With the end of summer fast approaching, now is the time to throw an outdoor party. Whether you’re having a few friends over for an al fresco dinner or hosting a blowout birthday party, consider this your guide to setting a superchic scene. We enlisted designer Jenni Kayne, florist-to-the-stars Eric Buterbaugh and our glam EIC Rachel Zoe to give us their tips on everything from outdoor lighting to seasonal flowers and, of course, what to wear. Party on!
Your Guide To Al Fresco Dining
Pay Close Attention to Lighting
"I love throwing dinners and gatherings outdoors—living in California there is really no excuse not to," says Jenni Kayne. "Approach your backyard as a blank canvas and use lighting to transform the space into an outdoor room. String party lights in the trees, put romantic tapper candles on the table and add tea lights to accent seating areas."
Prepare Snacks Ahead Of Time
Avoid being stressed out at the last-minute by preparing the food ahead of time. We're obsessed with this recipe for Hawaiian poke from Mainland Poke Shop:
Ingredients: 2 lbs salmon, 1 small Maui onion or sweet onion, 1 large avocado, 1 jalapeño, 1 can coconut milk, 1⁄2 cup sweet chili sauce.
Instructions: Start by cutting the salmon filet into 1 inch squares. Place in a container and refrigerate. Next, peel and cut the Maui onions into thin julienne strips using a knife or mandoline. Cut the avocado into 1 inch squares. Slice the jalapeño into thin rings with a knife. To make the coconut sauce, combine the can of coconut milk and sweet chili sauce with a wisk. Then, gently mix the salmon and coconut sauce in a bowl making sure to coat the fish. Serve over rice and finish with onions, avocado and jalapeño.
Add Pops Of Color With Flowers
"For outdoor dinner parties, I suggest using white flowers—white roses, white calla lilies, white hydrangea," says Eric Buterbaugh. "It is a clean, crisp look and works with just about every type of environment. Do them in mass. Go big or go home. If you’re looking for a color splash at your dinner table, we suggest using vibrant, rich pops of color that are available this time of year, like purple vanda orchids and black calla lilies."
Serve A Specialty Cocktail
Make your guests their first drink, but have all the ingredients set up on a bar so that they can help themselves for the second round. Try this tequila cocktail from mixologist Matthew Biancaniello:
Ingredients: 2 ounces of shisito pepper infused 123 Tequila blanco, 3⁄4 ounces lime juice, 3⁄4 ounce agave syrup, 3 medium sized strawberries, healthy pinch of fresh marjoram, spring flowering marjoram for garnish
Instructions: Put 1⁄2 pound of whole shisito pepper in an air tight container with 1 bottle of tequila for one week. Muddle everything except tequila, then add tequila (be sure to strain out the shisito peppers) and ice. Shake and serve in a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with flowering marjoram.
Wear A Glamorous (And Comfortable) Frock
"An ethereal caftan is my go-to summer party look," says our EIC Rachel Zoe. "I wear them dressed up for evening with big jewelry and wood stacked platform heels or with espadrilles and beachy hair for daytime. Caftans define effortless glamour."