Simple ideas for home entertaining

Mar 13, 2009 at 4:45 p.m. ET

Winter's moved on, spring has sprung, and summer will be here before you know it. What better time to fling open the doors of your abode and get together with friends and family? We checked in with some entertainment experts for a few simple ideas for entertaining in the seasons ahead.

Move the cocktail party outdoors

While the cocktail party is usually relegated to a candle-filled living room, spring and summer offer the perfect opportunity to take it outside and play. Kathy Peterson, design expert and host at Lifetime TV, says you can still add lots of ambient lighting with candles and uplights. Peterson also suggests using flowers and greenery from your yard or garden as décor.

Host a camping trip

Syndi Seid, founder of San Francisco-based Advanced Etiquette, suggests entertaining on the wild side by hosting a camping trip. "We go camping and invite our friends to join us for the week or even a few days," says Seid. "All they have to bring is their tent and sleeping bags."

Go for the games

Cards, poker, Monopoly and Trivial Pursuits. If you love the thrill of victory and hate the agony of defeat, hosting a game night is right up your alley. The number-one secret to a great game night? A group of guests who take the game, but not themselves, seriously. Sore losers put a damper on the evening and take the fun out of playing. The other merry-making ingredient is frivolous finger food that guests can hold in one hand while the other rolls the dice.

Consider the lobster

Beach, backyard or living room: Anywhere you can set up a large table is a good spot for a spring or summer lobster boil, according to Marianne Moore, director of catering at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. "A lobster boil is interactive for the guests and laid back for the host," says Amanda Cook, director of public relations at the hotel.

Take on a cookbook

Sherry Page, owner of Culinary Getaways, hosts a cookbook party once a month. Page invites a core group of eight or nine girlfriends to select a new cookbook and test out the recipes. Each guest chooses from one to three recipes to make from the cookbook and bring with them to the dinner. The group tastes each dish, one at a time, and discusses them. "I'm going to have to start inviting the husbands soon," says Page. "They're starting to get jealous."

Create crepes

Contrary to urban legend, the best parties don't always take place on Saturday nights. A weekend brunch is a great way for you to take advantage of good weather. Shawn Rabideau, a featured planner and designer for the Style Network's Whose Wedding is it Anyway? suggests hosting a brunch starring crepes. "Crepes are easy to make, relatively inexpensive, fun for all ages -- and they can be savory for a meal or sweet for a dessert," says Rabideau. They are also easy on the preparation side, since you can make the batter and many of the fillings the night before. One idea: Ask each guest to bring her favorite filling.