There’s nothing quite like spending time with family and friends outside when the weather is nice! For particularly creative hosts and hostesses, throwing a party outside is one of the most fun and challenging of event planning endeavors. You get to spruce up your outdoor entertaining space, create an outdoorsy menu and maybe even bust out the barbecue. If you’re new to the open-air entertaining game, we’re here to help you knock it out of the park so that you’re totally prepped to woo your guests. Be warned, though: If it’s a success, you’ll be expected to host outdoor soirees for the rest of the summer!
The challenges of partying outside, whether it’s an intimate dinner party or a full-on backyard bash, revolve around the fact that you’re, well…outside. That means the kitchen and bathroom are less accessible and that you might have to get creative if crummy weather rolls through. But as long as you’re prepared, you’ll be able to handle whatever the great outdoors throws your way. To combat all of these issues and the many others that come with outdoor fiestas, here are a few special tips for hosting an outdoor party that everyone will remember!
- Ditch the Glass But Keep it Classy—A lot of things can happen when you’re dining outdoors. Your favorite serving dish could drop and shatter to pieces. The kids might bump the table and send glasses, plates and silverware flying. And then, of course, people might forget to bring their dishes inside, leaving them to wither away in the elements. Our best piece of advice is to leave all of your good serving ware inside. Instead, use reusable plastic dishes so it won’t matter so much if something goes awry.
- Make it Hospitable When the Sun Goes Down—Be sure to consider that your friends and family will most likely stay after dark, so you should be prepared with good lights. Do your best to equip your outdoor living space with functional outdoor lighting to make sure that everyone can still enjoy the environment at night. We always recommend lining any sidewalks, stairways or walkways with landscape lights to prevent any slips and falls.
- Keep Drinks Cold and Accessible—Unless you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor fridge—and if you do, we’re jealous—then you’re probably going to need to get crafty with how you chill and serve beverages. To ensure that your guests don’t have to walk inside every time they need a drink, be sure to use ice bins for your canned and bottled drinks or serve pre-mixed beverages from drink servers that can either be chilled or can accommodate lots of ice. There are tons of creative ways you can keep drinks cool outside. We love the idea of turning an old wheelbarrow into a rustic drink cooler, for example.
- Give Yourself a Backup Plan—Even if you have a decently sized covered entertaining area, it won’t be pleasant for your guests if it’s raining or snowing. To ensure that you have your gathering on a nice day, consider adding a rain date to the invitation so that you can reschedule if it’s rainy. If you won’t be deterred by a little bit of rain, good for you! But you might want to consider investing in a covered patio so that you don’t have to worry as much the next time you want to party outside.
- Cater to Your Guests—The most important part about hosting any event, whether it’s indoors or out, is ensuring that your guests are comfortable, happy and content. For that, do everything you can to ensure that they don’t have to ask for anything. Make all of the outdoor necessities—bug spray, sunblock, blankets, etc.—readily available, and be sure that your guests know that they’re welcome to whatever they want. If it’s a large gathering, make things simple with bathroom and trash signs.
- Simplify the Menu But Keep it Creative—There’s a reason why hot dogs, hamburgers and potato chips are some of the most popular backyard foods! If you stick to a menu comprised mostly of finger foods, you won’t have to worry about silverware. If you’re not keen on the classics, or if you want to show your creative side, you can turn traditional silverware foods into handheld versions—how about some steak kabobs or mini cakes? This will simplify cleanup and keep serving uncomplicated. Remember to label all food and beverages if the food table is self-serve.
- Turn Pallets into Tables—We’ve seen some crafty entertainers do amazing things with old wooden pallets! One such example is the backyard dining table. With two pallets stacked on one another and a few outdoor cushions for seating, you’ve got yourself an extra dining area fit for the kids or anyone who doesn’t mind sitting down low! Just make sure to use water-resistant, outdoor-friendly tablecloths for a classy finishing touch.
- Look Upward for Décor—You might not have walls or ceilings outside, but you do have trees! To bring any exterior space to life, consider decorating the branches of surrounding trees with lanterns, lights and other hanging decorations that draw the eyes upward. This is a great way to help bring light to the backyard after dark, too, especially if you use string lights or meteor lights in the branches of overhead trees.
Bringing Your Own Personal Touch
At the end of the day, the things that your guests will remember the most are the little details that you put into your get-together. Be sure that you infuse a little bit of yourself into every element of the planning and don’t get too overwhelmed if things don’t go exactly according to plan. Remember, nature (and life in general) is unpredictable, so you’ve got to be willing to roll with the punches for the best outdoor occasions!