PLAN AN OUTDOOR DINNER PARTY YOUR GUESTS WON'T FORGET.
Have you ever noticed that it’s often the intentional details that transform a dinner party, brunch or barbecue into a special, intimate and magical gathering? Treat your guests to well-planned details, and you will elevate your backyard barbecue to a celebration that reaches beyond a particular holiday or special date and honors what really matters – the people and friends in your life.
It can be a talent to entertain friends and family well, but it’s also an activity that you can nurture and strengthen over time. We’re here to inspire you wherever you are on the hosting expertise continuum.
GET OTHERS INVOLVED
Give your guests a chance to participate and contribute to the party based on their strengths. If you have friends that love mixing drinks, ask them to create a signature cocktail and run the outdoor bar. If there’s someone really into music, ask them to create a playlist with Spotify, Google Play or Alexa. Ask the baker of the group to bring dessert. Involving others means you are destined for an even better party with less details for you to worry about.
TIP: When you delegate based on areas of strength, it gives everyone at the gathering an opportunity to shine.
OUTDOOR TABLE SETTING
Unless you’re expecting to fill your backyard with standing guests, we recommend providing a seat at the patio table for each person during dinner. Guests can gather in smaller standing groups of two and three beforehand to enjoy a refreshing drink while they chat and catch up. But when the food is ready, sitting down at a table together encourages the group to reconnect as a whole. This is invaluable in creating a warm, inclusive party.
TIP: If you keep the food at a separate station, and serve it buffet style, you’ll be able to fit more plates around the table.
With this in mind, we put together an intimate Fourth of July tablescape mood board to inspire your next outdoor dinner party table.
Wiping your chins with a cloth napkin and sipping margaritas from real glassware (not Solo cups) can definitely elevate your experience. Yes it means more dishes and laundry, but it’s a sustainable option that doesn’t contribute to the landfill.
BACKYARD BBQ MENU
Create a menu that highlights everyone’s shared contributions. Print it off and place it on the dinner table or email it to everyone beforehand. Get everyone excited about Jon’s famous ribs or Molly’s apple pie. Maybe even encourage a little friendly competition at the grill with your new grilling accessories.
TIP: Think about special dietary needs and make sure there’s something for everyone.
Have plenty of cold drinks prepared as guests arrive (think Pimm’s or Italian Aperol spritz in large dispensers), and position snack boards away from the grilling. Let others know that Jamie and Josh are making a signature cocktail for the night and give it a fun name.
CHECK OUT THIS DELICIOUS BBQ MEAL FROM DALLAS-BASED FOOD BLOGGER REBECCA WHITE
Rebecca loves recipe developing, menu creating and food writing for her blog A Pleasant Little Kitchen. Click each image to get the recipe.
Make sure there’s plenty of practical outdoor seating. If this means you need to bring indoor chairs outside, do that before anyone arrives. We like to create little vignettes to accommodate everyone. Spread out a few blankets and throw pillows in a shady area under a tree. Set up a circle of chairs around a fire pit or a tabletop FLIKR fire.
Include a few outdoor games with enough space to move around. We like cornhole, ladder ball and horseshoes. If you think the group will stay late, string up some lights for the perfect party atmosphere and add lanterns to provide more intimate lighting. We love having several extra blankets on hand for chilly guests to stay warm.
TIP: Remember to control the bugs by burning citronella candles or scents like basil, rosemary, peppermint and lavender, which are natural repellants.
To give your decor a cohesive feel, put vases of flowers around the space in the same color palette as your table decor. This could be fresh flowers and greenery cut from your yard.
BACKYARD BBQ PLAYLIST
Depending on your group, the music could be as simple as a soft playlist or as interactive as karaoke. You can also nominate talented friends to play acoustic guitar and take song requests. It’s all about the intentionality you set for your party.
One thing to consider is the noise level. If you plan on loud music or you know that one friend is gonna belt out her karaoke go-to, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” let your neighbors know you’re having a get-together and promise to keep the noise level down after an agreed-upon time. Another solution is to invite your neighbors to the barbecue and hand them the mic.
TIP: Play oldies like “The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding, “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters, “Heatwave” by Martha & the Vandellas, and “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama. Current popular songs have a tendency to get loud while classics are usually played at a more manageable volume.
OUTDOOR PARTY EXPERIENCE
Plan an activity or experience for during or after dinner. This could be an outdoor movie with popcorn and blankets, a talent show, charades, conversation cards, or two truths and a lie. Playing a few games together can enhance interaction and laughter throughout the evening.
More than anything, be prepared. Make sure you have plenty of seating, plates, glasses, utensils and ice. Set up a trash area with recycling and general garbage labeled separately. Position a few bluetooth speakers around the space to keep the volume consistent. Plan for lighting after the sun goes down.
There you have it. In no time your backyard barbecues will be legendary and guests will leave feeling full, entertained, happy and loved. That is the whole point, wouldn’t you say?