Casual entertaining falls somewhere between formal and a tailgate party in the parking lot. Though the atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable, it can nevertheless be a very classy event. Pick a theme and determine a location. Examples are:
- Backyard Barbecue
- Kitchen Table Get Together
- Pool Party
- Patio Dinner
- Ski Lodge Smorgasbord
- Log Cabin Family Style Supper
- Coffee and Cake in the Living Room
- Video and Popcorn in the Gameroom
- Election Night Watch Party
- Before or After Game Sandwiches
- Morning coffee and pastries
- Potluck Supper
- 4th of July Picnic at the Park
Any of these can be done with a minimum amount of effort and expense. Make it a festive event with cheerful tablecloths and paper napkins. Select simple foods and refreshments. Have pizza or Chinese food delivered and allow your guests to serve themselves. Generally for occasions like this, you will find people getting together in small groups so it is important to provide small tables with several chairs around each. You can rent or borrow the necessary furniture. Replenish the food from time to time so late comers will feel they have had a selection and guests will feel free to go back for seconds.
Make sure that your guests know what to expect so that they can arrive in the proper mood and dress comfortably for the occasion. Use something descriptive in the invitation. For example: "Come over on Saturday for dinner on the patio between 6 and 10." Or, "Come by the house on Sunday after Church for Brunch." In both cases, the guests know exactly what to expect.
In keeping with the casual nature of the event, there are no set rules for how to issue the invitation. You can call your guests on the phone, send emails or mail a theme specific invitation that you picked up at the store. There are no set rules, but your goal is specific and you must carefully plan how you can achieve your goal. Therefore, you decide which method is the best for your needs and situation. For example, if you are inviting a large crowd and you are pretty sure people will come, you can send out the invitation. If, on the other hand, you are just having a few couples in and you need to plan carefully for food and space, you may find it better to call so you can get a "yes" or "no" to your question. Even then it is a very good idea to follow up with a reminder. Emails are becoming a very useful tool if you can be sure that people will see them in time to respond.
The preprinted invitations where you fill in the details like time, date and location can be fun and useful. They set the mood for your guests even before they arrive and can serve to help you select a color scheme. Often the invitations come with matching or coordinating paper plates, napkins, cups, glasses and decorations. It is great fun to have all of those items ready to go and then you can concentrate on the food and other personal touches.
Remember, this is the opportunity to give a gift to your guests, but you deserve to enjoy the event, too. Regardless of the type of entertaining you choose, plan carefully and don’t over-extend your resources. We talk more about that in the section on Setting Up for the Event.