A How-To Guide for Spring Entertaining
Contributions by Amanda DiUglio and Randy Ballestros
As the weather gets warmer and the earth comes back to life, our thoughts turn to outdoor entertainment. From outdoor venues along the Hudson Valley featuring gorgeous views to private yards filled with personal touches, here are our top tips and trends for the coming season.
The Menu: Focus on Seasonality
As we’re fond of saying at Great Performances, life happens around food. No event is complete without delectable dishes, and the best way to get maximum flavor is to focus on seasonality. Not only will you get fresher, tastier and more nutritious foods, you’ll also support the local environment and economy. It’s a win all around.
In spring, look for crisp asparagus, leafy greens, crunchy radishes and perky green onions. Growing seasons vary by region, so talk to your caterer or local farmers market to find out what’s available in your area.
The biggest trends we see for the coming season are interactive food stations, farm-to-table menus and family-style service. Each one gets us in touch with the earth and our families and contributes to a warm, convivial atmosphere.
Pro tip: Consult with your caterer to get the best seasonal dishes and presentations for your specific event!
Cocktails: fresh garnishes
Add a garden element to your cocktail in the form of a fragrant, delicious and eye-catching garnish. Herbs—including sage, rosemary or thyme—can add a wonderfully fresh, aromatic and savory element to even the simplest of cocktails.
Punching shapes out of citrus peels adds a whimsical, festive flair and can pair beautifully with almost any herb.
Garnishes can also double as stirrers. Consider a sprig of rosemary for a woodsy, pungent aroma; or a pickled scallion, which adds a deliciously pungent bite instead of your traditional celery stalk in a Bloody Mary.
Edible flowers add color, texture and even flavors to your drinks. Look for pansies, violets, marigolds, lavender and the springtime perennial, forsythia.
Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to combine garnishes. Citrus peels pair with almost everything and add fresh, bright aromas that enhance your beverages.
Escort Card Wall: setting the tone
One of the first things your guests will interact with at your event is the escort card wall or seating chart. It’s the perfect opportunity to set the tone for your event and should be carefully considered as a decorative element.
More and more, we see these as a decorative component that inspires photo opportunities rather than just a functional element that assigns seating.
For vertical surfaces, create dramatic interest with a moss wall with the cards nestled in the green tufts, or evoke a blooming garden with the cards pinned among beautiful flowers that suit your color scheme.
If you’re using a horizontal surface, consider mini succulents, single flowers or even seed packets that can be planted in the spring.
Pro tip: While we always love the color contrast between greenery and flowers, textural contrasts can be very dramatic and evocative of the lush, green months to come.
Table Setting: let nature be your designer
Ferns are a big trend and can add opulence or whimsy, depending on the variety and the volume used. Using a single frond under a clear charger is a simple, elegant way to add color and texture.
Sprigs of fresh herbs provide a fragrant pop of color as part of an elegant place setting or beautiful centerpiece.
Writing a message or your guest’s name in metallic ink on a dark green leaf brings a modern edge to a natural element and can easily tie into any color scheme.
Pro tip: Ask your planner for more table setting inspiration, including using greenery found in your own backyard.
Photo shoots: natural sophistication
When planning your photo shoot, take advantage of nature. Evergreens will still be green and inviting and as spring progresses you’ll get vibrant yellow forsythias, dreamy blue hydrangeas, and luscious pink, red and purple azaleas and rhododendrons.
You can also keep it simple with an earthy, green moss wall or a warm, brick wall with tendrils of sweet pea or ivy. Add architectural elements, such as cast iron gates and wooden fences, and the opportunities are unlimited.
Pro tip: Natural elements are the perfect background for your photoshoots and let your guests take center focus.
Seating and decor: style and comfort
Just because you’re sitting outside doesn’t mean you can’t be comfortable. Bring indoor seating outside and combine with natural elements to celebrate your personal style. Elements like boxwood hedges can be used as decorative dividers or as furniture, adding vibrance and life to your event.
We’ve seen more events featuring indoor furniture, including couches and rugs, brought outdoors and we love the contrast. Guests can sit comfortably while interacting directly with nature.
Pro tip: Be mindful of allergy season and stock your comfort center with allergy medications.
Photo Credits: ©Love + Wolves Photography, ©Charlotte Jenks Lewis Photography, ©Roey Yohai, ©Clean Slate Photography, ©Deirdre Malfatto, ©Judith Rae