Spring & Summer Entertaining – How To Create Party Menus

Warm weather is a coming! I mean, it may still be completely frigid outside but … it’s March! We’re close!

And with that warm weather comes all sorts of showers and brunches and lunches and graduations! Oh my!

Let’s talk how to create party menus, specifically for warm weather! With a general template for casual spring & summer parties, helpful tips and recipe ideas!

Which brings us to today’s post – which is actually a reader request from far too long ago.  {Seriously, I’m a bit embarrassed as to how long it’s taken me to sit down and write this out. Oomphf.}

But but but. Here’s the gist! What follows is basically my take on how to create party menus, specifically with spring / summer gatherings in mind.

Let’s dig in!

General Party Template

When I think of warm weather, I think more along the lines of buffets versus fancy sit down meals. So, with that said, here’s my general outline for casual gatherings (we’ll get into specifics & recipe ideas in just a bit):

  • Beverages
  • Main Dish
  • Side Dishes
  • Snack-y Appetizer Dishes
  • Sweets

Spring & Summer Parties - Drink Ideas

Okay, now let’s break it down!

Beverages

I personally like to keep beverages super simple. For brunch / lunch-y type parties, I like to go with water, coffee and mimosas (and the juice for the mimosas can also double as another drink option).

If you’re looking to have some fun, this DIY mimosa bar is always a huge hit.

Spring & Summer Parties - Mimosa Bar

Main Dish

I have two requirements for the main dish – it needs to be a bit more on the substantial side of things and it also must be able to be prepped or made fully in advance.

These two recipes are my go-tos (as both keep well warm in the slow cooker):

Serve with some rolls and you’re done. Or, you can serve with some tortillas and do simple tacos (we’re talking like two toppings max – such as a fruit salsa and / or a slaw).

{One quick note – I know egg based dishes are popular for brunches but I don’t like to make them for parties. Some get weird sitting out and / or just aren’t everyone’s thing. I tend to go for more “lunch-y” main dishes!}

Spring & Summer Parties - Main Dish Ideas

Side Dishes

I like to keep the sides fairly simple as well. So usually I do some sort of grain / pasta salad + a salad salad. <— Like that phrase? You get what I mean though, right?

This way I have options for those who might not want whatever I made for the main dish. Plus, grain / pasta salads can pretty much always be made in advance. Score!

Here are a few of my favorites for grain / pasta salads:

And then for the salad salads:

  • Roasted Spring Vegetable Salad
  • My “house” simple salad: greens, sliced carrots, sliced cucumber, sliced radishes, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped raw nuts, dried fruit and a vinaigrette dressing

Spring & Summer Parties - Snack / Appetizer Ideas

Snacks / Appetizers

Soooo I am super predictable in this area and pretty much ALWAYS do some kind of homemade hummus with veggies / chips (or naan). But! Here’s why I love it. You can make it in advance AND it offers yet another choice for those who might not dig your other dishes or have certain dietary requirements.

Hummus Favorites!

Spring & Summer Parties - Dessert Ideas

Sweets

And finally, let’s talk sweets. I love to go with things that are dessert-y yet also brunch-y, if that makes sense.

Here are some ideas:

One other idea that I love that came from a reader – homemade granola + yogurt!

Spring & Summer Parties - Menu Ideas

Other Considerations

Whew, this is getting long! But before I sign off, here are a few other things I like to keep in mind when planning out a menu:

  1. Is the menu balanced and is there variety? For example, if your main dish is a bit heavier, balance it out with lighter options for sides. Or, as much as we all love asparagus, it probably doesn’t need to be in every single dish on a menu. That sort of thing.
  2. What are the dietary needs of guests? I always want everyone to be able to eat something. So, for example, while I won’t necessary do an entire gluten free menu, I will absolutely make sure there are choices that fit those needs.
  3. Are there plenty of dishes that can be made in advance? I am alllll about picking a menu that can be made almost completely ahead of time. That way I can enjoy the party and chat up a storm with guests!
  4. Will the dishes be okay sitting out? Again, I tend to go with buffet-style set-ups for warm weather, so I want to make sure that what I’m serving isn’t going to get funky sitting on a table for a few hours.
  5. Have I tried the recipes before? I like to stick mostly with tried and true favorites for entertaining. That way I don’t wind up with any last minute uh-oh moments. Trying one or two new dishes? Absolutely. But not the whole menu!! And just remember, delicious trumps finicky or fancy ANY day of the week!

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And that’s a wrap! Questions, comments, anything I forgot to mention? Lemme know!

Cheers to warm weather fun!