Milder temperatures bring plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun in New York City. Locals picnic in Central Park or Prospect Park, hang out on stoops and sip cocktails, and dine with their besties in charming sidewalk cafes.
For New Yorkers lucky enough to have private outdoor space, terrace parties are a fantastic way to take in the sights and sounds of the city while entertaining friends and family. Before you begin staging your seasonal shindig, however, note these ten tips to make your event run smoother, and keep your guests talking for months about what an elegant host you are and fab party you throw.
1. Keep the menu simple or hire a caterer.
Entertaining at home involves more than you’d think; so if you’re a novice, don’t overextend yourself. Hire a caterer if you have the means, and if not, prepare simple dishes that can be made in advance such as crudité, a room-temperature pasta salad, or a meat, cheese, and olive antipasto. Have no idea what you’re doing in the kitchen? Head to Fairway or Whole Foods and let them do the cooking for you.
2. Decorate with potted plants and flowers.
Keep décor simple and use potted plants for greenery and to designate spaces (the bar from the seating area). Add splashes of color with potted plants. Have a black thumb? Stop by a home improvement store like Home Depot and pick up pre-potted plants.
3. Light candles.
If your party takes place in the evening, city lights will provide most of the light (it’s never completely dark in NYC), but you’ll need accent lighting for ambiance. Be generous with candles, and don’t forget the citronella to ward off pesky mosquitoes.
4. Set up seating groups.
Depending on the size of your terrace, you might have space for seating areas in various places, so organize those in advance for two, four, or six people in one grouping. If your terrace is small, try using your apartment as an extension and let your party be an inside/outside gathering. How great would it be to have a kitchen that opens to a terrace?
5. Leave space for standing and mingling.
Don’t pack your outdoor space with seating. Leave ample space for your guests to mingle and move around, because many will end up standing by choice.
6. Set up a bar.
New Yorkers like their libations, so don’t neglect the bar space. Allow enough room for visitors to congregate, which they’ll often do. If your terrace fits a large group of say, 30 or more people, you might consider setting up two small bars at opposite ends to expedite drink-making.
7. Dim interior lights.
Dim any bright lights inside your apartment, so they don’t shine through windows or doors and distract from the party scene.
Come up with various song choices to suit different tastes, but don’t play music too loud and upset your neighbors; unless, of course, you invite all the neighbors to the party.
9. Have a backup plan in case of rain.
Set a rain date for your terrace party in case Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. Or, if you’re okay with it, keep the get-together on schedule but move it inside if it rains.
10. Don’t sweat it.
No matter what, try to relax and have a good time. Hosting a party –– especially one outdoors –– won’t come without stress, but if you get your ducks in a row and stay organized, you’ll pull off your summer soiree without a hitch.