One of the best things about summer is the opportunity to enjoy meals and entertaining outdoors. Whether larger gatherings with friends and neighbors or smaller, more intimate family dinners, having a meal outside makes the occasion more festive.
Here are a few tips to help make your outdoor entertaining simpler, easier, and more memorable.
Encourage guest interaction
- Use rugs, chairs, and benches to create conversation areas in your yard or patio. Umbrellas or tents help define the space, and tiki torches and lanterns provide soft illumination. Thick, comfortable cushions and pillows encourage guests to linger and chat.
- If the weather is nice, bring out furnishings—such as chairs and rugs—from inside your house to give your gathering a homey and eclectic feel.
- Set up serving tables with different foods or drinks in different areas to encourage your guests to mingle with one another.
- Providing a cart or table where guests can mix their own cocktails or drinks adds to the casual atmosphere. Place a few bowls of snacks, such as nuts or crackers, with the drinks for guests who might want a quick nibble.
Make decorating easy
- Kraft paper or butcher paper makes a quick, no-fuss way to cover a table. Provide crayons or colored pencils to encourage creativity … even if kids aren’t in attendance!
- Flowers and greenery from your yard can be placed in glass jars and used as simple centerpieces.
- Keep it casual by using plates in a mix of patterns and colors. Use (new, of course) flower pots or small pails to hold utensils.
- Christmas lights and paper lanterns add a festive touch to backyard parties and easily adapt to a variety of spaces. Use an old chandelier or light fixture wrapped in Christmas lights for overhead lighting.
- Consider using battery-operated candles to create atmosphere with-out the danger posed by a lit candle being accidentally knocked over.
No bugs allowed
- Incense sticks and citronella will help deter pesky bugs. Strategically placed fans will also help deter bugs—and keep your guests cool.
- When your guests arrive, offer them sunscreen and insect repellent. They’ll appreciate it as they enjoy the sun and avoid bug bites!
- If you’ll be grilling, be sure to test your grill a few days beforehand to make sure it works properly. A couple days before the party, clean the grill grates and get charcoal or refill the propane tank.
- Keep buffet tables out of direct sunlight. For items that need to be kept chilled, fill a large bowl with ice, sprinkle with kosher salt, then set a smaller dish with the chilled food inside. Remember to use food screens (or overturned mesh colanders) to keep bugs away.
- If you’re serving sticky foods, your guests will appreciate damp towels (paper or cloth) to wipe away any mess.