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Newsflash—summer is fast approaching. And with it comes balmy evenings, longer days, and more excuses to throw an outdoor party, indulging in ice cream and sipping zesty cocktails.
It also means that you have to somehow turn your outdoor space into an entertaining haven. Whether you're hosting poolside in Los Angeles, in a lush Hamptons garden, or on a city-dwelling rooftop, if you're looking to elevate your summer party beyond placing bottles of rosé on a foldaway table—you're in the right place.
We spoke to master entertainer Stephanie Booth Shafran about summer hosting tips and tricks. The LA-based hostess sure knows what makes an unforgettable party and she's just released a new coffee table book: You’re Invited: Classic, Elegant Entertaining ($42; amazon.com), with eight different party themes and how to stage them, from a Pucci-inspired pool party to a festive family Christmas brunch. Here's what to consider when putting together brilliant, elegant parties al fresco.
Have a Signature Cocktail
"It creates such a festive mood when you have a special drink" advises Booth Shafran. She advises investing in quality bottles of tequila and vodka, two liquors that should cover most bases for summer cocktails like margarita or vodka gimlets. A perk of playing host is that you can really show off your favorite things. If there's a destination that's special to you, like the Amalfi Coast or St Barts, reflect that in your cocktail choices (think: Aperol Spritz or the St Barts special, rose piscine).
Hit the Farmer's Market Before Setting the Menu
"I really like to serve what’s currently special in the farmers market," Booth Shafran says. And summer calls for colorful food, "like tomatoes, corn, avocados, and citrus." Think plentiful platters of summer salads and prosciutto with figs, melon, and mint.
Make Sure the Food's Easy to Eat
"I like people to focus on the conversation," explains Booth Shafran. So make sure there's nothing tricky to pick at. Pre-slice anything that can be pre-sliced, like meats or pizzas. Brave souls attempting a new dish for the first time should also have back-up options available just in case.
Add Personal Touches
If you are adding pizza to your summer party menu, monogrammed pizza boxes are a memorable way to let guests take leftovers home. Make for Etsy or Zazzle to create special monogrammed stickers or labels, or do as Booth Shafran and custom print beach balls to fit your pool party color scheme.
Keep Heaters and Pashminas on Hand
There's no predicting the weather.
Give Your Guests a Dress Code
Politely, of course. Making your wardrobe preferences known is one thing less for the guests to worry about. "I love my husband and the men attending the party to wear sports coats in the summer."
Find Local Tableware Stores on Your Travels
The best thing about outdoor party decor is that your natural surroundings usually do all of the hard work for you. Lush green gardens or turquoise pools work as bright backdrops that go with almost every color. So this is the time to get colorful and bright with tableware, linens, candles, flowers, and general decor. Booth Shafran loves picking up tableware on her travels, like Talmaris in Paris. When she's in Los Angeles then it's Gearys.
Coordinate Group Activities
Get your guests mingling with games like croquet.
Leave Your Phone in Your Purse
Encourage people to enjoy the moment.
And Finally—Remember That If You’re Having Fun Your Guests Will Have Fun Too
The host sets the tone of the party. So plan as much as you can ahead of time but when things go wrong on the day, "embrace the mistakes" advises Booth Shafran. "We live in a world that everyone is so busy so when a host takes the time to have people over and to be in the moment, it transports their guests too."