#1 Be selective about your Food
Always be sure to have enough food, a “good” southern host would never let a guest leave hungry. Don’t hesitate to ask for R.S.V.P, but surprises do happen so always account for a little more food. Here’s some easy tips to avoid culinary mistakes and hassles:
- Define your meal by party time (Breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner)
- Define your menu by location (outdoors, sit down dinner, etc)
- Avoid catering to several lifestyle choices of guests
- Plan a menu that is in season
- Offer traditional or tradition with a twist (Broadbent offers a variety of traditional Southern Foods and they come with easy to read instructions to make sure any skill level can cook up these tasty traditions)
- Offer a variety of flavors
- Consider deadly allergies such as peanuts or shellfish
- What fun is having a party if you can’t mingle and enjoy it, so be sure to choose foods that allow you to do so.
- Presentation is a big part of the experience your guests are sure to remember.
Food is definitely the most complicated part of party planning, wanting to have plenty, but not lots of leftovers, is a fine line. To help ease the confusion of exactly how much food to plan for each guest look over this chart at http://www.divinedinnerparty.com/how-to-calculate-food-for-party.html#chart or http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/portions/party
#2 Plan well for Drinks
Always have enough drinks! Summer can be hot, really hot in the South and humid. Cooling off with a glass of refreshing Lemonade or Sweet Tea is a sweet relief but if you run out guests can be motivated to leave early. Here are some general rules of thumb about drink amounts:
- Each guest will drink an average of two drinks the first hour and one drink each hour thereafter.
- Check the forecast for hot days add more water and cool beverages. For cool days offer the option of hot beverages such as coffee, tea or cider.
- Plan on one and a half pounds of ice per person. This will provide enough ice for drinks.
- Always add a few extra to account for unplanned guests or a longer party time
- One bottle of wine serves 8 guests.
Southern hosts/hostess are known for small touches and always being ready so follow these tips as well:
- Don’t forget the cocktail napkins as they can protect your furniture surfaces
- Don’t forget the garnishes
- Have a small stocked bar or beverages ready at your home for unannounced visitors or an impromptu gathering
- Don’t forget to make the display of beverages beautiful try galvanized tubs filled with ice, pitchers of water garnished with cucumbers and lemon
Be sure to plan well, if you need help try using this drink calculator worksheet at http://www.totalwine.com/party-planning for planning your alcoholic beverage needs.
#3 Go Outdoors
In the South especially for evening affairs outdoors can be the way to go. It is a tradition set forth many generations ago for hosts to gather guests outside and enjoy nature’s splendor once the cool night air kicks in. For a successful outdoor shindig try these tips:
- Design a menu around foods that are easy to serve, best served cold or at room temperature, or hot off the grill.
- Offer desserts that will cool guests down and/ or are simple for storing and serving
- Go vintage by offering punch or a big-batch cocktail as opposed to a full bar
- Plan eating and serving areas to be in the shade
- Always use tablecloths to dress up your outdoor tables
- Choose a spot surrounded with natural beauty to save time and hassle on extensive decorating instead just add a few items to table tops
#4 Skip the Disposables
Many delicious memories are remembered each and every time your family and friends eat from those beautiful plates and serving dishes you own. When my Mother-In Law passed away, my children didn’t want the good dishes, they wanted the dishes they ate out of when they were at her home. Those were the ones that held the memories. Even if your outdoors, choose real dinnerware to keep your party’s sophisticated atmosphere. If you are worried about items breaking or family heirlooms being treated without the utmost care by strangers try spending a few extra dollars and get reusable items that look like the real things. Many southern women take joy in finding treasurers at deep discounts why not do the same with your table and serving ware. Shop at local thrift shops, estate sales, etc. and find beautiful dishes at a fraction of the cost then no hearts are broken when a dish is. Matching is optional, mixing and matching is can be really fun.
If you absolutely stand by using disposable ware items, choose the heavy duty ones that resemble real items as the last thing guests want is their dinner in their lap. Stick with the real thing for the serving dishes.
#5 Relax and Enjoy
Southern hospitality is not about the stress of perfection or impressing others, it is about spending time in good company. As a host/hostess plan ahead the best you can, realize that something may happen that you couldn’t have predicted and enjoy your party. Chances of someone remembering that your party ran out of a particular appetizer are far less when they are simply having a wonderful time and so are you as a gracious host enjoying the company of your guests.