Party is my middle name. At least it should be. I know parties and I love parties. What I’m saying is I am really good at throwing parties.
Sure, I might not have mastered making my kids sleep in their own beds or how to keep up on the ever-growing mountain of laundry in my utility room, but I can throw together an invitation and decorate a space like that’s what I was made for.
Outdoor parties in the summer are hard because it gets so hot, people are gone on vacation, schedules are out of whack, etc. But end-of-summer parties are perfect. People have taken their vacations, the weather has mellowed out and we are ready for that school year routine. So, say farewell to summer and follow these steps for a barbecue party that is sure to please:
* Keep the food simple. Hot dogs and hamburgers are crowd pleasers (portabello mushrooms for vegetarians), tacos are delicious, or kabobs make grilling a breeze. Whatever you choose to serve, make sure it’s something that appeals to all — easily customizable! Add cheese to your burgers/dogs along with all the condiments or keep them plain. Have a plain meat taco or add all the fixings. Eat your kabobs alone or with dips and sauces. It will keep everyone happy, including kids.
* Keep condiments and sauces in coolers, either in their original bottles or in small condiment cups over ice. Keeping things fresh and cold is key.
* Ask guests to bring a side to share. It is rare that someone doesn’t want to help — 100 percent of the time I throw a party or get together, the guests ask “What can I bring?” and they are always thrilled when they get an assignment. Point them in a direction, but don’t be specific (e.g., “How about something with fruit?” instead of, “Fruit salad with yogurt and honey.”) Let them be creative or not creative and bring what they want. Giving them direction ensures you won’t get a million bags of chips
* Always have utensils on hand because this is the one thing people always forget if they’re bringing non-finger food to share. For storing utensils, get a basket or tiny little storage bin. It will keep them clean and in place.
* Go disposable. If using disposable plates goes against your moral code, there are plenty of environmentally friendly options. Almost every grocery store I’ve been to has them. But I am telling you, going disposable will save you so much time and worry when the party’s over. For tablecloths, use butcher or freezer paper. There are two reasons for this: 1) clean up is a breeze (just wrap everything up in the paper and toss it) and 2) you can easily label food. Which leads me to …
* People like to know exactly what they’re putting on their plates. When guests arrive with their shared dish, hand them a marker and ask them to place their dish on the serving table and, with the marker, label what it is they brought along with their name. This is creative and fun and all the different handwriting on the table truly gives it more of a community feel, as silly as that sounds.
* Place coolers or bins full of ice with beverages in more than one location and a sign indicating what’s inside. It’s a tiny thing, yes, but the opening and closing of coolers or the grabbing of things from the ice to check what’s inside can get really old. Print out signs and tape them to the front of the drink coolers and place them next to the entrance, near the games, or wherever it’s easy to access.
* Consider having a signature beverage. This can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic, depending on your guests and what they enjoy (always think of your guests). Make a delicious simple syrup, fresh berries and lemonade. Tag on a clever name. Boom, you’ve brought your barbecue to the next level.
* If you’re inviting several people, consider having name tags at the entrance. It’s nice to be able to introduce yourself to those you don’t know and name tags make that an easy and comfortable thing to do.
* Games are unnecessary, but are fun to have on hand — especially if little ones will be in attendance. Fill up water balloons an hour before the party and place them in a cooler or storage bin. Water guns can be purchased at the dollar store and water-gun tag is always a hit. Frisbees, beach balls and jump ropes are all very inexpensive items that can be big fun.
* Have music playing, but softly. Make it appropriate for all audiences and always be mindful of young ears or people’s personal and religious beliefs. You want people to feel comfortable at your house, not offended. There are many bands and artists you can have playing that are suitable for all.
* In case of wind (an enemy of the barbecue), tie each corner of the tablecloths with string and attach a rock. If you aren’t using disposable tablecloths but happen to have a twin-size fitted sheet available, they will usually fit perfectly over a plastic table, making wind a non-issue.
* Rain. Let’s not even talk about rain. … OK, let’s talk about rain. If you look at the forecast and all of a sudden it went from being a clear 88 degrees to a stormy 75, the day before the event round up pop-up tents and still have your party.
Parties are all about attitude. If you are happy and excited, relaxed and inviting, your guests will have a great time whether the food is gourmet or from the fast food restaurant down the street. They’ll laugh and talk whether it’s perfect weather or it’s raining cats and dogs. Don’t worry about making things perfect or over the top, as long as you try to make it enjoyable for all your guests it’ll be great. Don’t be afraid to asks guests to bring chairs or blankets to sit on if you don’t have enough seating for everyone. Really, friends don’t mind.
Want to download and print the invite you see at the top? You’re in luck. Do it here. —> backyard-bbq
Ruthie Prasil is a Clarkston mom to six. She enjoys movie nights at home and parties with friends. When she’s not blogging or making lunches and doing laundry, she’s going on adventures, enjoying cocktails with the neighbors and relaxing with a little VEEP and Bob’s Burgers. She can be reached via email at email@example.com