I recently threw a party to celebrate my 25th birthday. Being a milestone, I wanted to host an extra special event, so I planned an evening summer soirée with my closest friends and family. I curated everything from the food and beverages, to the decor and the floral arrangements, with a few DIY projects in between. It was a magnificent event that took a lot of preparation but was so worth the effort. You will see that throwing a successful party can be made easier with the appropriate planning and a bit of creativity!
Planning for the Event
I knew it would be sunny and warm well into the night, so I chose to place high and low tables all throughout the yard, creating a party environment that would encourage mingling. Once I decided on a casual dining situation rather than a formal sit down dinner, I planned for a faire that could be eaten while chatting over cocktails. I wanted people to engage with each other without having to sit down over a heavy plate of food. It would also be key to choose items that would be perfectly fine at room temperature throughout the evening. A host shouldn’t have to stress about hot food sitting out and getting cold or be running into the kitchen to grab hors d’oeuvres from the oven while guests are there.
Spanish Cava in an ice bucket of assorted faux flower ice cubes.
I settled on a new classic--the giant charcuterie board. I was inspired by the meals I’ve enjoyed at the many tapas style restaurants in Los Angeles. The idea is to have an array of foods to slowly nibble on and to be able have a small taste of everything presented. I’m a total foodie, so naturally I wanted to source out high quality items and curate them to taste delicious together.
A proper charcuterie board should have an assortment of cured meats, cheeses, and spreads. Fruit and veggies can also be added for color and as a palate cleanser. It’s important to have a number of cheeses, soft and hard, aged, and in between. For proteins, I chose a variety of cured meats such as prosciutto, Spanish Chorizo, Jamón serrano, Capicola, along with some sea faire such as lox, smoked fish, oysters, and octopus. When serving charcuterie, be sure to have a variety of spreads to accompany everything like delicious dips and sauces to slathering on bread and crackers. I prepared a few of my own recipes such as Romesco, a roasted red pepper dip, olive tapenade, pesto, and garlic aioli. I also made my own rosemary focaccia bread and a funky fermented butter. If you’re not an adventurous cook, store bought spreads and breads are perfectly acceptable, but be sure not to skimp on quality.
Ricotta with olive oil and pomegranate arils.
From the sea: salmon, smoked peppered trout, smoked mackerel, smoked oysters, and octopus with olive oil and herbs.
For events, table appearance and food styling are equally as important as the menu. Choose serving pieces that highlight and accentuate the food rather than distract from it. For my summer soirée, I went with natural woods and ceramic in addition to a custom 5 foot wooden charcuterie board.
I had so many ideas for sugary confections that I couldn't pick just a few, so I decided on a decadent dessert bar. Instead of focusing more on a color palette, consider playing with a flavor profile. For an evening summer soirée, fresh fruit flavors highlight all the beautiful fruit we have in California right now, so I prepared fruit curds, pastry creams, and frostings for each mini dessert. We had coconut tarts, passionfruit tarts, lemon mousse cups, mango parfaits, strawberry cupcakes, raspberry butter cookies, cream cheese cookie cake and a classic vanilla birthday cake. I chose to go very minimal with the decoration on the desserts and saved my signature 24k gold leaf for my semi-naked cake which I adorned with a bedazzled ‘25’, to celebrate this milestone.
Vanilla cupcakes with a fresh strawberry buttercream.
Lemon mousse cups topped with lemon curd and candied lemon slices.
Semi-naked cake with 24k gold leaf, macarons, and fresh flowers.
I was so excited to plan beverages for my party. While an assortment of wine and beer would have been perfectly fine, I decided that the addition of craft cocktails would be even better. When hosting a summertime event, choose refreshing cocktails that pair well with the food while still being unique and complex tasting.
I planned a DIY station for guests to mix their own libations, so choosing cocktails that were easy to prepare was a must. I went with a Moscow Mule, a classic vodka and ginger beer concoction, along with an Oaxaca old-fashioned, which replaces the whiskey in a classic old-fashioned with Mezcal, an intensely smokey agave spirit from Mexico. Don’t forget the cocktail accoutrements to match! I chose an orange slice for the old fashioned and a candied ginger slice with lime for the Moscow Mule. When selecting wine for a summer event, consider something bright and refreshing with a touch of effervescence. I chose Sparkling Rosé and a Spanish Cava. For beer, select a variety of quality craft beers, such as lagers, ales, Pilsners, or IPA’s.
Lime slices with candied ginger.
Location and Decor
The party was held at my parents beautiful historic home built in the 1920s with classic Spanish style architecture. In a vintage home with such a bold style, I knew that when choosing party decor, it was best to work with neutral colors that would compliment the home rather than clash with it. I chose white tablecloths and gold accented vases for the tables, and placed bouquets of warm toned flowers throughout the party areas. I added a few fun touches like my handmade balloon garland with gold, champagne, and white balloons, along with a golden ‘25’ and YAY’ balloons. These fun accents added an air of whimsicalness and they made great photo ops!
For florals, I was tempted to go with magenta pinks, which are beautiful colors against our summer skies, but I ultimately went with warm tones that would match the colors of the home. I chose a mixed variety of yellow and orange hued flowers from a floral service that delivered our chosen flowers in bulk, which we sorted and arranged ourselves into sleek glass vases. For an extra added flair, I did a quick DIY on the vases with a gold paint accent, giving them a customized appearance. While arranging your own centerpieces isn’t a necessity, fresh flowers add color and brightness to your party. Placing a few prearranged bouquets throughout your event can make a big difference in the overall appearance.
Party music can easily be overlooked, but don’t let that happen. Music is essential for ambiance and mood setting. First consider the party vibe you’re aiming for, and then the guest list. Since my party would be a mixed crowd, I wanted to play music that would be appropriate for the occasion and would be good background music for all to mingle. I chose a jazz playlist to start, and through the night I switched to louder soul and funk tunes. It wasn’t until the very end of the night that Cardi B somehow ended up on the playlist.
While so much went into planning my party, I can say that being prepared and sticking to a schedule is what made this enjoyable, and nearly stress free. Be sure to have a neat list to check off so that once everything is prepared for the evening you will be able to enjoy a glass of bubbly with your guests as they arrive. My evening summer soirée was a memorable night of amazing food, great cocktails, and fabulous company!
My Do's and Don'ts
- Plan ahead with a timetable and checklists.
- Plan for adequate food and beverages, and remember that it’s best to have a little extra than not enough.
- Ask for help; politely delegate to family or friends in the days prior.
- Clean EVERYWHERE, because inevitably a guest will want a tour of your entire home and you don’t want to be embarrassed by a messy bedroom or bathroom.
- Be dressed and ready at least 30 minutes prior so you can be prepared to greet each guest personally as they arrive.
- Have a designated area for guests to place handbags or coats.
- Be a responsible host and make sure guests are safe to drive at the end of the evening, offer water, coffee, and an Uber.
- Let them see you sweat; It’s never a good look to complain about how much work you went to in preparation for your party.
- Ask for the help of your party guests, once they arrive they’re there to enjoy themselves.
- Begin clean up while guests are still there, they should never feel like they’re being rushed to leave, even if it is well past midnight.
- Let yourself become a stress case, at the end of the day you’re throwing a party to have fun!
This article contains some affiliate links.