Stress Free Strategies For Throwing A Casual Backyard Affair

May 22, 2016

The last Monday of May is just around the corner.   It will be a long weekend where families gather in remembrance and to celebrate the unofficial start to summer.    Personally, I love hosting family and friends.   But with my busy schedule, I've learned to pull parties together quickly, focusing on the ease and the pizzaz.       I know... throwing a party can cause stress (especially that pizzaz part)  if you let it.   Which is why I thought I would share my stress free strategies for throwing a casual backyard affair that will be fun and memorable for both you and your guests.

The first strategy I alway use is to keep the bulk of the food that I serve both simple and tasty.  And then to...

Prepare and Serve Family Style

Parties are meant to be fun for you too!   You don't want to be 'working' your own party, so make sure you create (or buy) a few main dishes that will be really easy to replenish.    

If you are lucky, you might have someone in your household that is a grill master which makes it especially easy to pre-prep kabobs, hamburgers, chicken and hot dogs.  Great!  All you have to do is prepare some family-favorite hearty side dishes ahead of time.   I don't grill... or grill well, so I tend to like to take the easy (but oh, so good) route of ordering food from some of our wonderful local caterers such as Woody's Smoke Shack.   

At Woody's (, I can order  Smoke Pulled Chicken for sandwiches and whatever side dishes that strike my fancy.   Who doesn't love cheesy potatoes and hot sweet apples?  

Once I settle on my core food dishes, all of my next strategies revolve around creating the pizzaz... the things that will make your guests feel special and make your gathering memorable.  

Add A Few Special Things To The Mix

The fun additions to your menu will be the things that show your guests that you care!   I always look for ideas that are unique but super simple to create.    Where do I find my best ideas?    Pinterest, of course.   It is such a great resource for inspiration for food, drinks and decor.     Here are a couple of my favorite ideas that I have collected that will show up at one of my gatherings over the summer...


Watermelon on a stick.    They are so cute and look like healthy popsicles.    Surely to be a hit with all of your guests and really simple to create the morning before your gathering.     They will brightly stand out on your table!


This fruit cup in a waffle cone has been on my list to prepare for awhile and I am just waiting for an excuse to create them.     I think they would also be a fun item to bring to a gathering where you are asked to bring a side dish.    Again, impressive but easy especially when you can buy so much of the fruit already sliced and diced.  

I also love ideas for food that are easy to grab and go.   These individual seven layer dip cups are not only fun, but functional.     Your guests will love the ease of having their dip in hand.

Once I get my arms around my food selections, I turn to how I will serve it to my guests...

Set Up A Grab and Go Buffet Area

I always set up an area that makes it as easy as possible for my guests to serve themselves although this tends to be easier inside than out.     You could bring out folding tables for this purpose, but I like the idea of bringing indoor furniture outside.    You could use tables, consoles or cocktail tables to help you set up a fun buffet area for guests to grab food and eat at they please.  


I always like to think about the 'look' of my presentation as well.      The ultimate tip for throwing together a beautiful display is to pick a color palette for your serveware and then add items of the same general color tone.    Because we at K. Renee are all about keeping things simple and elegant, we typically recommend building your serveware arsenal in white.    It makes it much easier to mix and match a variety of shapes, heights and sizes.     I love the outdoor plants that have been incorporated into the buffet above.    Seems so appropriate for an outdoor gathering!


Another special touch might be to wrap napkins around your silverware, tie it off with twine and add a little green or floral from your yard.   Just a a few well thought out finishing touches go a long way and will stand out as special.    

Prep and Prepare A Signature Cocktail

I always like to make a signature cocktail for each party that I throw as well as create self-serve stations for the basics like water, beer, pop and wine.       A unique cocktail will not only make your party feel more special but it will make your life easier too!


A lemon basil slush is on my list of drinks I want to serve!    I actually went to a party this past weekend, where the 'hostess with the most' served something similar.     She had tubs of the icy mixture in the freezer and brought them out as her guests continued to enjoy this tasty drink through the evening.    

Drinks can be messy and will tend to create traffic jams, so think about creating drink stations.


While coolers are functional, tin buckets and outdoor cement planters are so much more fun to serve drinks in!    We have all shapes and sizes at the home store that are perfect for beer, water and pop as long as you throw ice over top!

When you throw a good party, many times it will continue on right through the evening.    So my last easy strategy is to...

Plan Some Special Nighttime Ambiance

As day turns to night, a great way to create special magic is with some simple outdoor lighting.   Get out those Christmas lights and string some overhead.


Candles are also a great option but many times are difficult especially when you are entertaining young kids.   Instead, get creative with string lights...around your deck, trees or on your buffet tables.

Summer gatherings are all about making good memories for yourself, your family and friends.  You don't have to plan them months in advance!    There is really nothing better than a spontaneous gathering.   I love it when guests think you worked for days and days to create something special when in fact you just implemented a few stress-free strategies to make it memorable.

It's not too late to create some magic on your deck or balcony!  We just got in a new shipment of outdoor goodies and are almost ready to open our expanded showroom and design center that will be full of options for living life beautifully both indoor and out.

Our expanded space (at the end unit where our clothing store used to reside) should be open by the end of the week (and open by appointment until then)!   So stop on by before the big weekend if your outdoor living needs a little lift!