The Social Event of the Cul-de-sac

If you’d like to take your outdoor soiree in a little more refined direction, a good old fashioned garden party fits the bill. Your first order of business will be reassuring your husband he doesn’t have to wear knickers or drink tea with his pinky up. A “garden” party is simply a more stylish affair than a traditional backyard barbecue.

A proper garden party is always held entirely in the open air with plenty of seating options. Roll out a couple of inexpensive carpet remnants as a way to define a space and as an alternative to blankets which can easily bunch and look messy. Don’t forget to throw around comfort elements like variously-sized pillows for lazy-afternoon lounging.

It is however customary to have a tent or other covered area for the food and refreshments. Serve light tapas alongside an assortment of cheeses (and we’re not talking cheddar) and lush, refreshing salads. For cooling off, keep a supply of citrus-infused water and fresh lemonade with sprigs of mint flowing to help quench parched throats—especially if you’re throwing an all day affair. You can even have a few varieties of wine on hand. Just make sure it complements the food you’re serving.

And while we’re on the topic of serving, no lady of the house would dream of using her best china at these at outdoor parties since they are sure to be broken. Depending on your guest list, we suggest either renting all the necessary glass, silver, and china from the caterer, or investing in durable (and still stylish) melamine plates and platters. For your libations, round up every Mason jar you can find and pick up some shatterproof stemless wine glasses.

And before you know it, all you’ll have left to do is practice your croquet swing and brush up on your bocce ball rules.

Block Party

Create a sense of community by throwing an outdoor party. Enjoyment is the key here, so let formality have the night off. In its place serve up a bounty of delicious fare mixed with the good company of your neighbors and friends.

Instead of the usual beer, burgers, and brats, try serving up mojitos, quesadillas, and tacos. Put out galvanized tubs filled with ice-cold bottles of Corona (don’t forget to keep bottle openers, towels, and lime wedges nearby). Or set up a self-serve margarita bar decked out with different colored sugars and a few recipe ideas for any guests that need a little inspiration. And just because this is a casual fiesta doesn’t mean you can forget your manners. So make sure you have at least one non-alcoholic option for your teetotaling amigos.

Your linens should reflect the fun, casual atmosphere of the event, so look for bold colors and strong patterns to deck out your dining area. When choosing glassware and serving pieces, pick something that echoes the party theme, but is also durable (think acrylic).

Finally, enrich the experience by stringing up some lights, turn up Los Lobos and go loco.

Fantastic food. Fabulous friends. We wouldn’t hammock it any other way.