Summer entertaining checklist

Party planning can be daunting – but whether your gathering is large or small, the basic preparation is the same. Use the tips below to get organized beforehand. Once these basics are taken care of your mind will be at ease, and come party time you'll be able to focus on the most important item on your to-do list: having fun!

Corbin Gurkin Photography via

Corbin Gurkin Photography via

Two weeks before the party

Pick the date and plan your guest list
It’s fine to telephone or e-mail guests for casual summer parties.

Plan your menu
Will your party have a theme? If so, let this influence your menu. Try a southern cookout with Chicken Inferno and Sun-dried Tomato & Onion Cornbread or a Hawaiian luau with Gingered Fish Kebabs and Honey Grilled Pineapple. Select dishes that can be made in advance and then simply heated up or served at room temperature on the day of the party or grilled items that can be served up hot from the barbecue.

Take stock of dishes Once you’ve decided what kind of party you’re having, make sure you have all the necessary serving utensils and dishes on hand. Plastic cups, plates and cutlery are great for backyard bashes-they’re durable and you can use them again and again.

One week before the party

Top up your bar
If you’re providing the alcohol, make sure you have enough on hand to provide each adult with two drinks per hour. It’s better to stock up beforehand and buy a bit more than you need to prevent emergency liquor store runs. Make sure you have a variety of non-alcoholic choices on hand – and don’t forget ice!

Select music
Make life easy and create a summer playlist on your MP3 player or iPod. If you don’t own one of these devices, burn a few mixed CDs or have a stack of your favourite summer CDs beside your stereo so you don’t have to scramble to find them at the last minute when your guests arrive.

Two to three days before the party

Shop for groceries
Purchase all but the most perishable items now. Start on make-ahead items now to cut down on your workload on the day of the party. This is also a good time to do prep-work such as chopping veggies. And don’t forget to move any meat that needs thawing from the freezer to the fridge.

Rather than scrubbing the house from top to bottom, just clean the rooms you know guests will see. During patio parties guests typically only visit the kitchen and the restroom, so focus your efforts there. Also make sure your patio furniture is in good working order and that there will be sufficient seating for all of your guests. You’ll also want to have an ashtray on hand, in case any of your guests are smokers.

Party day

The best way to stay sane on party day is to stay tidy and organized. Wash dishes as you go – and don’t forget to run and empty the dishwasher so it will be ready for party dishes. Prepare your salads and get your grilling items ready. It’s also a good idea to set out some serving dishes so that if your guests bring food they can easily take them from Tupperware to table.

Finishing touches
Take one last scan of the house and yard, turn on the music, set out your nibblies and whip up some margaritas. It’s party time!