Labor Day is this weekend and summer is coming to an end -- two great reasons to gather friends and family for one more backyard bash. Of course, having time to put something together is always the challenge...so I challenged myself to put together an end of summer party in less than two hours.
I’ve thrown more get-togethers that take weeks of planning and prep than I can count. That being said, life is busy; very few people have that kind of time. That doesn't mean you can't put together a fabulous party in a few hours!
I am counting a trip to the store in the time as well...but if you are one of those people who have a fabulous grocery delivery service, you can cut your time in half. For the rest of us, my secret to one-stop shopping...Trader Joe's. From hors d'oeuvres to fresh flowers to an amazing wine selection, you can't beat their prices and selection.
And no, this isn't a sponsored post, I just love that place. It is a definite time saver and since the goal is to prep in about an hour, my ideas are centered around picking up some of my favorite items that come together for decor and dinner in no time flat.
Keep The Menu Simple
Stick to 3 - 4 courses; (optional hors d'oeuvres, a one pot meal, salad and an easy dessert) and flesh it out with fresh fruit or vegetables and bread sticks. I picked up mini heirloom tomatoes and inside wood berry baskets, they do double duty for nibbling and decor.
I also picked up crumbly gorgonzola cheese, pancetta and pepperoni to put together a charcuterie board for our hors d'oeuvres. I always have a box of crackers on hand for last minute entertaining; they rounded out our board.
One pot meals, from stews to noodles, are always a crowd-pleaser. You can pick up frozen, ready-to-eat meals that take about 10 - 15 minutes to heat up on the stove.
Presentation Is Key
If you are going to use store bought items like veggie trays and desserts, please replate everything. It will make even the simplest things, like freshly grated cheese or dressing, more elegant. Use small bowls and plates, even drinking glasses. It only takes a few moments and your guests will be impressed you went that extra mile.
Don't Be Afraid, Break Out The Fine China
You know, the stuff that only comes out for fancy-schmancy dinners and holidays. You can take a table to wow just by nixing the paper plates and plastic cups. Skip the napkin rings and tie cloths napkins in a simple knot to eliminate the need for ironing.
Have a pretty tablecloth or runner? Break that out! Mix old and new, patterns, textures, whatever you have on hand.
Have A Bottle Of Wine On Hand
Have a couple bottles of red and white wines on hand for anytime entertaining; if not, grab a bottle or two when you are out. I love sweet wines like moscats and rosé and I found a great Portuguese rosé, Espiral, at Trader Joe's. It has a few bubbles in it, which I love!
Fresh Flowers And Candles Always Set The Mood
There are many a lifestyle post on how to turn grocery store flowers into beautiful arrangements...the key to them all is balance! It only takes a bouquet or two to make a couple of small arrangements for your table and elsewhere in your home.
First, make sure to get a bouquet that has 2-3 main types of flowers, one or two filler flowers, and greenery. Be sure to use a low vessel so your flowers don't block the flow of conversation. Cut your stems under cold water to about 1.5 times the height of your vessel. Remove all of the lower leaves that will be under water and make sure the stems are all going toward the same imaginary center point in your vessel.
I like to create a foundation with my greenery, then insert and balance my main flowers (the roses and sunflowers). Then, I add in my filler flowers (yellow and purple mums and the small yellow flowers in the right corner). My lilies aren't open, so I put them in last to fill a hole.
A few low candles like tealights and short pillars quickly set the mood. Invest in a large bag of tealights so you are ready to light the evening in no time.
A Simple Dessert To Finish The Meal
You can never go wrong with pairing seasonal fruit with ice cream, cookies, brownies, you name it! I love to do fresh berries with a sprig of mint and shortcakes. Yup, they are store bought pastries but look homemade. No one will know the difference.
Don't forget to give yourself (or delegate to your partner) a few minutes for spot cleaning! Check out my 5 tips for prepping your home for entertaining
Look at that...you are ready to entertain! Do you have any tips for last-minute entertaining that work for you?
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