Outdoor entertaining doesn’t need to be complicated or overdone. It’s all about putting together an effortless and breezy style that invites you to relax and enjoy the best of the summer weather with your family and friends.
To help you plan your own outdoor gathering, we’ve put together the tips and tricks the professionals use for effortless al fresco gatherings.
1. Choose your style
Think about your style and the type of party you will be hosting. The charm of outdoor entertaining is that it’s naturally more relaxed – you can create a striking and stylish outdoor living look that’s sophisticated or pared back while still prioritising comfort and ease. Choosing a signature style or a simple colour palette will help you to bring all the elements together and set the mood for a memorable gathering.
2. Decide the location
Where you’ll be doing your entertaining will have an impact on every other decision you make – the type of spread you can put on in the park will be more compact than what you can do at home in your back garden. Try dividing your outdoor space into separate areas for eating, relaxing and mingling to create a multi-room feel and to encourage your guests to move around.
3. Remember lighting
Lighting will help take your garden party from day to night and will create an enchanting atmosphere after the sun goes down. You can use lighting to create a welcoming glow, to light pathways and stairs or to create impact. Decorative lighting is important for the overall ambiance of your gathering, but make sure you consider safety too – the right lighting will make it easier to see and clearly mark potential hazards like steps or uneven ground.
4. Consider serving style
Food is at the heart of every great gathering, and by matching your serving style to suit the logistics of the setting, you can ensure that everything runs smoothly. Barbecues and garden parties are all about ease, simplicity and fun, so choose a serving method that reflects this too. Depending on the food you serve, it might make sense to plate some foods indoors before serving them to your guests, then using large serving plates to put the rest of the food in the centre of the table. What works best will depend on how many guests you have – a buffet arrangement might be more appropriate if you’re serving a large party.
5. Dont forget drinks
When you’re outdoors for several hours, it’s important to keep your guests hydrated and comfortable. A serving station will give you one less thing to worry about and make it easy for your guests to top up their glasses. It can be as simple as a few buckets of ice for bottles or a jug of water waiting at the table. To add an extra stylish touch, prepare a colourful garnish to complement it, such as a sprig of mint or a slice of lemon.
6. Remember the elements
Wind and sun in particular can be troublesome when hosting an outdoor gathering, so plan for both in advance. Make sure there’s shade on hand to keep food out of the sun and a place for guests to relax away from the glare if they get too warm. A gust of wind will wreak havoc on your outdoor table so choose heavier pieces that are durable enough to withstand the breeze.
Stylish outdoor furniture, crockery and serving dishes all help to create a casual and relaxed ambiance, so a little bit of planning and thought can go a long way when designing your stylish outdoor scheme.
Beautiful tableware and serveware will seriously elevate your al fresco dining style and achieve the ultimate wow-factor. Your outdoor dining set is a great opportunity to experiment with colour and patterns that you wouldn’t normally use in your dining room. Look for durable materials that will withstand wear and tear. Plastic picnicware is a stylish solution if you’re hosting away from home and also works well if you’ll be serving young children or sitting away from the table.
Large trays are perfect for outdoor entertaining and help to reinforce a relaxed atmosphere. Ceramic grills that can go directly from barbecue to table are another great option to keep things simple and offer the added bonus of keeping food warmer for longer.
Your options are nearly endless when it comes to garden furniture, and you can mix and match pieces to suit your needs. Think about the activities you do most outdoors to guide you; if you plan to eat regularly out on the patio then carefully consider the kind of outdoor table . If it’s more about relaxed lounging, a large corner garden sofa might be right up your street. Arrange your furniture so that it helps to facilitate all the activities of your party – a seating area for conversation and a separate food station might be the best way to serve your guests.
The barbecue is at the heart of the garden party and can be as simple as a grill bucket on the patio or a large gas grill big enough to feed an army of visitors. Both charcoal and gas have their advantages – gas is more expensive but is fast and efficient, while charcoal is more traditional but takes more care. Think about logistics as well – your barbecue should be close enough to the action that it’s easy to serve guests but not a hazard to children playing or obstructing a walkway.
Your finishing touches will add the final flourishes you need to bring your outdoor entertaining scheme together. Once you have the essential elements together, consider adding:
1. Soft furnishings
Soft furnishings are an easy way to add accent colours to your garden and create a welcoming environment. Keep cushions on hand to add colour and texture and make the space feel more inviting for your guests.
Candles and lanterns are a great way to introduce additional lighting. Lanterns and candle holders will add a subtle sparkle, while large torches along pathways will light your way and add a decorative touch.
3. Patio heater
Patio heaters or fire pits will keep everyone warm when the temperature starts to drop. A wall or parasol-mounted heater will save space and provide that extra bit of warmth right where you need it.