An entertaining pro tells us what we really need for an easy outdoor party.

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated July 24, 2018
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Maman/Elisa Marshall

To figure out how to host a summer party that's truly effortless, we turned to a party pro who always manages to make entertaining look easy. Elisa Marshall, the founding partner and owner of Maman in NYC, is used to hosting events, with everything from bridal showers to birthdays taking place in the bakery's gorgeous outdoor garden (check it out on Instagram). As a perpetual party planner, Marshall knows a thing or two about hosting a stress-free party, so we asked her for her top tips and favorite party supplies. Below, she tells us how to make a party feel more like fun and less like work, plus five party essentials every hostess should have on hand. When your home is stocked with these entertaining essentials, you'll be ready for friends to swing by all summer long.

Let Your Guests Help Out

"There's no shame in taking your guests up on their offer to help, and many, like myself, quite enjoy it," Marshall assures us. "This will not only allow you to enjoy the company of your guests more, but also makes everyone feel like they contributed to the success of the party."

An added bonus: "You will be inclined to host more often, especially if you don’t wake up to the dreaded pile of dishes the next morning. Some of my most fun evenings have been spent with my girlfriends, lots of wine, and doing dishes after a delicious meal."

Make Dessert a Potluck

"My favorite trick is to take one course of the meal and turn it into a potluck," Marshall recommends. It's easiest to do with drinks or dessert.

"Ask your guests to each bring a sweet that sparks up nostalgic summer memories. A dessert could very well be something store-bought for the culinary impaired, but let’s hope they surprise you with a rendition of their grandmothers’ strawberry cheesecake. Enjoying these sweet treats and sharing memories around the table can create some of the richest conversations of the evening and finish the event on a memorable sweet note," she says. Bonus: There's one course you didn't have to think about at all.

Keep these tips in mind, then stock up on the effortless party essentials, below.

Houzz

1
A Tiered Stand

"For a beautiful table or food station, I love creating various heights. I invested in a beautiful three-tiered stand perfect for an assortment of mini sweets for dessert, fresh fruits for brunch, or even a beautiful tower of cheese, meats, and breads! This makes a beautiful centerpiece on your table and an effortless 'wow' factor!" she says. And it doesn't stop being useful when the party's over: "Even better, it can double in your home when not entertaining to serve as a fruit 'bowl' on your kitchen counter or to hold glasses and small kitchenware." 

To buy: $88, houzz.com

Grain & Vine

2
Plenty of Wine

"When you love entertaining, you must always have wine on hand," Marshall says. "A current favorite of mine is from Jaques Florent. Not only does it come in the most beautiful eco-friendly packaging, but it is delicious and a perfect size for sharing!"

To buy: $33, grapevine.com

Williams Sonoma

3
A Drink Dispenser

"Pre-batching cocktails is my go-to when entertaining for groups," Marshall says. "It takes the stress off having to make on 'order' cocktails for all your guests!" And an added benefit: "It's also great to use for water for yourself on the kitchen counter to ensure you are getting your 8 glasses a day!" 

To buy: $120, williams-sonoma.com

Alice Carfrae/Vivi et Margot

4
Wooden Cutting Boards

"These are a staple for me for entertaining! You will use these over and over again to serve bread, mini canapés, or on the table for platters of cheese, charcuterie, fruit, etc. They can also double as beautiful decor pieces when not in use, like hanging it on the wall in your kitchen. One of my favorite is from Vivi et Margot." 

To buy: $125, vivietmargot.com

Paper Source

5
Take Home Containers

"If you are like me, food is always at an abundance, and there are always lots of leftovers at my dinner parties. To not waste (or just to gift some homemade goodies), I love sending my guests home with extras—and of course beautifully packaged. I love having on-hand in my pantry some boxes and bags that are easy to grab, pack, and go." Instead of plastic storage containers, Marshall stocks up on treat boxes that look adorable and that she won't mind parting with. 

To buy: $7, papersource.com