Summer Social

Two entertaining gurus guide us on hosting polished and festive soirees

then negotiates pricing. Bolton, who has produced events for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, United Negro College Fund, and Morehouse College, believes invitations convey the mood of the event–through the use of color, typography, and paper finish–as does the venue. For an afternoon tea with a featured artist, Bolton might employ white linen tablecloths with a floral motif and lace overlays, then craft a layered invite of pearl white or ivory paper with a similar floral abstract pattern. The invitation would be creased into a gatefold with a script font. Bolton budgets $8 to $20 per invite and has them delivered four weeks to six weeks before the event with an RSVP deadline two weeks out. “If I haven’t heard from [an invitee], I call.” For more insight on invitations and paper varieties visit

Small details count. Bolton says hosts often overlook several important details: timing what should be short speeches or greetings, identifying who will offer the blessing, and marking time for the toast. “Never allow caterers to strike or dismantle stations while guests are still present,” says Bolton, emphasizing that even the close on a social should be planned. “Initiate the close by moving to your takeaway gift.” He says an autographed bestseller or limited edition print, music CD, and a bottle of exquisite wine are premium takeaways. Bolton likes to organize a group photo and sends each guest a print as a thank you.

Hire support staff for more than eight guests, suggests Montier. “As the host, you improve the experience by being present with your guests–especially if entertaining executives. Remember that you are doing this to enhance relationships.” For inspiration Montier suggests: Larousse Gastronomique: The World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia by Larousse Librarie (Crown Publishing; $85), The New Low-Country Cooking by Marvin Woods (Morrow Cook Books; $27.50), and Event Planning Made Easy by Paulette Wolf and Jodi Wolf (McGraw-Hill; $24.95). There is also Small Bites, Big Nights (Clarkson Potter; $30) by executive chef Govind Armstrong

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