Tips for Outdoor Entertaining

Tips for Outdoor Entertaining

Now that the warmer days are here, our thoughts turn to outdoor entertaining.  You can turn your outdoor area – whatever its size – into a relaxed and natural spot.   All of our tips are gleaned from years of experience catering hundreds and hundreds of parties and are offered to you for stress free entertaining.  If you have some tips of your own, please leave a comment!

Clean Up:

Mow the lawn, pull the weeds, sweep the patio, get rid of cobwebs, put away toys and tools.  Turn off the sprinklsers two days before your party to give the lawn a chance to dry out a bit.  This is especially important if you’re going to put tables and chairs or similar equipment on the grass.  Clean your outdoor furniture.  And don’t forget the areas inside your guests will see…especially the bathrooms.  The master bedroom closet and the attic are off limits to guests and that’s where I put all my extra stuff!    If you’re grilling out, make sure the grill is clean and you have plenty of propane, charcoal or fuel.


Create a special atmosphere with light — votives, candles, lantern, torches, string lights, rental lighting.. lighting is the ultimate tool to set a mood and adds so much to your outdoor space.


Think through the stages of your party when planning lighting. If the sun will be blinding when guests arrive, use patio umbrellas strategically. If the party will extend into the twilight hours, have candles, torches and string lights ready to light up when the time is right.  Be creative by mixing up the sizes and shapes of candles, spreading them throughout your space. You might also think about investing in a fire pit; nothing invites guests to gather round more than a cheery, warm blaze.  And the fire pit can be used for making the perfect outdoor dessert… s’mores. All you need are metal skewers and the right ingredients — marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate.


Choose a color scheme that compliments the area and the theme of the party and stick with it.  Use your colors for all the decorations, accessories and even the food and drink if you can! (For example, if your colors are yellow and green you can have clear glass pitchers of water filled with sliced lemons and limes – simple yet effective). Layering the color throughout the party area will add depth and tie it all together.  If you plan early enough, you can plant flowers in your color scheme.  Decorate your table with potted herbs or casual bouquets of flowers picked from your garden.

This photo is a perfect example of creating shade, using color, landscape planting and even using seating to enhance the theme. Yes, those are pink flamingos you see in the yard.  All that’s missing is the sound of the steel drums!



Have plenty of seating for your guests.  Barstools with tall cocktail tables, benches and large pillows can stretch your patio set.  If you’re short on chairs, spread blankets on the grass or bring some of your furniture from inside to the great outdoors.  You can easily buy some large colorful cushions to perk up your patio set and add a splash of summery color that can also complement your color scheme.


It’s hard to find an outdoor site that’s bug-free.  Try to spray the area for insects several hours before your guests arrive.  If you have a major bug problem I recommend contacting an exterminator.  They can heavily spray the morning of the party to assure your guests will be comfortable and bug free.  If mosquitoes are in the air, have cans of mosquito repellant nearby.  Choose one with a light scent, such as aloe.  Include decorative citronella candles as part of your lighting plan.  Just put the citronella candles away from the food.  The smell can sometimes be unappetizing.  If you have electricity outside, plug in a portable oscillating fan or two to ensure your guests stay cool.  The breeze will also help get rid of flying bugs.


In addition to the bug spray, it’s nice to provide sunblock, hand wipes, light blankets, pashmina wraps or any other touch to make sure your guests are comfortable.

Tents and Umbrellas:

Having some sort of structure or overhang can really make a party more inviting. When the weather is hot and the sun is beating down, a tent or at the very least large shade umbrellas can make the outdoors much more bearable. Providing shade over eating areas, seating and food and beverage displays is a must.


Choose music  that will be entertaining and pleasant, not too loud or overwhelming.  When I think of an outdoor party, I think of a casual, relaxed, warm and inviting atmosphere.  If you’ve chosen a special theme for your event, the music should enhance it.  Country Western goes perfect with BBQs, for a tropical theme choose steel drums, nothing says sun and sand better than Jimmy Buffett, and for Mexican fiesta don’t forget the mariachis…music is a very important party element.


Steel Drummer


If you and your friends are fond of games, croquet, badminton, bocce ball or volleyball are perfect if you have the room.  A quick search of the Internet will not only make sure you have all the rules but the equipment too.

Party Favors:

Why should kids be the only ones to get a little “thanks for coming” gift?  I always send my guests home with a parting gift.  One year it was a bag of pasta and a jar of my homemade basil pesto.  Another year in keeping with my lavender theme, each guest got a sheer bag with lavender soap and lavender hand creme.  Send your guests home happy with a keepsake favor such as flower seed packets, a fresh flower bouquet or a bag of home grown veggies.

The main thing is to relax and encourage your guests to do the same.   One of our best clients says, “We invite people to see them, chat with them and have fun with them, so running around making sure they drink and eat is not how we want to be spending our time.  That’s why I hire you!”

Have a delicious day!