With spring upon us, now is the perfect time to invite friends and family over for a get-together. While most barbecues are organised at the last minute, if you love entertaining, a barbecue is a great excuse to go all out and make best use of your hosting skills. In this article Big K – suppliers of stone, concrete, masonry, brick barbecues and summer fuel products – looks at how to throw the perfect outdoor party.
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Choosing a Barbecue – When it comes to choosing a barbecue, the first step is to think about whether a charcoal or gas barbecue will work best for you. While some people prefer the flavour of food cooked on a charcoal barbecue, others prefer gas barbecues as they are quicker to use and cleaner too, as there’s no charcoal to dispose of afterwards.
Also, think how much you want to spend on your barbecue, and how many people you intend to cook for. If you intend to entertain large groups frequently, concrete or brick barbecues make an attractive feature, and there are a host of contemporary and traditional designs to suit all properties.
Once you have chosen your barbecue...the fun part is inviting friends round so you can make the most of it.
Inviting Your Guests – While some people like to send formal invites by post, inviting guests by telephone, text or word of mouth will give you an immediate response. If you are having a large party, let your guests know at least ten days in advance so they can keep your party date free.
In narrowing your guest list down, it’s important to choose the right mix of people who will enjoy each other’s company. Although it may be tempting to invite a group of radically different people, if they are unlikely to have anything in common, it could make for an awkward evening. Try to invite a few people who already know each other, if you can, and who are friendly and chatty enough to make any newcomers welcome.
The important thing is to create a relaxed atmosphere where everyone feels at ease. And, if you think that your party will go on well into the evening, it is always best to inform your neighbours of your celebration...or better still, invite them along too.
Organising a Menu – It is perfectly acceptable to ask your guests to bring a dish and a bottle of wine to a barbecue party. However, if you are going down this route, try to indicate what your guests should bring, as the last thing you want is a pile of burgers and nothing else. So, vary it a bit by asking people to bring different things such as starters, buns, salads, sausages, chicken, or a dessert.
If you are supplying all the food, then make sure that you have a few vegetarian options for your guests. Try to do as much preparation in advance: including making the salads or starter on the morning of the party, or the night before. Don’t forget to stock up on beers and wine in advance, and have a good selection of soft drinks for drivers and your youngest guests.
Decorating the Table – Barbecues are never expected to be formal affairs so you don’t have to spend too much time decorating the table. Just laying the salad out on the table and having a set of paper plates, plastic knives, forks, disposable cups, napkins and serving spoons to hand will be sufficient.
However, if you prefer to be a bit more creative, a table centrepiece, such as a few candles or some flowers in a vase, looks fantastic, and you might want to cover your picnic table with an attractive table cloth. You may also prefer using your own crockery, glasses and cutlery instead of using disposable ones.
If you don’t have enough patio furniture, a few foldaway picnic tables will do. You can either bring a few more chairs out from indoors, or lay a ground sheet down with some cushions for a more informal approach.
Setting the Atmosphere – It's often the little details that count, as these help turn a good barbecue party into a great one. If your barbecue is likely to go on late until the evening, a patio heater or two will help make your guests feel warm and comfortable. Or, you can always drape a few blankets over chairs and benches so they are within easy reach of your guests.
If you are hosting an afternoon barbecue, set a gazebo up in the centre of the garden, or put some patio umbrellas out to help shield people from the sun. If guests are bringing their little ones, have some toys and games to hand to keep them amused. You might even want to organise some entertainment for your adult guests too, such as quizzes with small prizes to win.
Getting the Whole Family Involved – Half the fun of organising a barbecue is getting everyone involved – from the youngest to the oldest members of the family. While older members might volunteer to cook, others might take responsibility for the side dishes, and the children can offer guests snacks when they arrive. Music helps set the scene and a mix of different sounds will keep all your guests happy, rather than sticking to one artist or album. If you have teenagers, they might enjoy playing DJ for the day.
Meanwhile, if you don't have an outdoor fridge, an ice bucket works just as well and guests can either help themselves to their drinks, or you can check that everyone is topped up with food and alcohol. After all, well fed and watered guests are happy ones.
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