Not that you need an excuse to host an outdoor cocktail party during the summer, but if you’re looking for a fun theme, why not plan a party for this year’s summer solstice with a nod to Scandinavian tradition?

A pagan-originated celebration, “Midsommar Eve” marks the start of summer and the longest day of the year. In Scandinavia, it’s one of the biggest holidays of the year. People across the region celebrate with copious amounts of herring, vodka, aquavit shots, raucous singing, and a dance around a maypole.

Welcome the warmth with a party inspired by our upscale take on the tradition:

Welcome the Season

When — Host your Midsommar Evening on a weekend as close to June 21 as possible. You might want to pencil in a rain date or consider renting a tent in case of summer showers.

Who — Invite all your friends to join you in their summer cocktail best to celebrate the start of the season, and include an explanation of the holiday in your invitation.

Party Provisions

Swanky Summer Scene — A great trick to create an upscale feel for your festivities is to bring the inside out! Think about setting up your dining room table and chairs outdoors under a canopy or tree lit with party lights. Or drape folding tables with long white tablecloths and rent pretty outdoor chairs. Celebrate nature with tabletop topiaries, greenery, and loose floral arrangements. Include some candles to add a dramatic touch.

Hanging canopies or sheer linen curtains from string that’s tied tree-to-tree surrounding your party area is a great way to create a focal point for the festivities. Cluster votive candles and hurricanes on trays around the perimeter for a beautiful glow when the sun goes down.

Fix the Feast — Depending on your outdoor entertaining setup and the size of your guest list, you can opt to host a glamorous sit-down dinner or keep it simple with a cocktail party buffet. Either way, stay on theme with inspiration from Scandinavian cuisine. Salmon is an easy, accessible go-to. Prepare a platter of gravlax with traditional toppings like capers, cucumber, red onion, grainy mustard, crème fraiche, and rye toast. Or fire up the grill and pull out your grill-ready cedar planks for my Grilled Cedar Plank Salmon.

Pair with potato salad or roasted baby potatoes, a large green salad, and crusty bread. If you’re doing a buffet, include additional seafood such as shrimp or crab cocktail —and don’t forget the Swedish meatballs! Set up a dramatic and unique crudité display of tall, clear, glass vases lined up and filled with veggies including lightly steamed asparagus spears, green beans, colorful baby peppers, or other fresh farmers market finds.  Lend a Swedish note to your cheese board with a good gouda and lingonberry jam.

Celebrate Solstice

Cocktails — Vodka-based punch is a great idea for your Swedish-inspired menu. Store summery fruit juice mixers in a gorgeous tabletop beverage dispenser, and have some Aquavit on ice handy if the inspiration strikes! Make sure to also have pitchers of water on tables so guests can serve themselves.

The Perfect Playlist — Try a simple Spotify summer party mix piped outside to liven the mood. Or, take a chance on an Abba Pandora playlist.

Toast to the Season — Scandinavians usually celebrate around a big bonfire, but if you’ve got a fire pit out back, that’ll do just fine. Be sure to stock it with wood or create a fire ring with bricks and gravel in a section of your yard. As the day winds down, gather guests around to toast to the start of a long and luxurious summer season!

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