Outdoor Entertaining Tips & Trick + Theme Ideas

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Are you intimidated by the idea of outdoor entertaining? I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I’d love to host more dinner parties, but I just don’t have a good house for it.” Well, I’ve got good news: I’ve got a hot lead on a great party venue, and hosting there is absolutely free! It’s huge, it’s got great acoustics, the ventilation is fantastic, and it looks better than almost any party venue I’ve ever seen. The name of the venue is the great outdoors. You can find it at most parks or beaches. If you’ve got a backyard of any decent size, you can find it there too!

You just need a few pieces of the right equipment, a fun outdoor party theme, and a good plan for organizing everything, and you can make your outdoor entertainment come alive! If done right, it will be just as good or better than any party at a house or in a bar or club. In this post, I’ll help give you the tools you need.

Themes for Outdoor Entertaining

Before you plan anything else about your outdoor entertainment, come up with a theme. It will guide the rest of your planning, because the theme helps dictate things like time of day for the event, what kind of equipment is required, what kind of outdoor area you want to hold it in, and guest list.

A few of the most successful themes of outdoor entertainment I’ve held or attended include:

Holiday

If you’re holding an event for a holiday, lean into it. If it’s a Christmas party, deck the surrounding trees with Christmas ornaments and adorn the ground with fake snow. For a Halloween event, hang creepy decorations and make sure the tablecloths are black and orange. Use Pinterest or Instagram to gather a dozen or more ideas for any specific holiday.

Day on the Green

You’re in the great outdoors, so you may as well use that fact to your advantage. Organize trust-building exercises, obstacle courses, and competitions that use up a lot of space. Your goal is to get your guests to break a sweat, but also to provide a good time for all. If you choose this theme, go with athletics-inspired foods like trail mix, orange slices, and Gatorade. For music, you can play classics like “Eye of the Tiger” and AC/DC.

Beer/Wine/Liquor Tasting

Alcohol is a good way to make any event a party, so centering your outdoor entertaining around it is always a fine idea. Some groups may prefer to taste a variety of beers, wines are better for a more upscale feel, and liquors are best for a group that would prefer something a little stronger. In any case, set up stations for each variety of alcohol selected and provide finger foods that pair especially well at each station. Also set out a variety of snacks or drinks to act as palette-cleansers. For music, it’s good to start the evening with light classical and make the playlist progressively more raucous as the evening goes on until you’re all the way at “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba.

Woodsman’s Banquet

Why not hold apathy out in the middle of the forest and really embrace the rustic outdoorsiness of it all. Decorate the portable tables you set up with pinecones and other woodsy ornaments. Use a portable grill to cook some meats, and make sure not to go easy on the smoke. Baked beans and dark lagers or ales are great accompaniments. Build a campfire and roast some marshmallows. Play some music with lots of fiddles and banjoes. Also, bring a fire extinguisher just in case.

Beach Party

Even if the event is not actually at the beach, you can bring the seaside to your outdoor entertainment. Deck the dining tables with decorations like fishing nets, starfishes, oceanside fauna, seashells, and driftwood. Serve foods like shrimp cocktail, grilled fish, dried seaweed, and boiled crab. And play music of the seven seas from salty sea shanties to “Orinoco Flow” by Enya.

Dog Days

If you have a lot of friends who are dog owners, invite them all to your outdoor event and tell them they can bring their four-legged friends. Not only will they be eternally grateful that someone is actually including their pooches for once, but the event will also gain some free entertainment. Whether a guest is a dog owner or not, watching the pups play together and have the time of their doggy lives is going to be entertaining. You can serve classics like steaks and mashed potatoes for the humans and prepare doggie delicacies like dog-safe popsicles, meats and vegetables for the pooches.

BBQ

With the Fourth of July coming up, how could I not mention the classic American outdoor entertaining option, the BBQ? This theme is pretty easy, as it doesn’t require much occasion-specific decor. If you’re going to do a proper BBQ, though, you should have a good-sized grill, a few picnic tables to seat guests, an apron for whoever is tending to the grill, and a sound system playing country rock.

