How to prepare for summer entertaining

Jul 27, 2010 at 1:57 p.m. ET

I love having friends and family in my home and I consider entertaining an extension of my design work; I can be creative in how I entertain and in the ambiance I create. I make it a point to never entertain the same way twice. That means I am always on the hunt for new ideas and accessories. Here are just a few tips to help you prepare for your next big pool party, bridal shower or afternoon barbecue.

Summer Dining Room Table

What you need for summer entertaining

Tableware and Flatware

I always have my eyes open for tableware and flatware wherever I go knowing that I can mix and match when the time comes to entertain. Having several sets of dinner plates, salad plates, glassware and serving pieces means that my table settings can look different every time. Feel free to mix patterns, or even glass plates, in with your china for unique table settings.

Yellow Napkin from Kate's PaperieNapkins and Tablecloths

These set the tone for your guests' culinary experience, so think about the feeling you want to evoke. For a shabby-chic feel, find napkins and tablecloths at flea markets. Napkins don't need to match each other or your tablecloth, so just look for vintage napkins that you love, mix and match with an antique tablecloth, and make it your own.
For a contemporary look, there are some cool paper napkins available, like these yellow striped ones from Kate's Paperie. I have even found great paper napkins at Ikea.

Throw Pillows

Find a few throw pillows that reflect the colors and patterns of the season. I adore throw pillows by Judy Ross. Her floral patterns and whimsical colors are great for the summer. For a more cost-conscious find, the Company Store has bright, fun throw pillows. Their selection of indoor/outdoor pillows is perfect for entertaining. The pillows will make your deck or garden feel like a living room when you are ready to move the party outside.


Flowers always help make any get-together feel and look festive. Vases are a great way to think out of the box. One idea is to buy inexpensive fish bowls of different sizes, fill them with water halfway, and float flowers in them. Individual bud vases also are fun for entertaining. Set one next to each of your place settings with a single sprig in each or bunch a few bud vases together in the middle of your table.

Glass Beverage DispenserGlass Beverage Dispenser

Make the drinks you serve part of the decor. Glass beverage dispensers look great and make serving big groups easy. Fill a glass beverage dispenser like this one with a delicious beverage and float fresh fruit inside to make it more cheerful and interesting.

Table Accessories

Accessorizing is my favorite part of decorating and party throwing. It's where you can express yourself and show your personal style the most. Put fresh plants on your table and keep them in their clay pots; they look great. Small planters with something simple such as wheat grass look fresh and appropriate for summer. When the party is done, take your wheat grass out to your garden and plant it there.

Cocktail ideas for summer entertaining

Recipe: Spanish Fly Sangria

Staff writer and resident bartender for The Second Glass, Jessie Pray, shares her recipe for her famous Spanish Fly Sangria.

More ideas for summer entertaining: