25 Tips For Great Outdoor Entertaining
If you’re searching for some tips for outdoor entertaining, look no further! We’ve put together an extensive collection of tips, tricks and ideas for hosting a great backyard party. These 25 tips cover everything from planning and decorating an outdoor party, to making sure your guests are comfortable, entertained and well-fed. Let’s dive right in.
The key to successful outdoor entertaining is preparation and planning. With these tips and ideas, you’ll be well-prepared and ready for anything when party time arrives.
1) Be prepared for rain, hail or shine
One of the trickiest things about outdoor entertaining is having to factor in the weather. While a sunny spring day or a warm summer evening is perfect for an outdoor gathering, there’s no telling when the weather might take a turn for the worse! So whatever the forecast, it’s best to be prepared.
You should always have a backup plan in case of sudden storms or rain. Light showers might be tolerated if you’re in a covered area, but you should also consider arranging a space indoors, where guests can retreat if staying outside is no longer possible. You may need to rearrange some furniture so there’s more space to fit everybody inside.
Wind is another element that may make outdoor entertaining a little difficult. If there’s a strong breeze, make sure everything is weighed down. Putting heavier dishes or decorative ornaments on top of things like tablecloths and napkins is a good idea.
2) Prepare the outdoor entertaining area in advance
Grass in the backyard looking a little long? Outdoor furniture looking a little dusty? If so, it’s time to start prepping your outdoor area for your gathering. Get the whole family helping out as you tick off chores like mowing lawns, sweeping patios, and wiping down furniture.
Don’t Forget To Cut The Grass!
You should also make sure you complete any little errands that will help the day run smoothly, like checking that there’s gas for the barbeque, and placing rubbish bins in easy reach for your guests.
3) Don’t forget the interior of the house
While most of your cleaning and tidying efforts will be concentrated on your outdoor area, you shouldn’t forget the interior of your home. Your guests will be popping in and out of the house occasionally, to lend you a hand or to visit the bathroom, so ensure everything’s neat and tidy.
Speaking of the bathroom: it’s a good idea to put some signs, both outdoors and indoors, pointing to the bathroom. This will help guests who aren’t familiar with the layout of your house.
4) Create invitations for your guests
Even if you’re having a relatively casual gathering, you might like to create invitations for your guests. It’s a nice touch, and can help you keep track of who you’ve invited and who has RSVPd. Plus, invitations are especially handy for outdoor gatherings, as you can include things like dress guidelines that take in weather considerations.
5) Once you’ve received RSVPs, work out how much seating you need
When you know how many guests you’ll be entertaining, make sure you have adequate seating for everybody. Introduce a mix of options: lounge and deck chairs, oversized cushions, bean bags, and benches that can be used as both seats and tables.
A Nice Touch For Your Seating Area
DIY tip: if you like the idea of a long dining table to seat all your guests, set up several folding tables and arrange a long piece of plywood over the top. Then cover with a few tablecloths, and voila – everyone can sit together and chat over the meal!
You don’t have to be a professional decorator to make your outdoor area look great. We’ve got all the outdoor decorating ideas you need to make your backyard or patio the perfect venue for a party.
6) Light it up!
Few things are more important than great lighting, especially at outdoor gatherings. As the day begins to fade, you’ll want to ensure you introduce enough lighting to your outdoor area – for both practical and aesthetic reasons.
Create A Warming Atmosphere With Candles
There’s plenty to choose from when it comes to outdoor lighting options. Here are a few great choices – try mixing and matching them for a unique effect:
- Candles: This is a classic outdoor lighting choice, and can come in many forms – pillar candles for tables, tealight candles in glass jars, outdoor glass lanterns. You can even purchase battery-operated candles, too!
- Paper lanterns: These are cheap to purchase but create a beautiful lighting effect. String them up between trees or around the patio to add some soft light to the area. Colourful lanterns will also look great during the day when they aren’t lit.
- Fairy lights: Always an effective option, fairy lights are easy to string up around your outdoor entertaining area. Plus, it’s a good chance to get extra use out some of those Christmas lights that usually only come out once a year!
- Solar lights: Scattering solar lights around the garden will mean they soak up sunlight during the day and glow beautifully once it gets dark.
7) Get creative with tableware
Putting a little extra effort into your table settings can go a long way when it comes to outdoor entertaining. There’s plenty you can do to create an effective spread, and it won’t break the bank, either!
First, choose your tablecloths or coverings. White or brown paper tablecloths are great for outdoor gatherings – they’re simple, effective, and make for easy clean-up. Placemats are also a good option if you don’t want to cover your surfaces completely.
Next, it’s time to select your tableware. There are plenty of options here. If you don’t mind the extra washing up, try mixing and matching different types of indoor tableware for an eclectic effect. For more casual gatherings, you can use colourful plastic or enamelware to make things easier to clean up. Or, if you’re concerned about waste, go eco-friendly with some stylish, biodegradable bamboo tableware.
8) Create simple yet effective centrepieces
For a bit of table decoration, throw together a few simple centrepieces. This can be as easy as showcasing your own garden by picking some fresh flowers and greens, and arranging them in a vase or tying them together.
A Colourful Centrepiece
An effective and easy centrepiece can also be made by pouring some water into glass bowls and filling with floating flowers or tealight candles. There are so many options for great centrepieces that are easy to put together, so why not get creative?
9) Try out a theme
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try introducing a theme to your outdoor gathering. General themes such as a beach or ‘bright colours’ party, or food themes such as Mexican or American BBQ, will go down a treat with your guests. Match your decorations, food and drinks to the theme, and encourage guests to dress up if they want to – especially the kids!
10) Think outside the box
When it comes to decorating for outdoor entertaining, you can really think outside the box and get extra creative. For example – instead of using eskies or ice buckets for keeping drinks cool, repurpose a quirky household item like a wheelbarrow or large plant pot.
You can also recycle vintage food tins to hold fresh garden flowers, or use clean, chalk-labelled terracotta pots for holding cutlery… The creative options are endless when it comes to decorating for an outdoor party!
11) Get crafty
Here’s one the kids can get involved with: getting crafty and creating your own decorations. Try making some paper chains or lanterns; creating your own drink tags or charms, so guests can keep track of their beverages; or making placeholders or decorative paper placemats.
Some Paper Lanterns
When you’re entertaining outdoors, you want your guests to be comfortable and have a good time. Here are a few tips on how to provide the ultimate in comfort and enjoyment for your outdoor party guests.
12) Make seating as comfortable as possible
There’s sure to be a mix of sitting and standing at your party, but when your guests do take a seat, you’ll want to be sure they’re comfortable. Make a range of seating options available, and help guests get comfy by providing plenty of cushions. Outdoor cushions are the best choice, but if you have any indoor cushions you don’t mind using outside, they can lend an especially comfortable touch to your seating.
13) Get pesky pests under control
One of the few drawbacks of entertaining outdoors is the presence of unwanted guests! Insects can unfortunately pose a problem at any outdoor gathering. Whether it’s flies or mosquitoes, pests can annoy your guests and pose a health risk by landing all over plates of food.
Incence Torches: Perfect For a Survivor Theme!
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to keep insects at bay. Light citronella candles or incense torches; place wire colanders or teatowels over food; and make sure insect repellent spray is available for guests – preferably the lightly scented kind.
14) Keep it cool at warmer gatherings
Summer is the perfect time for outdoor entertaining, but hot days and balmy nights can get a little uncomfortable outside. To keep your guests as cool as possible, make sure plenty of shade is available from trees, large umbrellas, canopies or shadecloths. It’s also a good idea to make sunscreen readily available for anyone sitting, standing or playing out in the sun.
If the weather is especially warm, providing some large electric fans might help cool down your guests. Some large, old-fashioned handheld fans would be a quirky touch, too! Icy cold drinks are always a must at summer gatherings as well – but more on that below.
15) Warm things up at cooler gatherings
You don’t have to hibernate during the cooler months – an outdoor party can be just as pleasant in winter as it is in summer. However, to make sure everyone is warm and comfortable, there are a few things you should have in place.
Add Marshmallows For A Successful Campfire
A fire pit is a wonderful addition to any backyard, and gives the feel of a cosy campfire when it’s lit up during an outdoor gathering. You can also use a couple of tall patio heaters, like the kind you see in restaurants or cafes with outdoor sections.
Another cosy addition is a few blankets or throws draped over chairs. With these, your guests can warm up without having to stand by the fire or heater.
What’s a party without entertainment? Here are some great ideas for entertaining party guests young and old.
16) Spin some party tunes.
Music can be the key to making sure your outdoor party is a hit! Set up some speakers or an old-school boombox in your outdoor area and get the tunes flowing. The easiest way to manage music is to use Spotify or your own collection in iTunes to make a playlist for the party.
If you’re really feeling old-school, hook up a record player to some boosting speakers and spin some old favourites. You can even ask guests to bring their own records for some real musical diversity.
Use A Vinyl Player For A Vintage Touch
Focus on bright, upbeat tunes for a party vibe, or relaxed, acoustic music to chill things out – whatever best suits the mood of your gathering. And whatever kind of music you choose, make sure the volume isn’t too loud. People want to hear each other while they’re chatting, after all!
17) Make sure the kids are entertained, too.
If your guests are bringing their kids to your outdoor get-together, make sure there’s no chance for them to get bored – because that’s when things can get out of hand. If little ones have plenty to do, though, there won’t be any time for them to cause trouble!
Perhaps consider creating a ‘kids’ corner’ in the backyard, where all your younger guests can congregate and play together. Put out games, paper and pencils/crayons/textas for colouring in, and fun little party favours like bubble blowers. If you’re entertaining in the height of summer, you could even set the kids up with some water balloons – just make sure they’re well away from the main entertaining area, so no unsuspecting parents get wet!
18) Set up some backyard games.
Kids aren’t the only ones who like to play! Backyard games can be a great hit at outdoor gatherings, and children and adults alike can get involved.
Badminton Is A Must-Play For Outdoor Parties
Some great yard game options include things like bocce, croquet, badminton, lawn bowls and backyard cricket, all of which you can purchase relatively cheaply. Why not make an occasion of it and hold a backyard games tournament with your guests?
