These busy parents rely on friends to pull off a mucho grande get-together. "We never deny anyone the fun of hanging lanterns in trees, setting tables, and lugging ice from car to cooler," says Julie, flashing a smile of appreciation.
Just before sunset, guests head to the Nesbit home to enjoy a unique menu. Olé!
- Beer 'Garitas (triple the recipe)
- Smoky Hot Sauce
- Tomatillo Sauce
- tortilla chips
- Smoked Lemon-Chipotle Chickens
- Wheat Berry Tabbouleh
- green salad with Avocado-Ranch Dressing
- Lemon Chill With Raspberry Sauce
- Oven-Roasted Lemon-Chipotle Chickens
- Corn on the Cob
- Fresh Pepper-Balsamic Salsa
Look for the Deal
"Always look for the deal" is Julie's motto as owner of Celebration Creations.
- The portable tents were an end-of-season clearance bargain at a home-improvement store.
- Shop the farmers market. A large box of produce often costs less than $10 and is fresh from the field. Use any leftovers to decorate.
- Most ingredients are available at a supercenter grocery store.
- In many cases, it's cheaper to rent dishes than to buy paper products. Plus they're sturdier and more pleasant for guests. The rental company picks them up dirty, saving you cleanup time.
Julie's Tips for Big Gatherings
Julie, an events coordinator who owns a company in Irmo, South Carolina, called Celebration Creations, has lots of good advice to help you host a big event.
- Select a theme. It helps focus the menu, decorations, and planning.
- Come up with a timeline on a calendar. That action sets goals, helps narrow down the amount of clever ideas you try to pull off, and helps you pace yourself.
- Organize to efficiently use helpers. Julie lined up 18- gallon plastic storage bins inside her front door. Each was filled with everything for one table. It was easy for Julie to ask friends to "grab a bin and set a table."
- Leave cleanup for the next day. Julie hid the now empty bins, plus trash bags, under each table during the party. After dinner, guests scraped food from plates into the trash bag. It, along with the dirty dishes, went into the bin. Friends popped the lid on and slid the bin back under each table, leaving the work for the next day.
- Weather always threatens, so have a backup plan. Look for a rain date, or move the party inside.
- Be sure and turn off the sprinkler system. ("Yes, it did go off," says Kevin. "Luckily it happened after guests went home, which made for a crazy next-day cleanup.")
- Be considerate of your neighbors.
"Front-yard Fiesta" is from the May 2006 issue of Southern Living.