Summer Garden Party…inspired by the Paca Girlfriends
It was hot as blazes but they came in droves adorned in their garden party best converging upon the Historic William Paca House in Historic Downtown Annapolis for the Paca Girlfriends annual Flower Power affair. This highly anticipated event summoned every caterer worth their salt to set up a booth and showcase their talent to raise funds for Historic Annapolis. Drawing inspiration from the local chef’s and colorfully clad fashionistas, I formulated a plan for hosting the perfect garden party this summer. First we’ll talk set up and then how to suite up!
GREEN, GREEN AND MORE GREEN!
If you are actually hosting in a beautiful garden like the Historic Paca House, you will only need to decorate the tables as the backdrop of the garden should take center stage. If not, you can transform your backyard, courtyard or deck into a lush and fragrant secret garden that will wow your guests. Springtime is for the bold, colorful flowers but I think Summer calls for focusing on lush greenery with simple elegant touches of one accent color like yellow, soft pink or white. Want to block out the neighbors when you set up the bar on the side deck? Erect a boxwood wall to create a barrier that lends privacy and an illusion of a well manicured garden. It also provides the perfect backdrop to set up decor and the spread for your guests. This can be ordered fresh but the faux options are very realistic and can be used again and again.
At the Paca Girlfriends bash, Relysh Catering inspired me to use glass globes filled with moss as an alternative to stringing up my favorite retro lights. They reflect the light and add a modern flair with a pop of green and glow softly in the candlelight after sundown. So elegant!
FOR THE TABLE
Take the garden party theme right down to the serving platters. The caterers were pulling out all the stops with their displays at this event and it dawned on me that simple plates would not do when you can display colorful tacos on a bed of bright purple lentils or finger foods on mini plates laid in an acrylic tray filled with loose summer flowers.
GO BOLD, WITH BLACK, WHITE AND GOLD
Instead of lots of flowery linens in pastel colors (more tea party than garden party) opt instead for a bold black and white striped table runner with an over sized black urn filled with gold artichokes for an eye catching centerpiece. Strawberry Banke Events, an Annapolis based boutique catering business owned by a gal in her late 20s (pictured above) blew me away with this table set up. If you don’t have a ton of room, one or two tables done with a dramatic flair set against the greenery back drop will create a huge impact.
Avoid heavy ingredients, loads of hot options and anything too messy to eat like a lady. Summer is all about fresh fruit and veggies so really play this up and wow your guests with a modern take on the old classics. Again, Strawberry Banke Events dazzled the guests with their tomato caprese bites speared onto a mini tube of basil oil that you shot into your mouth just as you took the bite. Incredible and so unique! Touches like this are sure to impress your guests. Rainbow colored mini tacos with festive garden slaw and olive tapenade bruschetta are more delicious finger foods that are light and will not need to be kept hot. Bowl of Cherries & Kens Creative Kitchen each featured eye catching spreads with these crowd favorites.
DRINK IT ALL IN
I always set up beverages to be self serve and the ladies from Bowl of Cherries did me proud with the most refreshing cocktail of fresh watermelon juice mixed with herbs and some sort of Italian aperitif. It was heavenly! It is very important that the drinks, even if they contain alcohol, be light and thirst quenching as it will most likely be hot and steamy outside and this detail will not be overlooked by your guests. Think you can’t serve coffee or tea? Think again! With my good friends at Capital Teas on hand at the event showcasing the latest amazing flavors in loose teas and a new wine bottle infuser gadget, I learned you can create refreshing tea infused wine that has all the flavor without the extra sugar of summer sangria. We can all use a little less sugar for the bikini body that seems to elude us whenever copious amounts of alcohol are consumed at summer soirees.
IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND GLAMOROUS
We save our country girl for the 4th, our rocker/hippie chic for the music festivals and our decked to the nines diva for the galas. A garden party is the right time to debut a lovely sundress that has a laid back sensibility with just a few statement pieces of jewelry and a fun up do so you are not melting on your guests. This look is all about romantic elegance and summer freshness. Keep make up light and dewey but stash some powder or blotters in an easy access drawer to eliminate the shine in pictures.
MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN
Throw A Romantic Dinner Party – The Paca Garden party was all about the girlfriends but how about a co-ed dinner party for your evening under the stars? Set a long table decked with an assortment of boxwood topiary, soft peach roses and tons of candlesticks of all shapes and sizes right down the middle of the garden. Keep to the same ideas with refreshing fare and serve a summer salad, chilled gazpacho and easy to enjoy entrees that don’t need to be kept at warm temperatures and can be lazily enjoyed over several hours. My dress of choice were I playing hostess to this event (and the climate gods gave us a break on humidity) would be something along the lines of the vintage gown above. Cole Porter or smooth French Jazz vocals would be perfect background music for the affair.
PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE PACA GIRLFRIENDS GARDEN PARTY
Happy Garden Party-ing!