The sun is finally out and BBQ season is just around the corner. Any experienced host will know that planning the perfect garden party requires some preparation, starting with choosing your venue and continuing all the way to keeping your guests entertained on the day.
Location, Location, Location
The first thing to consider when planning any event is your venue. While backyard BBQs tend to be the most popular choice for relaxed gatherings, you might also consider using a nearby park or field - particularly if you have a lot of guests attending. Hosting at home means that you have easy access to your kitchen, and also means it’s easy enough to move the party indoors if the weather should turn. However, hosting in a public place eliminates much of the pre-party prep as well as the clean-up, and often gives you much more space to enjoy.
If it’s a special occasion or a large group, you could also look into hiring a space. Having a third party act as host means that you’ll be free to spend more time with guests, and it also means you can get those special touches best added by professionals, such as elaborate table decorations or a creative menu. Many venues will also supply provisions such as marquees and parasols, so you needn’t worry about the weather when planning an outdoor event during BBQ season.
Whether you set up at home, in the park or in a hotel backyard, it’s important to consider your landscape. If you’re planning the kind of event where many of your guests will likely be wearing heels, a patio and outdoor furniture will be greatly appreciated. If you’re based somewhere with great surrounding scenery to enjoy, balconies are the perfect place to get the best view. And different venues are better for different times of the day. For example, if you’re hosting an evening event, you might find it easier to hold it at home, where you and your guests can migrate indoors once the night draws in and it gets cooler and darker.
Of course, any interior designer will tell you that it’s not the space you have, it’s what you do with it that counts. The right decorations can transform an average evening into a truly memorable one.
One tried-and-tested accessory that never fails to create an ambiance is a string of fairy lights - the perfect way to illuminate a winter garden or add a little magic to a summer one. Try a few wrapped around tree branches, draped across the frame of a patio door or simply strung from a fence for a look that takes little effort but has a big effect.
Another easy but effective way to add instant style to your BBQ season soiree is to coordinate the style or colors of your table settings and decorations. The simpler the theme, the easier it will be to achieve. Minimalist themes centered around one or two colors, such as rose and gold, or black and silver, make for elegant choices.
Remember to take into consideration everyday décor as well as the decorations you’re putting up specifically for the party. A cluttered room or an overgrown garden can quickly undo the elegant ambiance you’ve worked hard to achieve.
As well as aesthetic considerations, remember to account for practical ones. As well as making provisions for potential weather changes - such as parasols to provide shade or protection from the rain - also make sure you have adequate seating and tables for your guests to be able to relax.
Ready, Steady, Cook!
The fun of BBQ season is that there’s no need for airs and graces. Simple and hearty is the essence of BBQ food. As well as minimizing pre-party stress, this also means that you can relax and enjoy your event rather than being chained to a kitchen stove. In the words of David Stark, author of The Art of the Party: “The second you start doing things that are too involved, you become the caterer, not the host.”
However, if you want a menu that will impress your guests, there are plenty of little twists you can try to add a little innovation to your recipe without causing unnecessary stress. Try out new seasonings such as Cajun or tamarind sauces, or mix up your meats with less common alternatives such as lamb burgers. Make sure to find out if any of your guests have any particular dietary requirements ahead of time so that you can plan accordingly. For vegetarian dinner party guests, you could swap burgers for portobello mushrooms or meat alternatives such as soya. It’s better to grill these alongside your vegetables rather than with the meats in order to keep the fats separate.
As well as the main event, consider bringing out a few nibbles and side dishes. Not only will it add some nice variety to the meal, it keeps the pressure off when you’re trying to get your BBQ going and you have a table full of ravenous guests. Classics like chips and dips are easy and almost universally popular, and salad, bread rolls and corn on the cob are all essential aspects of any good BBQ.
The Wine World
Once you’ve picked out your food, you’ll need something to wash it down with. You can’t go wrong with the classic BBQ drinks of light beers and white wine, but don’t be afraid to branch out with more varied options. Simply upgrading to prosecco or Champagne can add an extra element of occasion to your event, while cocktails are a great way to try out new flavors and get your guests talking.
For a real summer feel, mix your own punch bowl or take a page out of Brits’ book and serve up a jug of Pimms. Simply add your favorite citrus fruits and plenty of ice for a drink that’s equal parts delicious and refreshing.
Don’t forget to include soft drink options too. To truly impress your guests during BBQ season, try a homemade lemonade or freshly pressed juices. Branch out into unusual flavors such as watermelon and guava.
Come Dine With Me
As host, one of your most important jobs is to make sure your guests have a great time. Once the food is cooking and the drinks are poured, your focus should be on entertaining. This is particularly true if you’re introducing friends and family from different circles. Try and make sure you introduce all your guests to one another and keep the conversation flowing.
Whether it’s simply in the background or the focus of your evening, music is an important consideration. Find a genre that fits the mood, whether that’s upbeat pop music for a summer party or chilled-out acoustic songs for a laid-back evening event. If you’re hosting a bigger event, you could even consider having live music. A local band is a great way to balance an impressive party vibe with a cozy, casual atmosphere. If you choose to stick with speakers, make sure you choose ones that are good quality, loud enough and which work well outdoors.
There are many ways to have a great BBQ season, but ultimately the most important thing is that you and your guests have a great time. Make that your priority and you’re guaranteed a good night.