Of course, there are lots of other themes for outdoor entertaining. If you don’t see any themes that call to you listed here, hit up social media for inspiration.

More Tips for Outdoor Entertaining

If you adhere to a theme and follow the tips below, your outdoor entertainment is sure to be a huge success, weather permitting.

Prep Ahead of Time

I’ve often seen people make the grave error of throwing up a picnic table, preparing some food, and hoping the rest will work itself out when the guests arrive. As someone who’s organized quite a bit of outdoor entertaining, though, let me tell you that people you invite generally don’t organize themselves into orderly groups once they’re there – instead, you need to give them some structure to go off of. That means preparing decorations, activities, food and drink stations, and a comfortable environment that will make them want to stick around.

Don’t Forget Lighting

Add enough lighting not just so your guests can see, but so that the space maintains a cheery, festive atmosphere even as the lights go down. Light that comes from actual fires like campfires, tiki torches, and lanterns looks the nicest, although supplementing it with some electric lights is fine too in a pinch. Decorative lights like Christmas lights or themed ornamental lamps are a cool way to further your event’s design scheme while providing more lighting, too.

Lighting is also a good opportunity to provide some added heat sources, which is why a fire pit or torches are excellent inclusions for outdoor entertaining.

Keep Bugs Away

Bug bites or annoying buzzing insects can both ruin an outdoor party fast, so you should prepare some measures to keep the bugs away from the entertaining area.

To keep away mosquitoes, try encircling the entertainment area with citronella torches. Mosquitoes are repelled by the citronella, but humans don’t mind it so much. You can try simply placing some citronella candles around the places people will be sitting, but that limits the places your guests can hang out without getting bitten.

To keep away yellowjackets and flies, fill a bottle about a third of the way with water and sugar, shake the mixture until it dissolves, add a bit of apple cider vinegar or apple cider vinegar substitute and a banana peel, then cut a hole near the top of the bottle. Place the bottle far enough away from the food so guests won’t be able to smell it. The bottle will attract pests instead of your food.

Have Entertainment

Even if they’re not directly related to the theme of your party, prepare some games or other activities for your guests to check out together over the course of the night. Especially once people have some alcohol inside them, they will be real conversation-starters or ice-breakers.

Again, music is a GREAT tool for getting people in the swing of the party. Gradually increase the volume and upbeat feel of the music over the course of the night, and eventually, you may have some of your guests on their feet dancing. If you really want to pull out all the stops, you might even hire a local band to play.

Keep Food at the Right Temperature

Keep your hot food hot and your cold food cold. I recently wrote an entire post about keeping cold foods cold outside, and I’d encourage you to check it out. Buying some stay-warm kitchenware like heated coffee mugs and kerosene-heated serving platters isn’t a bad idea either.

Outdoor Entertaining Essentials

Now that I’ve given you a good idea of what you need to take care of to create a great outdoor entertaining experience, I’ll fill you in on a few of the best products I’ve seen that can help you make your ideas a reality.

These lights serve three purposes: they are bright and provide a lot of lighting, they look great and provide a great ambiance, and they keep away mosquitoes effectively.

Most of the lights on the string are normal yellow lightbulbs. They look fantastic and bathe the space below in an attractive light, and the hue of the light also deters mosquitoes. The real bug-killing power, though, lies in the three repellent pods also threaded along the string. The liquid inside the pods is proprietary, so I don’t know exactly why it works, but it’s totally odorless and keeps bugs away when the pods emit it in a thin, invisible mist. The combination of the yellow light and the repellent solution keeps an area of up to 330 square feet mosquito-free for 200 hours. There’s even a switch on the string that turns off the repellent pods so that you can prolong the life of the product.

This product is not cheap, but it’s probably my favorite on this list because it serves so many purposes and does them all well.

Ready to Host With the Most?

There’s something about being held outdoors that makes any event memorable. If you do your due diligence in planning your outdoor entertainment and preparing with the right products, I virtually guarantee you’ll become known as a master of throwing great parties!

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