Tips on Outdoor Entertaining by Kelli McDonald, Creative Director for LuxeYard
Summertime is upon us and that means inviting friends and family over for afternoons and evenings spent outdoors dining and relaxing. It’s one of my favorite times of year. I have fond memories of growing up in the South where the sound of the cicadas ushered in the long evenings ahead of us, serenading us while we sat outdoors with friends and family enjoying lazy suppers and each other’s company. June bugs would dance around us, and rather than irritate us, they seemed to mark the pinnacle of the season and fill us with wistfulness, knowing that another season was slowly marching along.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in the South with an etiquette school instructor for a Grandmother, but I try to incorporate as much gracious living into the events that I host at my home rather than focus on the newest fad in outdoor entertaining. Light up ice cubes are cute and kitschy but a successful dinner party they do not make. Below are a few tips that I try to adhere to when I’m hosting outdoor dinners and events. A lot of them are common sense but it’s surprising when we forget the little things that make a big difference and go a long way to ensure not only the comfort of our guests, but their enjoyment as well.
What are some of your best tips for outdoor hosting?
1. Use citron candles or torches to repel mosquitoes – they not only add a wonderful atmosphere to the party but keep those pesky insects at bay without putting your guests under a cloud of chemical bug repellants.
2. Make sure you have enough seating – everyone will need a place to sit down and enjoy their meals to avoid the potential spill and the discomfort of eating while standing. Be mindful that most outdoor furniture is uncomfortable to begin with, so try to pad your seats with colorful cushions to add a flair to your décor and an extra level of comfort to your guests.
3. If you are going to barbecue, be sure to have plenty of paper napkins and wipes on hand. Not only will you protect your good cloth napkins, you’ll save your guests the embarrassment of sticky fingers if they have to shake hands with a new acquaintance. As an added tip – put a small selection of toothpicks at each table in a nice looking dish or small vase.
4. To keep the event feeling relaxed and casual, don’t use your best china. If the worst happens and something irreplaceable gets broken, your guest will feel terrible and you’ll be out of a treasured family heirloom. Instead, use sturdy, elegant looking plastics or heavier, less expensive plates made out of ceramics.
5. To add to the evening ambiance, consider a portable fireplace or fire pit lined with fireproof stones or glass. Many of these items used to be extremely pricey but decent models are now available for less than $150. These types of accessories give an added feeling of inclusion and coziness to your guests,
not to mention provide an extra source of light and heat if it gets too dark and too chilly.
6. Remember to groom your lawn and yard at least a day before guests come over. Not only will some guests have allergies to freshly mown grass or other dirt and dust that might be circulating in the air but give your yard 24 hours to mellow out after all the hard work you put into curating it. Use this time too, to think about the best placement for lawn ornaments, fountains or birdhouses—on display, but not in the way. My Grandmother always said “there’s a place for everything, and everything in its place”. Use this time to find places for your outdoor decorations.
7. If your event is going to be during the day, be sure to provide your guests with decent protection from the sun in either the form of an awning or umbrella, especially if children are coming over. Keeping sunscreen on hand is an added bonus to let guests know you care about their health and comfort.
8. In addition to providing your guests protection from the sun, if your event is going to be during the day, make sure to have plenty of beverages and refreshments on hand so no one becomes dehydrated. You can use a variety of themed dispensers and coolers to complement your event’s theme.
9. If you do no have a lot of outdoor furniture to use, it’s perfectly fine to bring the indoors outside. Use stools and ottomans from your home or create a “lounge” of sorts with oversized pillows and throws. Remember, it’s not what you don’t have, it’s how you use what you’ve got.
10. To make things easier on yourself, try putting items on a movable cart that you can easily load up with food, cutlery and other items to bring out at the same time. The same is true for at the end of the party – load the cart back up and bring it all back inside at the same time.
11. The last thing that is most often overlooked in any event nowadays is the value of a handwritten thank you note. Some people might think it’s a little old school, but that extra touch goes a long way with your guests and lets them know how much you value you them. Personalized stationary is just as good as general thank you cards and I promise, your guests won’t forget it!