining Made Simple
By Marla Tomazin
There’s nothing more beautiful and enticing than late summer, when the evening air is warm, the days are long, and there’s nothing you’d rather do than enjoy some time together with friends. If you ask me, the last few months of summer offer the very best opportunities for entertaining. The bittersweet understanding that a season of warmth and relaxation is coming to a close makes me want to squeeze every last delicious drop out of the time that’s left.
Sometimes hosting guests in your home can be a tricky endeavor. You want to make your friends feel welcome and comfortable above all else. Yet you don’t want to drive yourself crazy with stress and worry. After all, you want to be able to actually enjoy the quality time that you spend together.
Whether you’re entertaining over a weekend, hosting a group at your vacation home, or simply planning a festive backyard cookout or dinner party, there are some key points to remember as you plan your get-together. Follow these tips to play the perfect host this summer while keeping your cool and yes, enjoying yourself too!
Create a harmonious guest list. Before you start planning your dinner party or weekend gathering, spend some time thinking about the dynamics between your prospective guests. If you are planning to host multiple people, consider which of your friends might enjoy each other’s company, and start with those individuals. If a few of your friends have strong opposing viewpoints or a history of not getting along, it may be best to invite them over on separate occasions. Mix the serious-minded with others who are always relaxed and easygoing, for a mix of different after-dinner or evening conversation.
Make your guestrooms shine. A sparkling clean guestroom ensures that guests who are staying over will feel right at home. Because spare bedrooms tend to be infrequently visited in between occupancies, be sure to open the windows and air them in advance so they are fresh and inviting. Take this time to check that the bedding and curtains are clean, and if you wish, use a diffuser to mist the air with an uplifting essential oil blend. Adding a fresh flower in a vase on the nightstand or in the guest bathroom also adds a nice touch. Don’t forget to leave around recent magazines of general interest for guests to peruse in their rooms.
Map out a meal plan ahead of time. Home-cooked meals are always appreciated, whether you are having guests over for the whole weekend, or just for the evening. Even the best home chefs need to plan ahead so their meals come together with no unexpected hiccups. Well ahead of your guests’ arrival, write out a complete grocery list for the entire visit (taking into account everyone’s food allergies or restrictions). Then head to the market for everything you’ll need. Do any necessary prep work ahead of time, like chopping veggies or marinating a chicken overnight, so when it comes time to cook, you’re ready to go. Also be sure to have plenty of snacks and drinks on hand so no one goes hungry between meals. Similarly, if you are not the cooking type, make reservations at restaurants that match the eating habits of your guests.
Prepare a homemade meal the first night. Chances are, your guests will be weary upon their arrival, so they may appreciate a home cooked meal instead of dressing up and going out again. Choose a great recipe—a real crowd pleaser—that you have made before. This way there won’t be any surprises or mishaps. Ask your guests to relax in the kitchen with you, so you can all chat together as dinner cooks. If your guests insist on helping out, ask them to set the table, pour drinks, or set out a tray of hors d’ oeuvres.
Let your guests set the agenda. It’s nice to ask your houseguests what they would like to do while they’re visiting with you. Since you’re the expert on the area, you may need to suggest several options, but encourage your guests to make the final choices. Some good options to choose from could be shopping in a cool neighborhood or historic town nearby, going for a scenic walk, hitting up a local attraction, or just relaxing on the deck, by the pool, or at the beach.
Have a simple breakfast ready. Assure your guests that they are free to sleep as late as they wish in the morning, and should come down for breakfast any time they are ready. Keep the atmosphere relaxed by laying out an assortment of breakfast items such as yogurt, fresh fruit, cereals, and English muffins. Brew a large pot of coffee and have juice and milk ready as well. Everyone can serve themselves.
Take them out for a nice dinner. If your guests will be staying with you for more than one night, plan to have a nice evening on the town at least once during their visit. Let them choose between a few great restaurants for dinner (be sure to make a reservation) and make a night of it! Strolling in town or stopping for ice cream or coffee on the way home is the perfect way to end the evening.
Gorgeous late summer weather won’t last forever, so don’t hesitate to invite friends to come and stay before the season ends and everyone is less available. And as you are planning for your houseguest arrival, remember to just enjoy the experience and have fun. Your only goal is to make sure your guests enjoy their time. If you plan well, you can be sure that your guests will appreciate your efforts, and the result will be that you’ve done your job well.
Marla Tomazin, Certified Image Consultant, established her image consulting business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression. Marla utilizes her abilities in evaluating body shape, movement, and coloring as well as synthesizing optimal cuts, lines, colors, and textures. This results in balance and proportion that accentuate attributes and conceal flaws. Marla has appeared on numerous TV and radio stations and programs. Visit www.marlatomazin.com.