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Hostess how-to: Outdoor entertaining

There is a wealth of advantages to hosting a party outdoors: more space for guests, less anxiety about spills and broken valuables, and a fresh atmosphere – just to name a few.

Summer outdoor party with paper lanterns

Despite these sure-fire benefits, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have a successful soiree unless you plan ahead and get creative. The following tips will help you avoid common party pitfalls, ensure that your guests are comfortable and perfect the little details that will create a fabulous event.

Selecting a location

Early in the party planning process, scope out locations that may be ideal for an outdoor party. Depending on the age of your guests and the theme of your party, your options can include a park, pool, beach, backyard, forest or farm. The key to selecting the right location is to consider a few “what if” situations. For example, what if it rains during the party or what if the temperature is blazing hot?

When picking your location, also prepare a “Plan B” that will help you cope with weather obstacles that are beyond your control. Caneil McDonald, director of special events at the Foundation for the National Archives, says, “If you’re hosting an event in your backyard, make sure the house is tidy, just in case bad weather forces you to relocate guests quickly. If you’re away from home at an outdoor venue like a campground or park, be aware of nearby places to take cover, like a gazebo or tent. You might even want to scout out local restaurants that could take a group of your size on short notice.”

McDonald further explains that it’s helpful to know of places where people can cool off and get out of the sun. She suggests incorporating items such as umbrellas, fans and parasols into the decor to help guests beat the heat.

In addition to considering how weather will affect your location, also think about how bugs will affect it. “For example, there might be a tree in your backyard that releases a sap around the same time you will want to host your party, potentially attracting bees and ants,” says Greg Jenkins, a partner at Bravo Productions. Before choosing a location, Jenkins suggests asking yourself what the mosquito situation will be like in the evenings or at dusk and having a plan to handle it.


A major benefit of outdoor entertaining is that the beauty of nature is often all the decor you’ll need. McDonald says, “Simple is usually best. A well-taken-care-of yard with proper landscaping doesn’t need much else. If you find yourself loading up on decor, you’re likely doing too much. If you have a beautiful lawn, spread out bright-colored blankets for guests to sit on. If your deck is impeccable, make it the focal point with hanging lights or paper lanterns.”

Additional advice that Jenkins shares is to decorate with bright colors such as lime green, orange, yellow, hot pink and fire-engine red. “Centerpieces of Granny Smith apples in cylinders of water are soothing, simple and fun. Garnish water glasses with limes, lemons and oranges,” he adds.

Serving food and drinks

If you’re hosting a party outdoors, you need to consider how various temperatures will affect the food and drinks you’re thinking about serving. According to McDonald, “If you’re not having the event catered, go for a self-serve buffet and drink station. Everything should be simple, easy to serve and easy to eat. Be sure to keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Stick to seasonal fruits and vegetables for the best flavors and try to include a variety of ‘guilty pleasures’ along with healthy options.”

These tips will guide you through some of the key issues you’ll need to consider before hosting a party outdoors. Heed the advice of McDonald and Jenkins and you’re bound to have an event that’s a hit.

More outdoor entertaining tips

Backyard decor for small spaces
Which outdoor furniture is right for you?
Throw a spring garden party

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