Solutions: Get your rain plan for summer entertaining

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

When it rains, it pours — or at least that seems to be the case in Southeast Michigan this season. On one particularly wet and windy day, my family was scheduled to attend three outdoor events that all had to be adjusted in different ways because of the weather.

So, I decided to ask a couple of local pros what to do when the weather doesn’t go our way on the big day. Here are some of the suggestions:

Rick Portwood, president of Display Group in Detroit, a specialty event rental company, offers the following advice:

■If you don’t have a large home, or simply don’t want to have a bunch of people in your home, a tent is a must. It will give your guests a shaded and dry area to congregate. With Michigan weather, you never know what you’re going to get, so it’s best to plan for rain.

■Garages are a great way to expand your event space. Even the most simple of garages may be turned into a gathering spot. Portwood says they typically cover the walls (and clutter) with a simple floor-supported pipe and drape system. Drape colors may be matched to school colors if it’s a graduation party. You can add tables, bars or soft seating.

■Adding patio umbrellas or small 10-by-10 pop-up tents to patios and decks will help shield your guests from the sun or a few sprinkles.

■If you have no other choice but to have guests inside this summer, you can add drapery to cover anything you don’t want to be seen in a basement, and then add high-tops or banquet tables for seating. (313-965-3344;

Annabel Cohen, caterer and owner of Pizza @ Annabel Cohen Cooks Detroit in West Bloomfield, shares the following pointers:

■First — don’t panic. It’s a party, so don’t be so serious. Unless it’s your daughter’s wedding, you can take the outdoor party inside. If it’s a bit crowded, go with it. There’s a lot of positive energy when people are shoulder-to-shoulder.

■The key is to make an indoor space seem less crowded and keep the “flow” comfortable.

■The big message here is...make everything easier and you will stress less.

■Make everything way more casual – easy “fork” foods or “pick-up” foods, such as sandwiches (no need to have a table to park the food on), make feeding the masses simpler. If you weren’t already considering disposable dishes, think about it.

■Instead of serving a full bar (which can be complicated and take up space), consider a signature drink or simply limit the bar to bare essentials.

■Think “standing” instead of sitting. High-top tables are great for allowing people to have a spot without taking up too much room.

■Hire help. When a party is indoors, there is no room for mess. If you have a server/ helper, you can ensure the space stays tidy, so guests are comfortable and happy. (248-562-7409;

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at