The group is starting to arrive. As hosts, it is your duty to bring the best experience to your guests – After all, you’re opening your home to friends and family so there must be some part of you that wants to leave them speechless. If your family is competitive, it might take some heat off you hosting the next holiday, inspiring some take-home ideas they may want to try with their own personality.
If you enjoy hosting, you want to present at least one showstopper. Whether that is rotating meat on a spit or setting up an Arrosticini-Spiedini rack for lining up skewers, everyone likes being around the scent of grilling awaiting the call to, “come and eat!”
In general, consider what everyone may like and dislike. No, your home is not a restaurant, but you might try to manage expectations by considering a little something for everyone, especially the kids. The goal is not to leave hungry, so keep that in mind, from snacks to drinks and at least one main and that they can’t be disappointed about.
Depending on the holiday, it’s easy to put effort into décor with small touches that your kids can help build. Cookie cutters are always a staple to add some fun shapes around the table.
Offering a signature drink is an easy way to create a theme, without even trying. Consider a featured cocktail, along with a non-alcoholic and kid-friendly option. Having flavoured ice water on deck always pleases the crowd.
Build-your-own juice and cocktail bars have also proven to be successful; your guests can add what they want to their drinks. Include bowls of fruit – usually lemon/lime slices, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and peaches – some base juice options and sparkling water on the drink table. If you really want to show off, add some herbs like rosemary sprigs, fresh mint, syrups, and a mortar and pestle to mull ingredients in their cup. Don’t forget to keep the ice coming.
Here are two Canadian-themed cocktails from King Valley Golf Club that you might enjoy.
Summer Berry Smash
• 2oz Canadian Rye (can substitute for bourbon if you prefer)
• Fresh Ontario strawberries
• 1/2 oz lime
• 1/2oz maple syrup
Empress Summer Punch
• 2oz Sparkling Water
• 1oz Fresh Lemon
• 4oz Prosecco
• 1.5 oz Empress Gin (distilled from the Fairmont Hotel in Victoria BC)
• Topped with Fresh Fruit
Good music can make or break your backyard bash. Mix it up with different genres, search for playlists on Spotify, and you can never go wrong with Motown. Start your afternoon in the 50s and move on to the next decade every hour until it’s time for the last call. If you’re the type of host who has no problem saying when it’s time to go, do it the opposite and start in the 90s so it slows down into the evening.
Charge your Bluetooth speaker so you’re ready to play DJ all evening with the click of a button.
Depending on your hosting space, bringing the game room outdoors is a great way to keep children busy and engage adults in friendly competition. Here are the top games for all levels of play:
Cornhole Available at most big box stores or make your own version by chipping into a cup from the same opposing distance.
Putting Challenge It's never a bad idea to bring out the putting mat when you’re ready to challenge your friends. Set it up on the deck and see who hits closest to the pin or sinks a hole-in-one. Add prizing if you’re feeling extra generous.
Grab some empty plastic cups and some tees, then plug them into the ground to stay in place. You may need to cut a small hole in the cup to poke the tee through, but you can hold onto this game and recycle it during the off-season. Chip in to the opposite cups until all cups are gone. Pro-tip: Tape glow-in-the-dark party favour bracelets around the lip of the cup to play when the sun goes down. They sink, and you drink. Must be 19+ and children should be occupied with a sugar-crash nap.
Bring out the kiddie grill and let the kids play at a safe distance so they feel like they’re cooking their own food. Maybe they’ll eat their vegetables.
Something for Everyone Add some distance between kids and adult activities. Part of the fun is letting the bigger kids watch the littles so adults can catch up and help keep things on track. Create different seating areas and don’t be afraid to throw a blanket down with a small table and some pillows for elevated picnic seating.
Play Day Plan to have some water games and friendly competitions between kids and adults with ring toss or a challenge-themed obstacle course full of team activities.
Plan for All Weather
If it’s going to be humid, be prepared with some cool activities that are affordable and will turn a sweaty day into a fun afternoon.
Hot Weather. Here is a list of items to consider if it’s going to be hot outside:
Buckets of water balloons or sponges
Small water guns
Popsicles or freezies
Kiddie Pool x 2 (one for the kids, one for the adults to cool down their feet)
Rainy Weather. A rainy day doesn’t mean the day is ruined and often enough when you wait out the storm, a rainbow comes. Here’s how you can prepare for not-so-perfect-weather:
Tent or tarp
Water games for the kids (use your judgement)
Request that guests bring a towel
Be prepared to move inside
If you know you’re hosting a group of people that may
ignore the time when it’s almost time to go (there’s always one or two), here’s some advice:
Give friendly announcements. An hour before you want people to start packing up, announce that you’ll be packing leftovers for those who want a to-go bag. This leads to another tip: prepare to have recyclable to-go containers along with a marker or stickers to label packages. You'll never miss your Tupperware again.
Toast your guests and say thank you to everyone. Yes, you are the hosts who did all the work. BUT, ending the night with your guests on a high like it was their 21st birthday is always a great thing. It should also welcome some next day, what-a-great-time messages or phone calls, so pat yourself on the back because you did it, Champ!
Next up, Thanksgiving.