It is surely no surprise that I enjoy black-tie events. As host or guest, at an intimate dinner party or grand gala, I love that special air of excitement, the meticulous attention to detail, the cleverness with which the prescribed theme or mood is set, and the elegance of the guests in their evening finery. But I’m equally a fan of more casual entertaining, especially throughout the summer months when, awash in sunshine or moonlight, the party can move outside.
Over the years, I’ve learned that the rules defining successful formal affairs apply equally to more laid-back summer fêtes. As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. Planning everything down to the smallest touches is essential. Is there a specific colour that will help set the perfect ambience? (I’ll confess I always manage to incorporate my favourite, pink.) What about unique place cards and coordinating menus with custom calligraphy? A carefully choreographed seating plan ensures the ideal mix of guests for lively conversation at every table. Flower arrangements are always a focal point, and creating just the right combination is so easy with summer’s abundance of multi-hued blooms. I’m partial to roses, peonies, lilies, and hydrangeas.
Whatever I’m planning, I always set a theme. Sometimes, of course, the theme is predefined, like a birthday bash, a Canada Day celebration, or, as I’m currently in the midst of shaping, a baby shower. To make the afternoon get-together distinctive, we’re theming all of the food around pending motherhood. Among the delectable treats guests will be nibbling on: phyllo–feta “Bundles of Joy” and pâte à choux “Baby Bumps.”
Choosing the best outfit for a summertime party requires a careful blending of style and comfort. I usually prefer light dresses—think the nature-inspired charm of Istanbul’s Gül Hürgel and the sophisticated verve of fashion editor-turned-designer Lisa Marie Fernandez—or a breezy caftan. My go-to choices are Taj by Miami-based Italian designer Sabrina Crippa and Camilla from Australian artist and designer Camilla Franks. Smart sandals work day or night, and this season I’m taken with the ingenious new collection from Jasmin Larian Hekmat’s Cult Gaia and the clear slides from New York’s Maryam Nassir Zadeh.
Whether welcoming guests to our Toronto home, our Caribbean getaway
in Lyford Cay, or our Muskoka cottage—where, every July, dreaming up new twists for our lakeside barbecue is my biggest, most exciting challenge—summer entertaining has a magical appeal all its own.