7 things to remember when entertaining outdoors

Friends enjoying a dinner party outdoors.
Photo by Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

If you’re a killer cook, know what music will keep people on their feet, and are always topping up guests’ drinks, you’re probably a pretty good host. But it’s a whole new ball game when you have to contend with Mother Nature. Suddenly, you have to consider uncontrollable temperatures, precipitation, inventive lighting solutions, and even bugs, which can trip up even the most experienced entertainers. To ensure your outdoor party goes off without a hitch, here are seven things you need to remember.

Keep the drinks cold

It’s always good to have extra coolers on hand, but it’s even more important to know how to stock them. Your drinks will stay cold longer if you put them in before the ice. Even then, the ice will turn to water eventually. Good thing it’s 2016, so there are all sorts of new tricks and technologies to help keep drinks cold, including some that won’t water them down. For guests drinking liquor, consider investing in some Whiskey Stones or a Wedge. For beer drinkers, there’s the Chillsner.

Stick to a simple menu (and keep things cool)

Avoid heavy, hearty dishes and stick to hot-weather fare like salads, cold pastas, and perhaps even a summer gazpacho. To make things even easier on yourself, make the party a potluck. There’s no shame in asking for a little help, and it will take the guess-work out for guests who will likely want to bring something along anyway. Check out this article for more tips on how to host the perfect summer potluck.

Skip the tablecloth

Tablecloths are a nice decorative touch—until the wind gets going and pulls them into the air, along with all of your table settings. You can always pin it down, but it’s often easier to just skip the tablecloth altogether (we promise no one will notice). If it’s a more formal affair and you want to set the table ahead of time, you can weigh down light dishes and napkins with a fresh bowl of fruit or a fun favour that guests can open at the party or take home with them. Maybe it’s something practical like small bottles of natural, homemade bug spray, or something silly like bubbles.

Make sure everyone’s comfortable

When you’re hosting a party indoors, there’s not much more to making sure everyone’s comfortable besides ensuring they’re well fed and their drinks are topped up. But when you’re outside, the sun can make a huge difference, for better or for worse. Have umbrellas for those who are looking for a little reprieve from the heat. If the party will be extending late into the evening, don’t forget how drastically the temperature can drop when the sun goes down. Have outdoor heaters or a fire pit ready for when things start to cool off.

Light the way

To avoid any tripping accidents, make sure you have enough lanterns lighting your pathways. A little additional lighting doesn’t hurt either. There’s nothing worse than trying to mingle at a party and not being able to see who’s part of the group you’re approaching. For a charming and festive option, drape some paper lanterns from tree limbs or along an overhead balcony. For more outdoor lighting ideas, check out this gallery on our sister site, Cottage Life.

Keep bugs at bay

You can keep your table insect-free by wiping it down with vinegar or mint before the party starts—mosquitos and other insects hate the smells. To keep bugs off the food, try nylon food covers or even wire mesh corianders, especially if you already have some lying around. And because people might not be interested in dousing themselves in DEET all night, they’ll be extra grateful if you decorate your tables with citronella-based candles, or circle your party with the torches. Sure they come with a bit of an odour, but having your guests manically swat the air around them will kill conversation a whole lot quicker.

Have a backup plan

You won’t have to worry about any of these things if it rains. You will, however, have to worry about what to do with your guests. No matter how terrible the weather turns out, it’s never fun to cancel on a bunch of geared-up party goers. If space is limited indoors, tents are always a good option (especially if the forecast is questionable). Make sure you research your options ahead of time, and find out whether you can get away with buying your own tents or if you’re going to have to rely on a rental company. If neither of those options work, have a rain date set ahead of time, so everyone knows your party is “weather permitting,” and you can avoid disappointing guests the day of.

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