Summertime... and DIY entertaining can be easy.
The party actually started when Ferryl LeDuff hand-delivered save-the-date cards to her guests.
For LeDuff, a real estate agent with Austin Home Team, no detail or gesture was too small or ordinary when she threw a client thank-you party in early May for 26 people.
“In order to have a successful event, I knew I had to wow them,” she says.
And wow she did with a backyard garden party in the Fairway home of her business partner. As one of her guests, Jeanette Thomas, says of that magical night: “The minute I walked into the backyard, it was breathtaking.”
Everyone can entertain at home with style and simplicity, LeDuff insists, if details such as the theme, number of guests and budget are taken into account.
“Always set your budget low, because you know you’re going to go above,” she advises.
And always be ready with Plan B if Plan A doesn’t work out.
“You’re always going to stress a little bit, but you have to roll with the punches,” LeDuff says. “If your vision comes together at the very end, you’re lucky.”
Just what did LeDuff do to make her event stand out from the crowd?
In addition to the save-the-date card, which she personally delivered to emphasize the importance of her guests’ presence, LeDuff did the following:
Erected a large arrow pointing to the backyard, where a sign near the entrance welcomed guests with the words: “Thank you for coming. Glad you’re here. This way for laughter, fun and cheer.”
Hired a professional photographer because it makes guests feel special. “No more selfies,” she says.
Hired a private caterer. “I did not have to touch the food,” she says. For the actual online invitation, guests chose between two entree options.
Outsourced other food, like chocolate-covered strawberries. “Anything you don’t have to take on yourself, don’t,” LeDuff says.
Rented tents, tables, chairs and china.
Used indoor furniture as dessert or drink buffets, and a settee for a couple’s photo opportunity during the cocktail hour. “Using furniture made the party far more intimate and personalized,” she says, adding that the photos were mailed to the guests afterward as a memento of the evening.
Made drink selections simple: red and white wine, beer, lemonade and water.
Bought flowers from a wholesale florist three days before the party to give them a chance to open up. LeDuff arranged them herself to save money.
Piped in Frank Sinatra music from Pandora.
Seeing her guests’ faces as they walked into the party space made all her effort worth it, LeDuff says. Many remarked that they felt they were at a wedding, but instead of the bride and groom, they were in the spotlight.
It all boils down to creating a memorable event to make guests feel extra special, LeDuff says.
“You could rent out a restaurant space if you wanted to have a little private dinner,” LeDuff says. “You could totally do that. But are they going to remember that time when they went to the back of that restaurant and hung out for a couple of hours, or are they going to remember the time you transformed your space, your home? You invited them in your living quarters. It’s a very private thing and created this magical evening for them. They’re going to remember that.”
Ferryl LeDuff’s Source List
Private caterer — Melissa a Bottorff (former executive chef)
Photography — Tim Andersen, Andersen Images
Rental — Accent Special Event Rental
Flowers — Baisch & Skinner
Decorative accents — Tuesday Morning, Hobby Lobby and Savers
Chocolate-covered strawberries — Gigi's Cupcakes
Doughnut cake — Krispy Kreme (tier made by LeDuff)
Alcohol — Gomer’s Fine Wine and Spirits