"Never underestimate the power of the guest experience! You’ll want to make sure that your guests are take care of the moment they walk into your party. So go all out! Light plenty of candles to keep the bugs at bay, trim the grass and tend to the garden if they need some TLC, and provide plenty of light so that the party can go long after the sun sets." - The Graceful Host - Ashley Cash
"An outdoor party isn't complete without the perfect drink station. To display and keep drinks cool in a clever and festive way consider filling an old canoe with ice and drinks. Make sure to include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks for guests to enjoy and a bottle opener nearby. Beer, specialty sodas, seltzer, miniature wine bottles, water bottles and juice boxes for younger guests, are all great options of beverages to include." - L Brook Events - Lindsey Norton
"Don’t be afraid to tap into your creative side and flex some DIY muscles with your décor! Flowers are an easy way to bring life and color into any evening. Visit your farmers market for local in-season blooms, or go forging for greenery. You can find beautiful vases and unique vessels for your arrangement at antique malls and flea markets. My favorite arrangements are full to the brim with flowers and foliage – the more textures the better! Don’t be intimidated by the task of creating your own arrangements.
Planning Tip: If you are overwhelmed by the task, then consider creating several arrangements all with the same flower type! You can create beautiful centerpieces within the same color palette using different types of flowers in each vessel. Keep in mind that the type of vessel you choose can create a lot of interest along your tablescape. Mix up the sizes and heights – you’ll be sure to wow all your guests!" - The Graceful Host - Ashley Cash
"Our home is full of neutrals with bright pops of color, and I find that I gravitate towards the bright and bold. Whether that be a playful mix of patterns and textures, or a color palette full of life. Consider taking advantage of your surroundings and letting nature speak for itself. Have an amazing patio? Show it off! Have beautiful garden? Use those blooms on the table! When creating a tablescape for your next outdoor party, consider your goals. Consider setting up several tables and lounge seating areas to facilitate more of a mix and mingle atmosphere. Or maybe you want to have an intimate setting where your guests can get to know each other better over a plated meal.
Planning Tip: To help you make decisions around décor more easily, choose a unifying theme for your party. This will help your party style stay cohesive through each detail and allow you to make décor choices more effortlessly. Once you’ve determined the inspiration for the evening, it’ll be so much easier to sift through all your ideas in order to determine what you truly need." - The Graceful Host - Ashley Cash
"You do not have to be a designer to have beautiful flowers and botanicals! Use a variety of vessels and fill each of them with one type of flower. This look is polished and the blooms really have a chance to stand out and be admired when they are designed this way. Mix in your plants too. Plants such as ferns, tillandsias, succulents, and of course anything with blooms, mixed in with your florals, really complete the table. Just drop them into the same style of pot or container for a cohesive look. Fill bowls or baskets with fresh fruits for a pop of color." - Studio Fiore - Adelena Whittaker
"Do not break the bank on stylish decor when you already own awesome stuff. Think out side the box. For instance if you are a collector of anything, now is the time to showcase it. Use your amazing hardback books on tablescapes for added height throughout. Those blown glass tequila bottles make great vases. Your geode, agate and rock collection will transform a table and add some organic sparkle. Wine crates make great risers for food displays. Those brass candlesticks your grandma gave you need to be dusted off so they can come to the party." - Studio Fiore - Adelena Whittaker
"When planning an outdoor party I love to keep the tablescape feeling fresh. Look around your property or neighborhood to find bright, seasonal blooms to forage and clip. Place these blooms in clear glass vessels on each table that guests will be sitting at. Jam jars filled with tea lights and a bright runner keep the table feeling festive. To complete the look include silver flatware, cloth napkins and crystal wine and water glasses. The end result will be a bright table that is understated yet elegant, which is perfect for an al fresco dinner party." - L Brook Events - Lindsey Norton
Ashley of The Graceful Host is all about the music. "Music sets the tone for your party. It’s an important – and often overlooked - part of the party planning prep. Think about creating a playlist or perhaps hiring a musician to create the desired mood of your event. You won’t want to miss a great opportunity to keep your guests entertained! Consider creating a playlist with the theme of your party in mind, or blasting some of your guests favorite artists to keep the party going all night long!
Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
I Love It – Icona Pop
Girls Chase Boys – Ingrid Michaelson
Anything Could Happen – Ellie Goulding
Summertime Sadness – Lana Del Rey
Say You’ll Be There – Spice Girls
Toes – Zac Brown Band
Sideways – Dierks Bentley
Sexy Back – Justin Timberlake
Sweet Child O’Mine – Guns N Roses
Planning Tip: If you’re in a time crunch, enlist the help of a music-loving friend to help you gather together a fun playlist that reflects the mood of your party. Just because you’re the hostess doesn’t mean that you have to shoulder the responsibility of every single to-do! Don’t be afraid to ask for help." - The Graceful Host - Ashley Cash
"When you’re entertaining guests, you want to make sure they’re taken care of, which translates into make sure everyone leaves well-fed! I like to put out everything from quick to grab finger foods to something a bit more substantial. One of my favorite party foods is a lemon garlic roasted shrimp, with a bit of a kick. This dish is a staple around my house!
1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp basil, dried
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano, dried
1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lemon, juice
Sea salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (could substitute for coconut oil)
Optional add-on: ¼ cup of parmesan cheese
Directions: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with a nonstick spray. While the oven heats up, begin peeling, deveining and washing the shrimp. After washing, pat dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.Place shrimp in a single layer onto the oiled baking sheet. Then add your flavors – olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Gently toss to combine and coat the shrimp evenly. Add parmesan, if desired. Place in the oven and roast until the shrimp are pink, firm, and cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately and garnish with extra parsley, if desired.
Planning Tip: Your guests will congregate around the food tables, so be sure to have it spread throughout the party. Keep the biggest spread in a central spot, where you want to attract guests." - The Graceful Host - Ashley Cash
"Do not be afraid to set a theme, it doesn’t nor should it be kitschy, but it will help inspire you and keep your decor options on track. We created a colorful Bali-inspired wedding for one of our couples. We hung lanterns, had an eclectic mix of vases, balinese umbrellas and statues. What held the theme together was the jewel tone palette and tropical florals. You will be amazed at how it all falls together when you create a theme around something that holds meaning to you." - Studio Fiore - Adelena Whittaker
"Another great way to ensure your guests are begging you for another party invitation is to ensure that the bar is wide open. Create a signature drink just for your event that goes along with the theme. I love offering a cocktail to my guests as soon as they enter! It’s a fun way to welcome guests into your home and allows them to immediately relax. My go-to drink tends to change from season to season. What can I say? I’m a big fan of cocktails! My current obsession is this yummy drink from one of my favorite cocktail recipe books. I just can’t get enough of it’s refreshing flavors!
- 2-inch piece of cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 fresh basil leaves
1 tsp agave nectar
1 1/2 oz gin
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
splash of seltzer
1 thin slice lemon, for garnish
1 thin slice cucumber, for garnish
Directions: In a cocktail shaker, muddle the chopped cucumber, lemon zest, basil and agave. Ad the Gin, lemon juice and Ice cubes then Shake! Pour the mixture into a glass, slash in some seltzer then serve with slices of lemon and cucumber. Photo: Skinny Taste
Planning Tip: Consider renting glassware from a local party rental company so that your guests can sip throughout the night – and you won’t have to wash a single glass!" - The Graceful Host - Ashley Cash