The best parties begin with a theme, and if you can stay within your theme using decorative accents, food and music, you're on your way to creating a magically memorable event. It just takes a little planning and thinking ahead.
With Patio Party, the theme we chose was vintage summertime. A vintage summer party is one that is almost universally enjoyable, and it can be even more fun if people come dressed in vintage summer attire. We filled our patio with beautiful home-sewn pieces in Heather Bailey's nostalgic Freshcut fabric, added color-coordinated serving pieces, inexpensive paper lanterns, and everyone's favorite: old-fashioned lemonade.
Patio Party Checklist
Decide on a date and time: Saturday is a great day for a party. People are more in control of Saturdays than any other day of the week. If you're planning an evening party, people are less likely to worry about where they have to be the next day. With an outdoor party, it's a good idea to have a backup plan in case weather doesn't cooperate (covered porch, under a canopy or pre-planned party tent, or be ready to move indoors).
Assess the party site: Decide how many guests you can accommodate. Do you have enough seating and tables? You can always relocate indoor pieces like folding tables, chairs, and side tables; borrow from friends or neighbors; or rent a few extra pieces. If you're having an evening event and it gets chilly at night, a couple propane patio heaters will keep everyone in the mood.
Make a guest list: Invite guests who you think will enjoy the type of party you want to host, whether it's friends, family or both; a large group or a small intimate gathering.
Decide on a theme: Choose a theme that has appeal to the guests on your list. If your guests are not known wine enthusiasts, a wine tasting party could be a bust. A mixed group does best with a simple theme, as with vintage summertime. Music helps enhance the mood, so don't neglect it. At the same time, try to have a mix of music that's upbeat, not overly-repetitive and appeals to your guests.
Invite guests: You can either mail classic invitations, use an online invitation site (like Evite), make a call, send an email invitation or walk next door and invite your neighbor. It's up to you; but, if you give at least 10 days notice, more people will be able to attend.
Plan your decor: Decorate with cheery summer colors, votive candles, twinkle lights, colorful paper lanterns (very inexpensive). If you can color-coordinate your serving pieces to your table cloth, so much the better.
Sew your party pieces: If you want to make the Patio Party pieces – some or all – get started a couple weeks ahead of the party to give yourself plenty of time. Study your patio and decide which pieces to make.
Plan your menu: Its so much easier to keep your menu simple. Again, remember your theme. With a vintage summer party: hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, cold pasta dishes, corn on the cob, apple pie, a pretty frosted cake (or cupcakes). Don't forget some vegetarian fare: veggie burgers, a bean dish and a veggie tray. Everyone likes old-fashioned lemonade, and, keeping with our theme – root beer floats would be perfect. Have plenty of drinks on ice. You can even ask people to bring a favorite salad, side dish or beverage.
Clean and freshen: It's easy to leave this until the last minute, but you'll want to clean the day before the party so everything is dry the following day. Spray off the patio, and thoroughly clean the furniture. Tidy up plants, be sure windows sparkle and your bathroom too.
Old Fashioned Lemonade
Homemade lemonade is easy to make. And, it tastes so summertime fresh. Sweet or tart, it's a perennial favorite.
1 3/4 cups white sugar (superfine works best)
8 cups ice cold water (or to taste)
15 - 20 lemons
- In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until chilled.
- Juice lemons until you get about 2 cups of pure lemon juice (set aside 1 lemon for slicing). If you roll the lemons firmly between the palms of your hands before cutting, juicing will be easier.
- Remove seeds from lemon juice.
- In a glass pitcher, combine your chilled syrup, lemon juice, and remaining 7 cups water (adjust water to taste).
- Stir and add ice.
- Slice the remaining lemon into thin slices, and using a long-handled spoon, press them up against the side of the pitcher. Party pretty!