Always make sure kids are supervised when playing backyard games, and in case of any mishaps, it’s a good idea to have a well-stocked first aid kit handy.
Food and drinks
Ah, the most important part of any party: food and drinks. If you’re looking for outdoor entertaining food ideas, or you’re not sure what sort of drinks to serve, read on – we’ve got you covered.
19) Don’t go overboard with the food.
When you’re entertaining outdoors, it’s a different story to hosting a regular indoor dinner party. You don’t necessarily have to serve a large, sit-down meal. Plenty of finger food will keep guests sated, and bringing out different plates consistently throughout the gathering will ensure no one goes hungry.
Mouth-Watering, Isn’t it?
Try to keep food simple, fresh and tasty. Party nibbles such as chips, dips, cheese and crackers are always popular, as are fresh fruit platters. Hot finger food can be paired with fresh salads to give the best of both worlds. And if you’re hosting an outdoor winter party with a fire pit, make sure to have marshmallows on hand for toasting!
20) Practice proper food safety.
When you’re serving food outdoors, food safety becomes even more important. Make sure any food items that need to be refrigerated are chilled on ice, and cover any dishes that might attract flies or other pests. Be sure to thoroughly clean all utensils and cooking implements, such as your BBQ, before and after use.
You don’t want to run the risk of food poisoning for you or your guests. If it’s a particularly hot day, don’t leave anything out for more than an hour or two. A meat thermometer is also a useful item to have on hand, so you’re not guessing about whether meat is cooked or not.
21) Check if your guests have any dietary requirements.
It’s a good idea to have guests specify their dietary requirements when they RSVP to your get-together. Check for food allergies or intolerances, such as gluten, nuts or dairy, and be sure to have vegetarian options on hand for any non-meat-eaters. If you are serving foods containing potential allergens, make sure they’re clearly labelled to avoid any mishaps.
Are You Also Accommodating For Vegetarian People?
22) Prepare as much food as possible in advance.
Preparation is key when it comes to hosting an outdoor gathering. In the few days leading up to your party, try to prepare as much food as possible in advance – this could even be something as simple as pre-cutting vegetables for salads, or separating meat for the BBQ into sealed containers. Remember that dessert or snack items such as slices can be pre-made and refrigerated a day or two before the event.
Salad Is Easy To Prepare
Being well-prepared will mean you won’t have to spend the whole duration of the party in the kitchen. You’ll be able to get outside and enjoy the festivities with your guests.
23) Serve a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Drinks are a must at every party, especially when you’re entertaining outdoors and it’s likely to be a little warmer. Be sure to cater to drinkers and non-drinkers alike with a mixed variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Wine, beer and cider are all good options when it comes to alcohol; they can be served as they are in cans or bottles, or you can use glass or plastic drinkware. Cocktails and spritzers are also a fun option (more on those below). For those not drinking alcohol, provide a selection of soft drinks, juices, or even a big bowl of fruity, non-alcoholic punch. And, of course, ensure water is available for everybody to drink – especially those who might need it as a countereffect for a few too many beers or wines!
24) Consider having a drinks station or a portable bar cart.
For an alternative to your standard esky or outdoor fridge, why not consider a drinks station or portable bar cart when you’re hosting an outdoor party?
A DIY drinks station can be easy to set up on its own table in your entertaining area. Simply lay out everything needed for guests to mix their own delicious drinks: glasses, ice, spirits, cocktail shaker, mixers, garnishing fruits, straws and swizzle sticks. You can keep standard beverages such as wine and beer on ice nearby for those who don’t want cocktails.
To make things even more convenient, why not create a portable bar cart – a rolling table with everything you need to make delicious beverages. You’ll be able to easily restock the cart by rolling it back into the kitchen, and you can also play the perfect host or hostess and roll it around to deliver guests their drinks.
25) Match your drinks to the weather.
When you’re entertaining outdoors, drinks can be a great way to cool your guests down in summer or warm them up in winter.
Lemonade Is The Perfect Drink For Summer
When the weather’s warmer, serve icy cold cocktails, soft drinks, beer, wine and cider. Make sure you buy enough bags of ice to keep everything cool on the day! Making fruit ice cubes is also a great idea – simply freeze some fruit and water in ice cube trays for a fruity, refreshing addition to a nice cold glass of water.
In the cooler months, warm drinks are a perfect choice for your guests. Tea and coffee are always popular choices, and they’re easy to make and serve – just stock up on teabags, instant coffee/espresso, and milk. There’s also nothing like a good hot chocolate at a winter party (with plenty of marshmallows, of course!).
For those who’d like a warm alcoholic beverage, consider making up a large batch of mulled wine. Made with red wine and brandy, and spiced with warming elements like citrus, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom, mulled wine is the perfect choice of drink for an outdoor winter party.
With all these outdoor entertaining tips and ideas, you’re well on your way to becoming the perfect host! So what are you waiting for? Get planning – you’ll be putting on an amazing outdoor party in no time.
Written by Claire Bradshaw