P. Allen Smith: Hosting a Spring Lucheon
Spring officially arrives this month, so let the party begin! The equinox on March 20 is the official beginning of spring, which is cause for celebration — don’t you think?
Spring table setting
photography by Hortus Ltd., Jane Colclasure, Mark Fonville and Kelly Quinn
Hosting a get-together doesn’t need to be a lot of work, especially during this gentle season. You can make your fête memorable and keep it simple by following these helpful tips.
Throwing a party at your house is a fun reward for tackling spring cleaning, and there’s no better way to make friends feel welcome than to bring them into your home. It’s also nice to be at ease in your surroundings — you know where to find the extra silverware, and you are the boss of the kitchen, so the stress is lessened.
Don’t limit the celebration to indoors. If weather permits, move the party outside, where you can rely on the natural gifts of the season, like blooming flowers, singing birds and perfect temperatures to reduce your work and money spent on decorations. In late spring, a space in the shade or even a rented canopy may be appropriate to protect your guests from the sun.
Of course, the great outdoors can be unpredictable, so it’s helpful to have an indoor space for your guests to congregate in case of inclement weather.
I’m a fan of the written word, and people enjoy receiving mail, so it’s always fun to pick out and send invitations for an event, whether large or small. Send your invitations three to four weeks before the party so that guests have time to RSVP before their schedules fill up — it is a busy time of year! Choose an invitation that correlates with the party’s theme.
Eating seasonal foods is never easier than in the spring — there is so much to choose from. In fact, I always want to prepare more dishes than necessary, so I plan my menu in advance and try not to deviate.
If your guest list is large, a buffet offering several light dishes is an easy way to go. This also allows people to mingle while they get their food and keeps the atmosphere social. Keep the fare light and easy-to-serve.
If you’re having a more formal sit-down meal or your guest list is small, a multi-course meal is appropriate. Start with a fresh green salad or chilled pea soup, then move on to a heavier dish like garlic ginger shrimp or a spinach, grapefruit and avocado salad with prosciutto. I like to top off the meal with an angel food cake or cheesecake with a seasonal berry sauce and the option of coffee or tea.
No celebration is complete without a chance to offer a toast, so be sure to offer a delicious beverage. A classic mimosa is always a hit. Be certain to offer a non-alcoholic choice, such as raspberry lemonade or pomegranate mint sparkling water.
A lawn outfitted with white tablecloth-covered picnic tables is an elegant canvas for a beautiful table setting. Where you go from there is completely up to you. While it may be possible to source all of your dishes and silverware from your own china cabinet, you can also rent dishes from a party supplier. This is especially nice for large gatherings.
If you have multiple tables or one large table, create continuity with the eye-catching tableware. I like to mix and match china and silver patterns, but use solid-colored chargers or placemats to help tie things together. Make sure you provide all the utensils necessary for your meal, and place them correctly with forks on the left and knives and spoons on the right.
No matter how enjoyable a party, music always makes it better. Music helps fill silence, sets people at ease and offers a backdrop for easy conversation. Of course, your music should match the intended mood of the party; top 40 hits may work for a graduation party, but are not as ideal for a ladies luncheon.
If your budget is limited or the party is a casual get-together, plug your iPod into some speakers and set your custom playlist to shuffle. For a more extravagant approach, a bluegrass band plucking away in the background or the strains of a string quartet set the stage for guests to enjoy themselves. More so than any other aspect of your party, the music determines the level of formality — so choose accordingly.
The Extra Details
To make a luncheon more than just a meal, be sure to take time to honor the person, people or event you are celebrating. A toast or a short reading will leave a lasting impression. Send your guests home with small party favors, like a monogrammed handkerchief or a recipe card detailing one of the dishes served at the party. Also important: be sure you enjoy yourself!
Easy Decorating Ideas
Here are a few toppers that add a little something extra to your luncheon:
Mason Jars Used As Candle Holders
Fill the bottom with split peas, sand, rocks or lentils and place a votive candle inside. Tie a ribbon or burlap around for added flair.
Add them to salads and include them in the table’s flower arrangement. Place packets of corresponding seeds on plates for guests to take home.
Tabletop Herb Garden
Pot a few menu-complimentary herbs in miniature terracotta pots for your guests to use as seasoning for their meals. You can also send your guests home with these as party favors.