Celebrate summer with an outdoor dinner party complete with a locally inspired menu and eco-friendly decor. This is all about your own personal touch—pick flowers from the garden, reuse decorations and enjoy all that Tennessee has to offer!
Text Stephanie Alexander, event planner| PHOTOGRAPHY Summer Harris Hancock
Recently I had the pleasure of hosting several friends for an evening on our patio.
The weather was absolutely wonderful, and that’s no small feat here in Nashville in summer! I wanted to throw a party on my patio and eat out under the sky, eventually getting to watch the fireflies and stars after the sun set.
Garlic and Red Wine Pork Tenderloin Medallions
Warm Goat Cheese and Apple Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
Josh’s Signature Roasted Potatoes and Onions
Assorted Mini Pies
Setting the Scene
I made this party as eco-friendly as possible, and encourage At Home Tennessee readers to entertain this way as well! Some simple steps are all you need to turn your next event into a green one.
First, keep the décor minimal. I gathered roses from my friend Julie’s yard, arranged them in assorted bud vases and scattered those around my tables. Julie’s roses come in a variety of colors, so I grouped them in similar shades and used those in clusters on the tables. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend with a fabulous garden, no fear! You can easily go to your local farmers’ market and pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers to use for your party. Try to stay local to keep the party green.
Also, incorporate lots of candlelight. Candles help add visual depth to a party and at nighttime, they really create an enchanting ambience. I have an assortment of glass cylindrical vases that I use for events and weddings. My collection includes short vases, tall and deep vases, square vases, glass bowls, and the list could go on and on. Whenever I have a party, I go through what I have on hand and develop my décor around those items. This time, I used two extra large vases and floated a trio of candles in each of these. They lined the entrance to my back patio. In addition, across my stone wall I placed several large cylindrical vases with large white pillar candles in them. In between these candles I added multiple small votives with tea lights. On the tables I placed small cylindrical vases with floating candles, along with small votives. I also positioned tiki torches around the perimeter of my patio, which not only added some warm glow but also helped repel the mosquitoes. Anytime you entertain outdoors in the spring or summer utilize tiki torches that have been filled with a citronella-based oil. The last thing you want is for your guests to be bothered by mosquitoes and bugs all night! You want them to enjoy the party and focus on the food (not swatting bugs).
Once the candles and flowers were on the tables, I added the linens and place settings. I used white ceramic plates for the table, along with chocolate brown and tan linen napkins. In addition, at each place setting I placed a menu card.
To go with an assortment of homemade desserts (recipes to follow), I also served ice cream from a locally owned and operated business to keep with the “eco-friendly” theme. I purchased individual ice cream cups from the Nashville-based Purity Dairy. If you want to serve a local item as well think about your locally-owned ice cream shop, or pick up treats from an individually owned bakery. Not only will you be buying local, but you’ll save yourself some time in the kitchen!
Green Party Tips
1. Use seed packets at place settings. They make a cute addition to your table, and guests will have a fun favor to take home.
2. Ask your guests to take home the floral centerpieces and enjoy them in their own houses.
3. Use organic fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets.
4. To create a visual impact but not leave a huge environmental impact, use candles, paper lanterns, tiki torches and natural light.
5. Include seasonal foods in the menu to highlight locally-grown products.
6. Buy organic meat from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). To find one in your area, go localharvest.org.
7. Utilize items you already have for the décor—for example, I used vases from other events, or you can borrow from friends and keep decorations to a minimum.
8. Utilize natural elements in your décor such as burlap, wood, candlelight, etc.
9. Use floral clippings from your friends and neighbors. With a little research, you may find out that your good friend has some amazing hydrangea bushes that need clipping or another friend might have a fabulous rose garden she’s willing to share.
For Do it Yourself Decor like these "Drink Me" Straws and the recipe for the Summertime Strawberry Mini pies (and more!) get the July issue of At Home TN out now!