How To Throw a Summer Solstice Party

June 26, 2008

When B and I moved in to our new house this past December, we immediately started talking about what type of annual party we wanted to have. After all, one of the reasons we love our house so much is because it is, in our minds at least, a fantastic party house. So, we began debating: December just has waaaayyyyyy to much competition. July 4th? Too cliche. We already have friends that have a great Oktoberfest tradition. Then we thought of our favorite day of the year: the Summer Solstice. There is something so invigorating about the longest day of the year, and the fact that it falls at the beginning of summer....when all the excitement and trips days at the beach and BBQs lie ahead. I think the feeling is mostly just a hold-over from all those years of being in school. The beginning of summer is just the happiest time of the year. So, we installed the First Annual Summer Solstice Party (and belated Housewarming) and people responded with lots of enthusiasm! Here are a few things I learned about throwing this party:

1. Get someone else to do most of the cooking and then add a few homemade dishes (even if this means enlisting friends to help you out). I am such a foodie, that this is hard to do. My inclination is to start recipe-searching and menu-planning and grocery shopping and cooking, as soon as we decide to have the party. Alas, life with two kids under the age of three does not allow this. Unless. I want to have a nervous break-down and get a divorce. This time I was smart. I was dead-set on enjoying the party, rather than stressing myself out trying to cook and bake and clean and decorate for two weeks. And so I did enjoy it! Immensely! I had everything catered and then made an appetizer or two and a couple of desserts.

2. Get yourself a for each kid if possible! This was key. There is enough to do running around playing hostess without having to shift a baby from hip to hip and chasing a toddler while he threatens to jump in the pool. I am lucky enough to have a super sweet 16 year-old girl who lives across the street, and who brought a friend (!) with (!) her (!) to help us with both of our kids and to help with other kids who came.
3. Lighting is so, so important all the time, but especially at a party. In addition to lots of tea lights strewn about the inside, you need something outside too. If you don't want to shell out the money for some of these (we didn't), hurry and get your self some of these babies from IKEA. The IKEA in San Diego is sold out, but you can find some on eBay, I'm pretty sure. They are great because there is no candle to worry about lighting and blowing out (or worse yet, starting a fire). You just pop in a couple of AAA batteries and you are good to go. Scatter them all over the place....especially in the areas you want people to go. We had them on table tops, on the steps to our upper deck, down by the pool, etc.

4. Serve beer, wine and ONE cocktail. Too many choices for drinks (or food) paralyze people. Haven't you ever been to a party where someone says, "What would you like to drink? We have everything." I'm always like, "Errrr, uhhhhh, can't you just pick something for me?" Because it was the hottest day of the year, we served a little Vinho Verde (a refreshing lightly effervescent white from Portugal -- B, and thus my kids, are Portuguese), a nice dry rose, assorted beers and classic lime margaritas. Of course, we had Izze sodas, Pellegrino and iced sun tea for those wanting non-alcoholic options (huh??). Oh, and this is important, put the drink table away from the food area. It gets people to spread out and go into areas they might not naturally venture to (check out the IKEA lanterns on the windowsill).
5. If you can, get some live music. Now, I doubt we will do this every year, but this year was splurge-worthy. It was the first big party at our new house...the house we spent all of last year remodeling, we had a new baby, and we had a few other things to celebrate as well. So, I convinced B to let me book the ultra-fabulous Mattson 2. They are simply the most perfect jazz duo....22 year-old identical twins with a great retro and grown-up style. The kind of cute guys who respond with "Cool!" and "Rad!" to everything you say. Please, if you do anything today, check them out right here. Here they are setting up:

6. Use real glasses if at all possible. Now, I know what you are thinking, because it is exactly what I was thinking before last Saturday. Too expensive, too breakable, too many dishes to wash, too...too (is that a real phrase?). There is also the problem of storage. All I can say is it is so worth it to drink out of REAL glasses (especially if you are serving wine) than to drink out of the Costco-high-school-keg-party-red-jumbo-cups. I went to IKEA and bought the Svepa glasses on Emily's recommendation. The 7 ounce ones are 12 for $4.99, they are stackable (at least 4 high), they all fit in my dishwasher at one time, and only one glass broke during the whole party! I don't want to hear any more arguments. See here how pretty they stack up?

