Summer Nights, Part 2: The Easiest Dinner Party Ever

*Thank you to Dillard’s for sponsoring this post. This post includes affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission from purchases made through them.*

Today I’m finishing up my “Summer Nights” series (read Part One here) with lots of ideas for hosting the easiest dinner party that’s all about savoring these late July evenings. As I said in Part One, it’s too hot to work that hard right now, so hostessing this time of year should be super simple.

Once again, I turned to Dillard’s to help set the scene. When Hugh and I did our IG Live in May, I discovered (and became an evangelist for!) the Southern Living Collection. The quality and price point are fantastic (the placemats on this table are $5 each), and Dillard’s kindly sent me several of these pieces to set my table. Of course, the decor is only half the battle because you also have to feed your guests. While I rarely cook, I do have several menus that I rely on again and again for entertaining and I’ve shared them here. Basically everything is store-bought, and I promise that people always leave my house happy and full. Read on for all of these tips and tricks, and soak up these summer nights, y’all! Fall is just around the corner.


Simplicity is the name of the game when it’s 100 degrees outside. For an easy table that’s still impactful, let the linens do the talking. Select a pretty tablecloth and napkins in a bold pattern and there’s absolutely no need for over-the-top florals or décor. Navy is great because it’s a year-round shade; this table would be just as lovely in October or November as it would in March or April. The wooden bowls are a fun point of contrast and coordinate nicely with my wrapped glassware. This is a mostly blue and white setup, but even on a monochrome table it’s important to include an accent color to make everything pop. The bowls and glassware do that perfectly.  

As for “florals,” I simply used the potted mini trees that already live on my outdoor table + hydrangea blooms cut from the garden (nothing fancy). If you’re dining outside, don’t even waste your money on special arrangements that will just melt away in the heat. I love the idea of using greenery for a table like this: green moss in ceramic pots (it lasts forever), potted herbs, eucalyptus, etc.



Don’t even think of turning on that stove! Everything here is store-bought or assembled; it’s the essence of my motto, “southern charm without lifting an arm.” Bon appétit!

  • BLTA & Sides. We’re in peak tomato season, so celebrate it with Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato-Avocado sandwiches. No “cooking” required except frying up the bacon which you can do ahead of time. Throw the sandwiches together yourself, or you can even set this up “self-serve” style and have people make their own. Offer store-bought pimento cheese with crackers and crudités, along with kettle-cooked chips (e.g. Cape Cod or Zapps) and you have a meal that screams summer.
  • Caprese Salad & Chilled Soup. Again, tomato season is upon us so assemble an easy caprese salad and serve it alongside a chilled soup (store-bought, of course). Chilled pea soup, cucumber yogurt soup, gazpacho…there are tons of options and I bet your local gourmet takeout has multiple choices this time of year (for Nashville friends, Dozen Bakery, Picnic Café, Tin Wings, and Corner Market all have great options). If you want to make it yourself, here are several ideas from Food & Wine.
  • Taco Bar. In her book, The Cocktail Party, celebrity caterer Mary Giuliani sets up a Cinco de Mayo fiesta using take out from Chipotle. If she can do it, so can we! Get all of the fixings for a taco or fajita bar from your favorite Tex-Mex place and call it a day. Everyone will lose their minds – who DOESN’T have fun eating chips and guac washed down with a margarita?
  • Pizza Night. Speaking of crowd pleasers, it doesn’t get much better (or easier) than pizza (DeSanos is my pick for Nashville-area folks). Offer a nice green salad alongside and perhaps a charcuterie board to round it all out. All you’re doing is assembling – no cooking at all!
  • Quiche. I love breakfast for dinner and as far as I’m concerned, quiche is appropriate for any meal of the day. There are so many delicious to-go quiches in the Nashville area (basically everywhere on this list has them); it’s the perfect thing to buy and re-heat at home. (Or not! Quiche is also great at room temp.) For those outside of Nashville, Southern Baked Pie ships Spinach & Mushroom and Sausage & Onion quiches nationwide (they also offer both regular and gluten-free crust). All you need to add is a salad (arugula + shaved parmesan dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of salt/pepper takes fewer than 5 minutes to put together).

And for dessert? Caroline’s Cakes, of course! My favorite option for gorgeous sweets that taste as good as they look.

*All photos courtesy of Lele Fain Photography*

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