Whether you’re having a summer party at your home, yacht, or at a  venue, the best time to plan is at least six months from the date. Maureen Woodman of Woodman’s of Essex talks about how to plan a great summer party, including creating back-up plans. Listen or read to find out more about summer parties.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher and I’m here today with Maureen Woodman from Woodman’s of Essex, a restaurant and catering company in Essex, Massachusetts. Today, we’re talking about how to choose a venue for your summer event. Welcome, Maureen.

Maureen Woodman: Hi, John. Thanks for having me.

John: Sure. Maureen, what types of catered events do people tend to hold in the summertime?

Maureen: Well, of course, your summer company outing, I think that’s pretty much the mainstay. Birthdays, rehearsal dinners, beach parties, get togethers with your summer friends if you live in a beach community in the summer, or like down on Cape Cod or anywhere on Cape Ann. I think a lot of times, it’s a nice wave, if there’s a boating group of people. I think people just really associate clambake with summertime, for sure.

John: Yes, we have those holidays: Memorial Day and Labor Day, the July 4th weekend, of course. There’s a lot of holidays in the summer there naturally that …  where people are thinking about getting outside and doing something like a clambake, which is really an outdoor type of party, isn’t it?

Maureen: Sure. I think it’s a very traditional red, white and blue [laughs] holiday from Memorial Day right through Labor Day, absolutely.

Summer Party Venue Options

John: Right. What are some venue options for the summer parties and events?

Maureen: The best venue options, I always think, with a clambake or a party, you want to be close to the water. There’s some beautiful yacht clubs and parks, all up and down the coastline, from Cape Cod all the way up to Cape Ann and even in the lower parts of New Hampshire. We do a lot of catering there. We do some catering down in Rhode Island on the water and Narragansett as well.

I think people love that environment, of course, if you have a beautiful yacht or if you do have a summer home. People have a tendency to have them there, but most people really want to try to have that party outside or some area where they can put a large tent up.

Hosting a Party at Home

John: If I do want to host the event myself at my house or my backyard, what are some of the things that I might want to consider?

Maureen: I think the biggest thing is, do you have a nice flat surface? How many people are you going to have? Can I put up a tent up in case it rains? Am I going to have to rent some tables and chairs unless I have enough stuff in the house — because you do have to sit down with the clambake — the kind of food that you really can’t eat too much of it standing up. I think you have to have a backup plan if it did rain or maybe pick a rain date, if you’re planning on being outside. It’s always nice to have not too many insects around if it’s [laughs] outside.

You might want to call your exterminator and have them spray the yard before the people come. If you have a fan that you can put in the tent area, it’s nice to have electricity. Make sure you have enough refrigeration for the ice and stuff. I think that’s always a plus if it’s at your house. But other than that, it’s a nice backyard party if you have a lovely yard to have it in.

How to Plan a Clambake

John: If I’m going to go with a separate event venue, what are some of the things that people should be looking for in getting a summer event venue?

Maureen: Make sure it’s big enough. I think a clambake in the summer has a lot of movement. It’s the kind of food that’s not really served to you, so there’s buffet tables available. People go up in courses, you want to have some nice meandering room where you can go. The other thing is you really want to only have about eight people at a table, six to eight, people because a clambake makes a huge mess on the table.


Maureen: You seem to need more space than if you were just eating off a regular dinner plate, you have a lot of discard bowls for the shells, usually have broth and butter cups, oyster crackers. There’s just a lot napkin and wet naps. There’s just a lot of stuff. I think you need more space, actually, when you’re looking at your venue. That would be my advice. Then of course, make sure it has air conditioning if it’s somewhere inside so if you get a heat wave in July and August that you won’t be so, so hot.

When to Book a Summer Party

John: Right. How long before a summer event should I book a venue?

Maureen: I would say, right now that a really good venue’s probably going six months to one year out. Again, there’s more dates that are popular in the summer, like we’ve said, the holidays have a tendency to book up really quickly. I think a lot of people like to have a catered event on a Sunday in the summer, I feel like people are getting away a lot from Saturdays because everyone’s still working or trying to get their house in order

But I think those Sundays — How many Sundays are there really in the summer? 10? Between Father’s Day and Labor Day, there’s not that many. I think if you know when you want to have the party I would be calling about a year out.

Woodman’s for Catering

John: How many parties on a given Sunday in the summer do you guys cater at once?

Maureen: At Woodman’s on Sunday, I would say we do about 10 on Sundays. Saturdays and Sundays, somewhere between 10 and 15. Friday would be more busy for corporate outings, we seem to do a lot of company parties on Friday. Sometimes we do private parties on Friday night, but most of the really good family parties I feel seem to happen on a Sunday.

John: All right. That’s great information, Maureen. Thanks again for talking with me today.

Maureen: Okay, John. Thanks for having me.

John: For more information about Woodman’s catering services, visit the Woodman’s website at Woodmans.com or call 978-768-2559.

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