7. As an alternative to paper or plastic (or heaven forbid, styrofoam) plates and utensils, consider the Veneerware line by Bambu. Heck, it's what Molly used for her rehearsal dinner. They are simply a classier, more elegant disposable alternative. Most importantly, they biodegrade in something like 4-6 months. Here's a photo with the Veneerware.

8. Lastly, get yourself a kick-ass friend like Miss Alice Q. She saved our bacon. She came over a couple of hours before the party started, just when we were hitting a wall (it was in the 100s and the air conditioner had quit on us) and both kids were cranky (I will never reveal for sure, but the parents may have also been bickering). She came in, took charge, organized, rearranged, tidied, shooed us into the showers to get ready, and generally got our house party-perfect. (Plus, these are all her photos!) I really want to give a big shout out to her.

Hope to see you all next year at the 2nd Annual!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Remind me to invite Alice Q to our next party and tell her it starts an hour or two earlier than reality.

    Great party Jora -- you throw good party!


  3. It looks beautiful and the food looks amazing! Since you mentioned remodeling your home, I was going to mention how much I would love to see more of it. From the small glimpses I've seen so far, it looks incredible. Perhaps a house tour??

  4. Gil -- You guys are permanent guests at all our parties, as far as I'm concerned! ;) And I will be taking booking fees for Alice's services.

    KellyT -- Thanks so much! Yes, maybe a house tour is in order....maybe in a couple of weeks? Check back.

  5. OMG!!!!!! Jora...your house is AMAZING. you have to do a house tour. espeically love the dining table...and the views...and well, everything.


  6. Great party and we love the tradition. It's a wonderful theme to a party and you did it up just right.

  7. What a fabulous looking party! I have the "I'll do it all myself" problem and end up stressing for weeks about planning and cooking everything by myself. One of these days I will hopefully learn!

    I would also love to see more of your home. It looks gorgeous!

  8. Hi, Jora. One more question, how are your white dining chairs holding up against your little ones? We're about to replace our dining room table and I'm leaning toward white chairs somewhat similar to yours (the stackable ones from Pottery Barn, very similar to the Series 7 chairs. Anyway, I have 3 kids 7, 5 and 8 mos and am wondering if I'm insane for wanting them. Do they stain easily? Clean up well? Thanks!

  9. KellyT: Oh my gosh, love, love, love them. They are perfect for kids (just clean them with a damp cloth and everything comes right off) and here's the big surprise: the are soooo comfortable. This is where we got them:

  10. Great post - and great party! I definitely think you should post a house tour - I volunteer to photograph it for you! I had a great time helping out (it was kind of fun bossing Senor B around, I have to admit! ;-)

  11. Almost forgot - a little shoutout to the jazz duo, they were great, and soo cute!

  12. Your party looked amazing ...very inspiring. So much infact I made a trip out to Ikea, and grabbed up some of the glassware you recommended. We are always having gatherings, it will be nice to have something other than the Cost Co Crystal ( Red Cups). Thanks again for sharing.

  13. Having been lucky enough to attend this perfect evening... I can only say the food was exquisite...with so many delicious touches... (those prosciutto wrapped bread sticks...everyone's favorite!) drinks and spirits...refreshing!

    Your home... comfortable...elegantly modern with so many delightful places to discover, to rest and enjoy...and the company of your friends were so interesting and engaging... Oh...did I mention... it was a perfect evening? thanks J & B!

  14. total awesomeness. your attention to detail doesn't go unnoticed!

  15. *awesome*

    I'm inspired... !

    rock on, thanks!!


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