If you’ve lived in Austin for any length of time, there’s a good chance you know at least one of the Sayers. Julie and Scott built their home on Lake Austin back in 1998 with entertaining in mind, and in the years since they’ve built a reputation for throwing some of the best parties in town. Their two doe-eyed daughters Samantha and Charisse could almost pass as twins, but it’s Charisse who’s made a living out of the family gift for hosting. She’s the founder of Big Little Event, where she acts as a both a private concierge and event planner. Years of working in the restaurant industry have allowed her very special relationships with many of the best restaurants and chefs in town. “Just tell me a little about your event — guest count, type of service, budget, etc — and I’ll help find you an available venue that fits your event needs,” she says. Since the Sayers’ 4th of July party is the stuff of Austin legends, we couldn’t resist Charisse’s invitation to visit the family hacienda. Scroll down for a little taste of how the Sayers celebrate the 4th on Lake Austin (and start vying for your invitation this year.)
Charisse, we’re kind of in love with your family home. Major San Miguel vibes. Tell us a bit about the history of the house. What do you love about entertaining there?
My parents built this house in 1998 with Gary Furman and David Dagleish. It was an empty lot that wasn’t very pretty, to be honest, but my dad had a vision and it’s one of the best lots in town (I’m pretty biased, though). It’s made to entertain as every room faces the lake or lets out onto a patio. They throw parties often, the biggest being my sisters’ wedding in 2007 and the annual 4th of July party.
What do you love about what you do at Big Little Event?
I love that I get to meet new people all the time. I currently live next door to my sister, a block away from my childhood home, and my parents live about a mile away — so I love to get out of my bubble! From colleagues in the industry to people that have just moved here, everyone in Austin now is a creative and brings something to the table.
Charisse served her guests jalapeño fried chicken, bounty salad, turkey sandwiches, and fresh watermelon, all from one of her favorite clients Forthright Café in Austin.
How long has your family been hosting the annual 4th of July bash? What makes it so much fun?
My parents have been hosting their huge 4th of July party for over twenty years. We’re so lucky to have such a fabulous home on the water where we can have a big group, but still seems intimate. Kids play with sparklers, parents cocktail and fireworks are always the grand finale!
It just so happens that I volunteered to take on the Tarrytown 4th of July Parade three years ago. I plan it with a good friend, Sarah Cain. So between the parade and the party, the Sayers family loves the 4th of July.
It’s such a relaxed and happy holiday where everyone is in a good mood!
What’s the one taste you’re always craving?
Spicy. I need something with heat — I’m a true Texan!
Do you reference any family traditions when you entertain?
My mom loves a good theme as well and I get my sense of style from her. That often transfers over into décor and we might do a funky centerpiece or plating to keep it going.
What would we never find at one of your parties?
A guest feeling left out. I try to invite guests that will get along with one another and be engaging throughout the evening. No one leaves a guest in the corner!
What’s the one entertaining rule you never break?
Don’t try to cook something new. Make something familiar and a crowd pleaser. That way you can chat with your guests more and aren’t anxious throughout the dinner. An anxious host makes for anxious guests.
What’s always in your fridge?
Sparking water of some sort (Topo Chico, La Croix, Waterloo), raw deal from Wheatsville, eggs, parmesan, greek yogurt. I don’t really keep too much since I’m out and about a lot, and love trying new restaurants.
Describe your perfect lakeside party playlist:
I’m rarely asked to provide the music for an outing, but my ideal playlist is a mix of Hall + Oats, Huey Lewis and the News, Backstreet Boys, Beach Boys, Rob Baird, Robyn… It’s a very eclectic mix, but I play what makes me happy.
What/where was one of the best meals of your life that you’ll never forget?
I’ve eaten at some really good restaurants that definitely stand out, but the one coming to mind is my first meal at Uchiko, right after I’d been hired there. It was the first time I think I really tasted good food, if that makes sense. I knew so little at the time about sushi, quality service, good wine and sake, but I had a crash course in about a week.
Who are your dream dinner party guests?
Kelly Ripa, Andy Cohen, Jessica Fertitta, Amy Poehler, Oprah, P. Diddy, Tina Fey, Molly Shannon, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Harrison (I want to ask about ALL the bachelor/bachelorette secrets)… basically, I want to laugh!
What is your entertaining style in five words or less?
Make it look easy.
Waterskiing or wake boarding?
Haha neither, I actually never learned how to do either. I was always the driver for others, so I can tell you how to get up, but that’s about it.
Favorite after-dinner activity or game?
Patio party questions — go around in a circle asking everyone fun innocent questions about themselves. Favorite concert? Best meal? Best Christmas present? First or worst date?
Fill in the blank: “It’s not a party without ____________.”
Thank you Charisse and the entire Sayers family for giving us a peek into your legendary 4th of July!
follow Charisse at @biglittleeventaustin