“No Sweat” Planning for your Summer Event
by: Teri Leiter
Summer is one of my favorite times of year to invite family and friends to the house for a laid-back, outdoor celebration. When the Leiter family gathers, there is no shortage of great food, hearty laughter, and fantastic stories. When the Leiter family gathers, there is also no shortage of hungry mouths to feed! How do you handle getting organized for your summer gatherings? I have gained some helpful insights from my career in catering and would love for you to share your ideas on our Facebook page!
First and foremost, food safety is the priority. High temperatures and outdoor seating require careful attention to the safety of your guests. Try to avoid dishes that contain ingredients that spoil easily. Can’t imagine a picnic without your signature macaroni salad? Place bowls or cookie sheets filled with ice under dishes that contain dairy or shellfish to keep them chilled throughout the evening. If there’s ever any doubt that something has been out too long, throw it away.
Keep the bugs at bay. Make sure you have lids and covers in place to keep pests away while your guests enjoy your summer fare. If you live in a particularly buggy area, you may consider treating your lawn with a repellent the day prior to your event. Citronella candles and torches are a visually appealing and effective way to repel bugs. Try to avoid scented candles, which can become overpowering!
We all know the summer weather is predictably unpredictable. There are several precautions that I recommend but none as important as to always have a Plan B. If space doesn't allow you to move your event indoors, be sure to rent or purchase a tent with sides. You’ll need a tent that allows for about 10 square feet per person for guest seating and more if additional room is needed for food service, a dance floor, etc. If rain or wind requires you to attach the sides, I recommend leaving two sides open a bit to allow air to flow. That reminds me…
Wind is not your friend. A summer breeze is perfect to cool off a warm evening but wind can turn your decor into a mess without a bit of precaution. Fasten tablecloths to the table with clips, ties, or even tape. Roll napkins around utensils, tie with a bow of ribbon, and place in a basket on your buffet table. Weigh down centerpieces with glass stones or other heavy but appealing decor. Take a peek around before your event begins and think, "What would happen if a big gust of wind came through right now?" Taking this moment to identify potential hazards may save a big headache later in the evening!
Is it your first time using a tent? Don’t worry! Having a tent is a way to ensure your guests stay cool and dry during your event. After using tents at numerous catering jobs, I have learned a few great tips to keep your guests safe. Most importantly, be sure the tent is properly staked into the ground and secure. If possible, pay the fee to have your rental company install the tent for you. At my events, I am always sure to put something in place to keep guests from tripping over tent stakes. Save their shins by placing trash cans, large potted plants, or even tennis balls over the stakes. Consider air flow and lighting when using a tent; many rental companies have easily installed fans and LED lighting readily available. Candles on guest tables create a lovely centerpiece and provide ambient lighting. Lastly, be sure to consider the time of day for your event when placing your tent to ensure the shade falls where you want it!
Have fun with seasonal fruits and vegetables. The summer is so exciting because almost everything is in season. Pay tribute to this bountiful time of year by serving salads out of hollowed melons, floating peaches in iced tea dispensers, or whipping up delicious apple-filled sangria.
However you choose to celebrate the season, don’t forget to take some time to pause and enjoy your surroundings. There are few things that I love more than watching my grandsons splash around while I relax poolside with a glass of wine. Cheers to you and your summer adventures!