The weather is finally brightening up, and it’s a great excuse to bring together friends and family to eat, drink, and have a good old catch-up. Summer is the season of socialising, and what better way to flutter your social butterfly wings than to plan the perfect summer dinner party.
Hosting a dinner party can be a daunting experience, with the stress of deciding on a menu, choosing the right patterned napkins, and deciding who gets an invite. But not to fear, because we’ve got your summer season covered with a list of tips to help you cook up a storm in the kitchen and be a whirlwind host of fun!
Before we dive headfirst into the cooking pot, you need to decide whether your dinner party is going to follow a theme.
Themes can be inspired from various directions. You could opt to go down the country route, so how about Mexican or Greek? Or you could choose a letter of the alphabet, a decade in history, or even your favourite film or TV show.
If you don’t want your dinner party to follow a specific theme, taking inspiration from seasons can help to give your dinner party that something extra. For this instance, it’s perfect to shape your dinner party around summer and incorporate all things summery into your party. You can do this by using brightly coloured decorations, summer inspired dishes, and creating a relaxed summer vibe.
Now we don’t mean what you’re going to wear to the party (you’ll have to think of that one yourself) – we’re talking about what style of dinner party you will be hosting.
Given the season, it’s the perfect time to dust down the barbecue and get working that grill! But if you’re not one for being the grill master, think about your other options: a cold or hot buffet, or even a sit-down meal.
It’s summer and the sun is in full beam, but let’s not be unprepared for the sporadic summer showers that can dampen any dinner party. If you’re planning on holding your dinner party outside, it is key to frequently check the weather reports and to have a plan B in place.
If you opted to have a summer barbecue, does your barbecue have a cover and do you have a sheltered outside area? If your sheltering means are limited, deciding which of your menu’s dishes can be cooked inside using your oven or grill will help to avert all potential weather crises.
Let’s say it’s one of those perfect end-of-July days, the sun is shining, there’s a light breeze, and all the clouds have disappeared for the day. Your guests are probably not going to want to tuck into a hearty, filling stew, are they? They’re going to want something light, fresh, and crisp. Sticking to seasonal foods can do just that.
Summer meat and fish: Lamb, salmon, and tuna.
Summer vegetables: Asparagus, beetroot, new potatoes, and carrots.
Summer fruits: Watermelon, apricots, figs, and all those yummy berries.
Catering to Your Guests
Before anything gets set in stone, it is important to know whether any of your guests suffer from any allergies. Knowing your guests’ dietary requirements will help to shape your menu, plus it shows the length of your efforts to making sure that everyone at your dinner party is catered for.
Dinner parties are famous for having a variety of dishes for guests to choose from. People often tend to put a bit of everything on their plate so that they can taste every dish. This makes it important to ensure that the dishes on offer are complementary, with winning flavour combos. Avoiding taste clashes will set your summer spread apart from the rest.
Colours and Textures
The look of food is half the taste, so let’s make sure your menu is vibrant and visually appealing. Mixing exciting colours together and using bright foods such as peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli can help to liven up your dishes.
Combining different textures will also give your spread an impressive twist.
An important factor to dinner parties is the drink options. Nothing quite beats a refreshing cocktail during the summer months, so here’s a few easy summer cocktails you could rustle up to complement your cooking:
A good tip to save time is to prepare your drinks beforehand, giving you more time to spend with your guests when they arrive.
Remember the non-alcoholic consumers too, so let’s try to spice things up a little bit for them. Instead of serving plain tap water, fruit juice, or fizzy drinks, offer jugs of infused water instead. Using ingredients such as lemons, oranges, cucumbers, and elderflower, you can really offer your guests something extra.
Don’t forget that if you’re choosing to serve wine to your guests, make sure the wine on offer complements your food.
Planning and hosting a dinner party can be quite time-consuming, and you may not have enough time to do it all. Don’t be ashamed to ask your guests to help a little bit. Maybe ask people to bring a dessert, or to bring their own drinks. There’s no shame in having a joint effort to enjoy your summer nights.
This is the key to a successful dinner party. Doing as much preparation as you can will really help you when it comes to your guests arriving. Prep all food that can be prepped the night before the party, make your jugs of drink, and maybe even set your table. This way, when your dinner party arrives, you won’t be flustered and panicking, because you’ve planned well in advance.
It’s nice to have a bit of background music to help create a friendly, fun atmosphere. Create a playlist that fits the tone of your dinner party, and ensure not to have the volume so high that you can’t hear your guests speaking.
If you’re one for entertainment, bring out the board games (once the food is cleared up!) and enjoy the company of your guests. Whatever your choice of entertainment may be, just make sure it fits and goes with the theme of your dinner party.
Having condiments already placed on your serving table will eliminate the awkwardness of guests constantly asking for this sauce or that sauce. Adding little extras (and thereby having everything already out and ready to use) will really help make your guests feel at ease.
You could even go a step further and offer your guests a canapé or antipasti each on arrival to really make them feel welcome.
The most important of all is, of course, to have fun! Yes, your guests are there for the delicious food and the well-thought-out drinks, but the main reason is to see you. Make sure you don’t spend more time in the kitchen than you do with your guests.
You’ve worked hard planning and preparing your dinner party, now go and enjoy it on a lovely summer’s evening with your friends and family.