8 Tips for Elevating your Small Summer Gathering (10 people or less!)

Published June 12, 2020

1. Prep the Night Before

The day of the party is always stressful – your dog made a huge mess of the trashcan, one of the kids needs some extra attention, or things just seem to take longer in the hot summer sun. Preparing well by taking steps the night before will save you time the day-of and make your before-bed checklist a little shorter. “Ideally, all you want to do on party day is put the meat on the grill,” Caroline Harper Knapp explains in her episode Southern Chic Backyard Barbecue

2. Get Creative with Name Tags

One easy way to make your table setting look more personal and put together is by creating name tags! They can be as simple as names written on a piece of card stock with a Sharpie, or you can add creative flair like Sara Lynn by using chalkboard paint on cheap wine glasses for a two-in-one place setting. 

3. Use Fresh, In-Season Ingredients

Not only is the summer weather great for entertaining, but summer’s seasonal crops are the perfect ingredients for a flavorful, fresh meal. Watermelon, strawberries, corn, and asparagus can all give your spread pops of flavor and happy color. Who doesn’t love a bubbling, warm fruit cobbler topped with a refreshing scoop of ice cream? Beth Le Manach’s classic peach cobbler will have your guests’ mouths watering. 

4. Arty Appetizers 

If you haven’t ventured into the world of charcuterie board art, now is the time. Satisfy all of your guests by arranging a variety of appetizers on your board. Charcuterie is not exclusive to cheese and meats. Spice your board up with some freshly chopped veggies, seasonal fruits, or pepper jelly. For more tips on how to make your cheese board chic, check out The Anatomy of a Cheese Board!

5. Obey the 1 to 3 Ratio 

So much work goes into preparing a hot dish for your guests. Make it easier for yourself by following Claire Thomas’s simple rule: 3 easy, cool dishes for every 1 hot dish prepared. This way, all of your effort can go into making the perfect main course dish, and all you have to do for the sides is quickly prepare the night before and pull out of the fridge on party day. 

6. Switch Up the Drink Menu

Instead of sticking to beer or wine, try getting out of your comfort zone with some easy, delicious drinks. Claire Thomas shows you how to get spunky and visual with drinks like sangria, spritzers, and margaritas! It’s easy to feel like you’re the bartender at your own party and cannot enjoy a drink with your friends. To be more present around guests, a drink bar with pre-made mixers out and ready to go will give your guests a sense of DIY fun and keep you from playing bartender at your own party. 

7. Push Boundaries on Presentation

Bring some artistic flair to your appetizers and desserts with creative plating. Almost everyone has some mason jars or martini glasses sitting around – why not put them to use when crafting your tablescape? Think about unconventional ways to prepare classic bites simply by plating them with a flair. 

8. Protect Against Pests!

After all your hard work prepping for the party, don’t let the nuisance of bugs and critters be your demise. Most gatherings these days take place outside, and if you’re from the south, you know that mosquitoes and other unwelcome guests like to intrude on your dinner party attendees (and food!), especially in the evenings. Mosquito repellant candles will not only keep the pests away – they also can add dimension to your decor!