The thermometer may indicate otherwise, but the time to start planning for your outdoor entertaining is now. The more you prepare ahead of time, the smoother everything will go once the weather is warm enough to start venturing outside again. If your goal is to become the place to be when it comes to hosting family and friends in your backyard, pool or patio area (not to mention the envy of the neighborhood), here are 14 helpful tips to get you started.
Think practical. Imagine how you’d plan a dinner party or other type of get together indoors and then translate that vision to your outdoor space. You want your guests to enjoy themselves, so provide them with ample places to sit, relax, converse and mingle. Outdoor furniture, such as tables, chairs, lounges, couches and side tables are all great ideas.
Make things soft and inviting. In addition to the practical purpose your outdoor furniture serves, remember to add the touch of comfort by including soft cushions that will encourage your guests to linger a little longer. As an added bonus, these types of accessories are also great for pulling together whatever look, feel and design you’re going for.
Get creative. If you’re feeling particularly crafty and ambitious (or if your budget won’t allow you to purchase that expensive set you’ve been eyeing), why not try your hand at creating your own DIY furniture? All you have to do is check Pinterest for a ton of unique, fun and easy ideas, like making tables using cinderblocks or repurposing old wooden pallets into couches or chairs. Just add a few comfy cushions and some accessories to make it complete.
Make cleanup a breeze. Many people make the mistake of thinking plastic or vinyl are the only options when it comes to outdoor table cloths. In fact, there are plenty of other options, such as brown craft paper, that offer both the practicality of easy clean up and the simple elegance you’re trying to capture with your outdoor décor.
Don’t stress about the settings. Unlike indoor soirees, outdoor dining and entertaining offers a refreshing air of casual comfort. This can also be reflected in the place settings you choose. Don’t stress about matching plates or fancy glasses. Instead, choose an eclectic mix that matches your diverse guest list.
Beat the heat. Don’t let the rising temperatures put a damper on your outdoor activities. Provide your guests with a cool oasis, even on the hottest of days, by investing in a misting system. These products are designed to keep the air crisp without getting everything wet, and they’re the perfect solution to those dog days of summer. As an added bonus, misting systems can also dramatically cut down on pesky seasonal bugs.
Keep the menu simple. For outdoor dining, especially when the temps are on the rise, don’t go overboard on heavy food or complex dishes. Instead, opt for cooler, lighter selections that incorporate the tastes of the season, such as fresh fruits and delicious, seasonal veggies. Don’t forget to stock up on cold, refreshing drinks as well.
Go undercover. Nobody will want to stick around your outdoor dinner party if they’re being scorched by the sun. Furthermore, sudden, unexpected rain showers could easily dampen your good time. A quality patio umbrella or strategically placed shade sail can offer shelter from the elements and help you avoid a disappointing turnout. And since these items come in a variety of styles and colors, they’ll give your space some personality.
Set up areas to encourage conversation. You want your guests to mingle and enjoy their time together, right? Why not make it easier and more natural to do this by strategically planning the layout of your outdoor space? Set up a sitting area with chairs and side tables so people can relax and have a place to rest their hors d’oeuvres and drinks while they chat with one another. Bonus: having a few separate areas like this will encourage guests to roam and mingle even more.
Keep cocktails flowing. Remember to keep your outdoor bar stocked with all the essentials, including glasses, napkins, ice, swizzle sticks and a shaker. This will ensure that your guests enjoy a steady flow of their drink of choice without the interruption of having to run inside and restock. If your budget allows, you may even want to consider hiring a bar tender to take care of this part. That way you can relax and enjoy yourself as you mingle with your guests.
Don’t forget the accessories. What table is complete without a lovely centerpiece? What about your other outdoor furniture, like chairs and couches? What accessories can you add that will really pull the look together and make your guests say ‘wow’?
Warm things up. If your get together is planned for the evening hours, or it’s getting later in the season and temps are starting to drop, keep your guests toasty and comfortable by incorporating heat into your outdoor space. There are a number of options available for this, including patio heaters, fire pits and outdoor fireplaces. Whether it’s taking the chill out of a cool spring or summer night or extending your outdoor entertaining into the colder months, your guests will thank you.
Keep food safe, protected and fresh. Warm temperatures can make it challenging to serve cold dishes, such as salads and dips. Not to mention the bugs that will inevitably want to join the party. Place cold items over bowls filled with ice sprinkled with sea salt and use mesh colanders to keep insects from getting at the food.
Offer activities for younger guests. If your guest list includes families with children, make sure there’s plenty of stuff to keep the younger crowd entertained. Consider age-appropriate options, such as balls and bubbles for little ones and games, like volleyball, badminton, Frisbee and bocce for the older ones. Don’t be surprised if some of your adult guests who are kids at heart also want to join in!
When it comes to outdoor entertaining, it’s never too soon to start planning ahead. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your outside parties will go off without a hitch. Cheers!