Hit The Deck

Do summer right with a fabulous patio party that won’t break the bank – or the host
By Mike Fleming

As the weather warms up, all you want to do is get out and enjoy it with friends. The solution could be as close as your own deck, but your first thought may be to avoid the work it entails. No worries. We have your back.

There’s a great outdoor event at your fingertips that puts you on the “Mostest” Host list without crossing off your sanity – or your foregoing enjoyment of your own party.

You need three things to make this party a success, and one of them isn’t a Martha Stewart serving platter woven of organically-grown Taiwanese grasses that you painstakingly grew yourself.

First, calm down. This is supposed to be fun, not a competition – though we’ll earn you a few points along the way. Second, plan. Get the food, alcohol and entertainment worked out, and let them take care of themselves on the big day.

Food

Chef
Who’s cooking? If it’s you, great, but plan to flip burgers only if it’s because you enjoy it. If no part of you wants those duties, hear this loud and clear: Don’t cook. Enlist a friend to man the grill, decide on protein and veggie options, and have guests bring sides.

No Cooking
Or take this tip: Cater. Yes, we said it, and we’re not taking it back. Sure, it’s more expensive, but no one worth caring about will complain or think less of you if you serve amazing food. Here’s a fun idea: Pre-order staples for pickup from Fat Matt’s, Fox Brothers and Daddy D’z, then call it done.

Prep
Plates, napkins and tableware should be on you. Lay them out and forget them. If you have a side item or signature dish you like to make, do it in advance and pull it out at party time.

Dessert
An inexpensive and easy way to please everybody and look like you tried is ice cream. You can buy several flavors in buckets, and have people serve themselves, or for even easier cleanup and more personalized timing, offer single-serve treats like ice cream sandwiches, popsicles and bars.

Alcohol

What to Drink
It’s nice to have beer and wine – both red and white – as well as vodka, gin and one brown liquor for summer parties, but it’s not a requirement. BYOB is often what happens anyway, because cocktail and beer preferences are so personal these days. Whatever your choice, announce your intentions and no one will bat an eye.

What to Have
What you want to drink should be on hand, and consider yourself responsible for ice, cups and quartered lemons and limes. Have corkscrews and other accoutrements laid out in open view. Non-alcoholic options for cocktail mixers, teetotalers and designated drivers are a good idea.

Hydrate
Drinkers and non-drinkers alike do better when hydrated. Bottled water is a good idea, or if you’re feeling fancy, it’s super easy to cut up lemons and keep pitchers of those in cold water to share. Cucumbers and basil are amazing additions, too.

Rules of Thumb
On the one hand, enough alcohol can be all a host needs to lubricate his party. On the other, he shouldn’t be the drunkest one there, nor forget to make sure the guy who is gets home safely.

Entertainment

Music
Depending on the crowd, the right tunes may be all the entertainment your deck party needs. Digital players are perfect for this: If you feel strong about your playlist, put it on and forget it. Or tell guests you trust that they are free to plug in their playlists.

Guy Games
Cornhole, bocce and croquet aren’t just great ways to check out guys’ forms. They’re fair for almost everybody, and guests can be as competitive, or not, as they like. You know your crowd, so if guests have favorite games, have them bring them along.

Take It Inside
You will likely have guests who want to chill inside. Board games and puzzles near the door to the deck can keep them part of the fun, or announce that there’s a movie marathon for those addicted to a/c. All of these are also good options for the one thing you can’t control: Rain.