How to Host a Summer Soiree in Comfort and Style

Laura Fuentes Party Prep Laura Fuentes is the creator of and blogs over at, a food and active-family lifestyle blog where she shares her recipes for success both in the kitchen and in life. Laura is a full-time working mom of three kids, author of three cookbooks, has competed on Food Network (and won!), and contributes to, Huffington Post, and more. She currently resides in a small town outside of New Orleans, LA. With temperatures on the rise, many of us will be hosting outdoor soirees and BBQs this summer. As someone who feeds people outdoors often, I've learned a few tricks to do so in style and comfort while serving up a fresh variety of foods. For us Southerners, the best part of any gathering is the food, of course! But the reality is that it can be overwhelming to plan the perfect backyard menu, one that will satisfy your guests' appetites without making you (the cook) a slave to the kitchen. Laura Fuentes in Weekend Casuals Lanea Cross SlideOne of my secrets to hosting any gathering is to never wear your party ensemble while preparing food. So, here you see me in a very casual outfit with shorts because I'm usually running around the house and kitchen getting everything ready. And, thanks to my Weekend Casuals Lanea Cross Slides, I'm practically gliding in comfort while prepping the food, pulling outdoor linens and party decor outside, as well as the last minute trip to the store for that one item I always seem to forget. Planning a menu is a lot like planning the perfect outfit. Since I have the food aspect taken care of, the outfit is where I look for advice. The most difficult part, for me, is which pair of shoes to pick. I've hosted many gatherings in heels while my guests wonder how on earth I'm able to still stand hours later. I tell them that my secret at work, the office, and at home, is the built-in comfort technology in all my heels. I'm the kind of girl who likes to stick with a basic outfit and let my feet do the impressing. Best part, I don't need to trade comfort for cuteness when I wear my Rockports. Laura Fuentes in Total Motion Pointed Toe PumpsBack to the party. I had invited some friends over to show off our newly finished outdoor kitchen and to have a little fun over the weekend. Everyone brought items to barbecue, including sausage, shrimp, hamburger, and quite a few desserts. Southwest Porabello from Laura FuentesSince there is always someone who prefers vegetarian dishes, I made a Spinach and Strawberry Salad and Southwestern Portobello Burgers with Jalapeño Ranch (image above) for our party. It's safe to say that I like to feed a lot of people regularly, and over time, I've mastered the art of hosting gatherings. My top five tips for entertaining a large crowd easily are: 1. Go potluck style: Especially when inviting a lot of guests. This way, there is less pressure on the host to come up with a large serving of all recipes. 2. Pick easy recipes: Be ready for when a guest asks you the dreaded question: "what can I bring?" Having a few easy recipes available to share with them via email is always helpful. 3. Create a drink station: Whether you fill a big bucket with ice, bottles, and cans or fill large carafes with iced tea and fruit-flavored water, providing, self-serve stations are always easier on the host. 4. Offer a few pre-barbecue meal options: Like salads and guacamole that guests can nibble on while waiting for the main courses to come off the barbecue. 5. Provide heat-stable dessert options: I love serving up a large fruit salad, keeping popsicles inside a big ice bucket, and serving up a frozen watermelon salad when temperatures are hot. While brownies and cakes are delicious, they tend to melt and not be the best outdoor party option. Finally, remember that summertime is fun, light, and most importantly, requires you to be comfortable. For our party, I chose a simple summer dress, jean jacket, and my Total Motion Adelyn Ballet in Pink Floral. Laura Fuentes in Total Motion Adelyn In the end, simple, delicious food and comfortable shoes make entertaining a breeze. Discover more of Laura's delicious food on and on Instagram: @LauraSFuentes. 
This Port71 guest blogger received compensation in exchange for her post. All opinions are the blogger’s own.