Planning An Anniversary In Style

Our years are punctuated by celebrations. When we gather together for special occasions, we should remember the good company, the beautiful setting, and the delicious food. And everyone should have a stress-free day – including the host and hostess.

glassesPLANNING THE MENU. Following the adage that you should never try out a new recipe when cooking for company, we looked through our “recipe file” and prepared some of our readers’ favorite dishes. based on those recipes, we created a seasonal menu that’s simple to prepare and easy to serve-even in the large quantities required to satisfy a crowd. With a selection of country breads, cheeses, olives, and other nibbles purchased from your local gourmet shop or supermarket and the addition of a spiral-cut ham that can be ordered by mail and warmed in your oven on the morning of the party, we’ve assured that there’s plenty of food on hand for everyone to enjoy.

CHOOSING A LOCATION. Although a vast expanse of lawn provides the ideal party venue for our informal buffet, a private backyard, a secluded patio, or an ample deck or porch can also be configured in a festive fashion. Give guests the freedom to help themselves to whatever they choose (no need to worry about spilling something on the rug), and offer them the convenience and conviviality of gathering around a well-laid table rather than balancing plate and glass as they eat.

SETTING THE SCENE. We coordinated the setting and service of our anniversary celebration. She offers the following tips for easy entertaining:

Use things already on hand in creative new ways. For our party, a variety of tables were pulled from the house and the barn to create a buffet that presented distinct “stations” devoted to finger foods, main dishes, desserts, and so forth. The mix of styles provided an interesting surface for the food, and the space between the tables made it possible for guests to serve themselves at their leisure, without standing in a long buffet line. The table used to present the cake even had a shelf beneath it that offered storage for the dessert plates and silver.

* A washtub on wheels (an antiques-show discovery) served as a portable ice bucket big enough to chill champagne for a crowd.

* A vintage bread box became a stylish bread server.

* The collection of baskets used to carry stacks of glasses, plates, and silver from house to backyard took their place right on the buffet.

* The covered glass jar used to chill the fruit compote made an attractive container from which to serve it.

Plan as far ahead as possible. If you have room to store them, buy useful things in multiples when you see them priced reasonably at flea markets, tag sales, or antiques shops.

(Today’s prices may seem like a bargain a year from now!)

* For wineglasses, we used basic barware by Libby. Simple and durable, these glasses can be purchased by the case and used time and time again.

* Our 16 matching bluegreen chairs were lucky finds, purchased from a sale at a New England inn several years ago with no special purpose in mind. A collection of mismatched sidechairs would do the job well, too.

Incorporate the best nature has to offer into both the menu and the decor. Always look at the overall view and take advantage of unexpected options.

* A field of corn serves as the backdrop for our long dining table, and fresh-cut hydrangeas from Peri’s garden were used to make the simple, yet elegant, centerpieces.

* When Peri opened the barn doors, the building’s functional contents became a decorative element.

* The buffet of seasonal dishes was served in abundance on a natural surface of cabbage leaves, in “bowls” made from seasonal produce, and on simple trays. No extra flowers were needed.

When planning a party for friends and family, you can feel free to use your imagination, relax, and have fun. After all, anniversaries are times for reflection, occasions for remembering, looking forward, and celebrating with the people we care about most. Happy anniversary, and enjoy the party!


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