Simple Summer Entertaining
Easy and elegant touches come together to create a laid-back Provençal-themed fete. Here’s how to pull off a similar party at your home.
Photography by Ellen McDermott; Styling by Frances Bailey
Entertaining in the summer should be simple, elegant, and laid-back—not complicated, rushed, and “perfect.” No matter what type of outdoor space you have, these beautiful and rustic (not to mention easy) ideas will work for you. Whether you’re having an intimate dinner party for two or orchestrating a large gathering, just a few of these tricks will help you host an afternoon or evening event your guests won’t soon forget.
We started by draping the dinner table with a crisp, white tablecloth and placing a burlap runner down the middle. Asiatic Pheasant dinner plates from Consider the Cook gave the table a Provençal look, while yellow plaid napkins brought a burst of color and a relaxed feel. Compotes of fresh fruit served as part of the centerpiece were enjoyed by guests after the meal. The theme continued with mismatched vessels filled with freshly cut flowers, including larkspur, delphinine, and clematis, and herbs such as mint and lavender. In lieu of place cards, sprigs of lavender were placed at each setting (name cards can be added for a more formal dinner party). To add a rustic touch, we put the salt in tiny wooden bowls.
In a separate area of the patio, we set up a casual bar where guests could help themselves to signature drinks with special touches. The teak table was set with a preppy green-and-white seersucker table runner. The menu, which was typed up and taped to a cutting board, was both fun and functional. It included lavender lemonade, pink lemonade, mimosas made with two types of fresh purees, and Champagne.
To add a special touch to the drinks, we used three types of garnishes. The lavender lemonade got a sprig of lavender, edible floral buds floated in Champagne glasses, and skinny ice cubes had lavender frozen inside of them. (To make the ice cubes, use a silicone tray with long slits. Add the lavender sprigs before you put the filled trays in the freezer.)
No party is complete without a little thank-you for guests to take home as a reminder of a wonderful get-together. And who doesn’t love the smell of lavender? We filled glassine bags with small bouquets of lavender and tagged them “Just for You.” (You can make the tags yourself on your home printer or purchase them from a stationery or craft store.)
Other ideas include a small bottle of wine or Champagne tied with a ribbon, a sweet treat wrapped in a glassine bag, or a candy buffet where guests can choose their favorites.