Tips for Easy Outdoor Entertaining

When warm weather hits the last place anyone wants to be is inside. Why should dining and entertaining be any different? You can host a variety of outdoor functions - from informal picnics to a much more formal dining experience - with some planning and imagination. Here are some tips to get you started on easy outdoor entertaining ideas that will make you the hit of the town.

Prepare Ahead
Plan your event in advance. You will want to provide guests with at least two weeks notice. Send out invitations that go along with your theme. Be sure and include good directions along with the date, time and place. If you are planning anything special such as games that require guest participation let them know in the invitation. Have your guests RSVP so you know how much food to prepare.

Pick Your Place
Where you are going to hold the event will, of course, be dependent on the type of function you are planning. A picnic can be held in the park, at the beach or evening your own backyard. Barbecues and formal entertaining will most likely be held at your home but rented pavilions at a favorite park are an option as well. This is the first step in planning your party.

Decide on a Theme
Themes are a fun way to go with any type of easy outdoor entertaining. It helps set the mood for guests from the beginning. Themes that work well for summer entertaining you might want to consider include:

  • Luau: Decorate with palm trees and coconuts. Greet guests with leis and drinks with tiny umbrellas.
  • Beach Party: Set up blankets on the lawn, leave beach balls laying around and set up a volley ball net. Decorate with seashells, seagulls and starfish. Use brightly colored beach towels as table runners and serve potato salad, hot dogs, watermelon and other typical beach party food.
  • Shipwreck or Pirate: Place silverware, napkins and condiments in small treasure chests along with inexpensive beaded necklaces. Place "gold" coins (chocolate candy) along the tables. Hang nets for decorations. Use lanterns for lighting and hand out pirate hats to guests. Grill seafood, corn on the cob and serve cold salads. Root beer is a great non-alcoholic beverage to serve with a pirate theme.

Lighting and Décor
Whenever you decide to entertain outside the events often run into the evening hours. Typical yard lights are bright and blaring. You will want to shut those down and provide special lighting for your guests. Citronella candles placed at tables not only add soft lighting but keep bugs away as well. Spread citronella torches throughout the gathering. String colored patio lights between the trees or poles placed in the ground. Hang them along fence edges for a special party atmosphere. You can find patio lights in all shapes and sizes at home supply centers and retail stores.

Keep the décor simple. You want plenty of table space and chairs but you want to encourage guests to mingle and visit as well. I fyou do not have enough tables and chairs you can rent them through local rental places. Stick to a simple color theme. Using only a few colors in your decorating streamlines the decorations and implies elegance. Decorate chairs with colorful bows or chair cushions that go along with your theme. Seashells, lemons and limes, other fruits and candles are all simple but elegant table decorations when placed in colorful bowls and spread randomly on the table.

Be Food Smart
When you go through all the effort to put together a wonderful outdoor party the last you want to happen is a case of food poisoning. Some basic safety precautions can prevent problems. Keep raw meats in their own cooler and thoroughly chilled. Cook meats until completely done. Foods with mayonnaise in them are a special risk - keep them on ice until serving time and discard after two hours. Placing salads and cold foods in plastic containers then setting them in bowls fill with ice will help prevent problems and make them last longer. Bowls of fresh fruit are perfect for outdoor meals.

Plan for Fun
You will want to consider having special music or some planned fun and games for your guests as well. A scavenger hunt can be fun for adults and kids. Croquet, volleyball and a homemade miniature golf course are all excellent ideas for outdoor entertaining games. If your guests don't know each other well consider a game that will break the ice and get them mingling.

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