Thinking of hosting a porch party? Erin Bellinger offers these two nuggets of advice: Keep it simple, and if people offer to help, let them! You'll have a better time if you don't have to do it all.
Some other tips:
— Decide what kind of party you're throwing. Is it a beer-and-chip kind of evening? Are kids invited? Are you planning to prepare all the food yourself? Answering these questions will determine everything from your shopping list to the decor to the amount of notice you need to give guests (finding a babysitter can take time). If everyone knows what to expect, no one will be disappointed.
— Make a list and assign some of the hosting tasks. Your significant other/child/next-door-neighbor can replenish the chip dish, clear away trash or refill the cooler as well as you can — maybe even better.
— Be cognizant (and sympathetic) of food allergies and restricted diets. Some can't eat wheat or don't want to eat meat. Have at least one gluten-free nibble for folks with wheat sensitivities and remember there are a lot of vegetarians among us, too. Also, be sure to provided seltzer, lemonade, soda or a nonalcoholic cocktail.
— Speaking of alcohol, a safe bet is three drinks and 1 1/2 pounds of ice per person. A bottle of wine yields between four and five glasses, while a 750-ml bottle of spirits will make about 16 drinks.
— Think easy, hand-held and cool or room temperature when it comes to food — things that are good for grazing instead of eating on a plate with a knife and fork.
— Be kind to your guests by providing a can of nice-smelling bug spray for those bare ankles and shoulders.
— Opt for paper plates. It's summer! Who wants to be stuck in the kitchen washing dishes?
— Take some shortcuts, such as using prepared appetizers or a store-bought desserts.
— Relax, and don't fret if the crowd spills out from your porch onto the lawn. This year especially, a porch party is about having fun, connecting with the people you love and celebrating the fact we can all be together once again.