You've probably never been to one of Bronson van Wyck's fabulous parties, but you've heard of them. The Southern charmer has orchestrated some of the most celebrated, imaginative events ever: a presidential inauguration, a gala for the Whitney Museum of American Art, the opening of New York’s High Line, and some big nights for Beyoncé and Alicia Keys, to name a few.
But you don't have to be on speed dial with the Obamas to throw a bash Bronson-style. Here the man behind the curtain reveals some of his tried-and-true tricks for nailing the summer garden party.
1. Light It Up
"Lighting can be a challenge in outdoor entertaining (if only there was a dimmer for the whole backyard). I like to incorporate fire in every form—torches, bonfires, candles, lanterns, and sparklers for late night. Each one casts a different type of light and provides a glow throughout the evening. I love sparklers. The moment you hold one, you feel like a child again mesmerized by its fleeting, twinkling glow."
2. Bug Off
"Prepare for bugs. It is just a part of nature that you cannot avoid and nothing spoils your experience outdoors like a nagging gnat. I put out baskets of bug repellent spray (roll on for ladies—Off! can really ruin an outfit) and mix citronella candles with regular candles on tables and bars. I once read that vodka can help repel bugs—now that is a tip worth trying!"
3. Rainbow Bright
"Incorporate colorful straws. I like striped ones, they’re festive and are perfect for stirring drinks. And take advantage of nature and incorporate seasonal flowers, such as hydrangeas and lilacs."
4. Living Out Loud (or Outdoors)
"Use your outdoor resources: I like hanging things to dress up a party—fabric, streamers, chandeliers strung from trees. But it's also great to see something outside of its normal environment. I will roll up rugs and bring them outside and pair them with a couple of couches, and also plan for any unexpected guests to show up with lounge pillows and picnic blankets on the ground. Guests can stargaze, wee ones can snooze, and people just generally relax a bit more when their shoes are off. And that’s always a good thing."
5. How Cold? Ice Cold
"Serve food that tastes good at room temperature. Don’t stress with worrying about if your food is hot or cold. Serve fresh summertime classics like watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, corn salsa, and fried chicken. Focus your efforts on making sure the drinks are cold. I just got back from Spain where it’s so hot that they always serve drinks with extra-large cubes. They melt slower so your drink stays colder for longer. I have been pouring my latest Arrowhead Farm flavors, the Back Porch Herbal Cucumber Cooler and Jaipur Ginger Margarita by the pitcher."
6. Three's a Crowd, Four's a Party
"If extra guests turn up, plan for additional seating with lounge pillows and picnic blankets on the ground. Bring rugs from the dining room and lay them outside. Guests can stargaze, wee ones can snooze, and people just generally relax a bit more when their shoes are off and that’s always a good thing."
7. Don't Forget the Pool
"Floating lily pads or LED floating garden globes can dress up a pool a bit. I always make sure we have stacks of towels out if the heat or the cucumber coolers inspire guests to take a dip."