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Dawn Matthews  |  July 02, 2024

Top Tips For Hosting Summer Gatherings

10 Minute Read

Everything about summer makes us want to get together with our friends and family, and to enjoy the gorgeous weather while it lasts – we all know how changeable the Great British Summer can be! From barbecues to picnics, if you’re hosting a gathering at your home this summer, make sure you have everything you need on hand with our guide to summer entertaining.

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Plan The Food

Whether you’re a pro with barbecue, you prefer a picnic-style buffet, or you’re cooking up a storm in your outdoor kitchen, make sure you have a plan. Even if you ask your guests to bring a plate of food, or something for the grill, you will want to make sure you have enough.

If you’re catering from a barbecue or pizza oven that might take a while to prepare after guests arrive, have snacks available, and don’t forget to check beforehand whether anyone has allergies or dietary requirements – nobody wants to be hungry!

When it comes to desserts, make sure they suit the meal. If you’re likely to be full from the barbecue, then having light desserts such as strawberries and cream, pavlova, or a fruit plate are good options.

Have Drinks A-Plenty

A summer gathering on a sunny day doesn’t work unless there are drinks! Wine, beer, and cider are all obvious options, but sangria, punch, and pre-mixing cocktails all work well too. Alcohol isn’t essential though, so make sure you’re looking after those not drinking it. Our suggestions:

🍋  Cans or bottles of soft drinks
🥒  Make jugs of infused water – deliciously refreshing with cucumber, citrus fruits, or mint
🍺  0% beers, ciders, and spirits – a 0% G&T is fantastic on a hot day
🍹  Mix up mocktails

Serve soft drinks in fancy glasses, and designated drivers and non-drinkers won’t feel left out.

Hydration is essential on hot days, so have a large drinks dispenser with a tap, full of iced water available. Your guests will be able to alternate between their alcoholic drinks and a glass of water, and children can fill their glasses without asking too.

If you don’t have an ice machine in your freezer, then start making ice in moulds a week ahead, or buy some at the supermarket. If you have a designated ice box for beers and wine bottles to go in, freeze larger containers of water – they’ll last longer, especially if you keep the container in the shade.

However many drinks you think you’re going to need, it is a good idea to have half as many again in reserve. Your guests are likely to bring drinks with them, but having more stashed away (in the garage, out of sight of guests) means that you don’t have to send anyone out for more because you under-catered.

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Organise Activities For Children

If your guests have children and are bringing them, make plans to help keep them entertained – and depending on how long your summer gathering is likely to go on, having several activities planned can prevent the cries of “I’m bored!”.

The activities that will suit younger guests will depend on the size of your garden, and their ages. If you have several children coming, ask the parents to bring their child’s favourite garden toy, and let the children make their own entertainment for the afternoon. If they can’t bring garden toys with them, having a beach ball, swing ball, or a lightweight frisbee available will keep children busy for a while, and they are less likely to put the glass in your windows at risk.

If the party is likely to go on into the evening, you might want to have snuggly blankets ready in a bedroom or room with a TV, so they can settle down and relax with a movie while the parents carry on enjoying themselves.

Keep Bugs At Bay

You’re never going to keep all the flies, wasps, and ants away entirely when you’re outdoors, but there are a lot of things you can do to deter them from becoming too much of a nuisance.

If you’re planning ahead, then having the right plants in your garden will help. Basil, mint, lavender, rosemary, garlic, marigolds, and lemongrass are all known to deter insects. If you don’t want to plant them in the ground, having them in pots is a good idea – and of course, if you have these in your herb garden for cooking outdoors and adding to drinks, you can always move the pots to the table.

When you’re entertaining at the last minute, or don’t have those plants around, citronella candles are the answer – bugs hate the smell.

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Ensure SPF Is On Hand

Sun burn hurts, and we all know the health dangers it presents. Make sure you have a tube of sun cream available for your guests, just in case they have forgotten to apply it before they arrived. Leave it on display in the bathroom with a note telling them to help themselves.

Create A Great Outdoor Dining Space

Depending on how many guests you’re having, and what you’re planning to eat, you’ll almost certainly want an outdoor dining area. A gorgeous outdoor dining table set is essential, and if you maintain it well, it will last you decades, so it is well worth the investment. Make sure your visitors are comfortable, adding outdoor cushions and throws to the wood, and have shady spots under an umbrella or awning to avoid sunburn too.

You’ll also want to dress the table appropriately. Table cloths are optional, but you’ll want a centrepiece, such as a beautiful lantern, some flowers, or candles. Whether you need cutlery, plates, and napkins will depend on the sort of meal you’re serving, but make sure you have cloths to hand, in case of the inevitable spillages.

If you’re entertaining a lot of guests, it can be tempting to make clean up easier by going for disposable plates, cups, and cutlery. That’s especially likely to be the case if you have children coming! If you decide to go this route, look for environmentally friendly options, made from wood or bamboo, and dispose of them responsibly.

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Make A Summer Playlist…

And make sure you have your Bluetooth speaker on hand. While there’s every chance that your guests will hijack the Bluetooth connection and substitute their own playlist once your party gets going, you can set the mood initially.

Just be certain that your neighbours won’t be annoyed by the noise levels. Let them know you’re having a party, and if you’re comfortable, give them your phone number so that they can message if they are being disturbed by the noise. If you’re on good terms with your neighbours, and the party is informal, you might also invite them to join you for a drink or two.

Prepare For The Weather

You know the way it goes – you plan a party, then you watch the weather forecast with trepidation. The day arrives, and it is sunny… But just as your gathering really gets going, the clouds roll in. Make sure you have a Plan B so that if a quick shower does come on, your event can carry on. Maybe you pitch a gazebo on the lawn, just in case, or you have the conservatory open and ready with seating – you can always head back out once the shower has passed!

It is worth having an app like RainAlarm, which can be set to alert you if there is precipitation nearby. (It is also very handy if you’re drying laundry outside and need to know when to bring it in!)

Be Ready To Party On Into The Evening

Unless there’s a specific time that you want everyone to leave by, then you’ll want to make sure you can continue your gathering into the evening. Having solar lights around will keep the party going, while having warm blankets, or oversized jumpers on hand can keep your guests comfortable once the sun goes down.

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Plan For The Clean-Up

When your summer event is over, you’re going to want your home back to normal as quickly as possible. Planning how you’re going to clean up ahead of time can make it much easier – so have crates ready for recycling bottles, cans, and boxes. If your local council collection isn’t for another week, make a quick trip to the local recycling centre to get it out of the way.

Our Final Thoughts

Getting together with your friends in the summer is a fabulous thing, and gives you an amazing chance to make memories together. Planning ahead is always a good idea, but don’t sweat the small stuff. Impromptu barbecues with burgers from the local shop, or even drinks with a take-away pizza can be just as fun, and memorable as the gatherings that you’ve planned for months. Being prepared with fantastic garden furniture will allow you to make the most of the space – and it is a worthwhile investment, for summer fun you want to have with friends over the years ahead. Share your summer snaps of your garden furniture by tagging us on Instagram @bensimpsonfurniture.

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