Adding a little something special to your next gathering couldn’t be easier.
Story by Ann Butenas
Are you ready to host the ultimate outdoor patio party? Nothing quite beats spending time with family and friends in the comfort of your own backyard, sharing delicious food, amazing conversation, lots of laughter and a few fun beverages. However, don’t let the prep work intimidate you. Before you set up for your soirée, be sure to clear the patio and surrounding area of clutter, mow the lawn and clean the pool if you have one. Have a few extra chairs available; do as much of the food prep work as possible before the guests arrive, and also consider the theme or décor, as how you decorate for the event sets the overall tone. Make sure, too, that you have all of the party essentials you need, from plates to placements, dinnerware to serve ware. You may also want to choose a few small potted plants boasting fragrant herbs to create a seasonal centerpiece.
Brenda Freebern, owner of Picture Perfect Interiors, shares a few fun ideas, insights and inspirations to make your party the talk of the neighborhood. You have been warned, however: Implementing these ideas may make your friends and family expect this of you on a regular basis! Plus, these ideas are so easy to incorporate that you, as the host or hostess, won’t have to miss out on all the fun yourself. When you are well-organized, you won’t have to feel caught up in all of the details and can just dive into the fun.
KCH&S: When planning an outdoor party, there are many elements to incorporate, a primary consideration being lighting. What type of lighting should I use to provide the perfect ambiance?
FREEBERN: There are a couple of ways you can incorporate lighting. Lanterns with battery-operated candles are perfect, and you don’t have to worry about the possibility of fires. Party supply stores also carry chains/strands with multiple bulbs on them that can be hung around the perimeter of the space you are using, around poles, and under an awning, for example. Tiki torches are cost effective ways to provide lighting, too. You can get a gallon of oil for them for just a couple of dollars and have ample lighting for the entire evening. For an added bonus, consider using candles or lights that have citronella to keep those pesky mosquitos at bay. Some of the oils for Tiki torches also contain citronella.
KCH&S: I don’t think I will have enough chairs for seating. What are some creative seating options?
FREEBERN: There are so many unique and easy ideas. You could put out a few blankets or throw rugs with pillows. You could also place a wooden plank on top of blocks and even paint the plank a fun color to add to the festivities. For the more ambitious party planner, you could cut a tree log into several two-foot high stumps, similar to what you see placed around a campfire. And if you are planning a party in the fall, hay bales make perfect seating options.
KCH&S: What is one of the most important elements in terms of ambiance for a backyard patio party?
FREEBERN: Definitely the music! It is important to have the music create the mood. You can use something as simple as a plug-in radio or you can use portable speakers that connect with your cell phone. Another fun idea is to hire someone to play the guitar in the background.
KCH&S: What about some fun ideas for snacks and the best way to present them?
FREEBERN: When setting up tables for the food, I usually cover them with a fun burlap or white linen. You can go to the fabric store and get yard-long pieces and just hem, roll or cut them with pinking shears. If you are serving barbeque, which can get messy, I suggest placing a couple of large handkerchiefs on the table to catch fall out and to provide a pop of color. As for a fun snack idea, a self-serve S’mores bar is always a hit. You can do this by creating a wooden box out of 1 x 4s using one for the bottom and four for the sides. Fill the box with pebble rocks and set in several tins of Sterno cooking fuel, keeping the rocks between the Sterno and the wood. Next to the box you can place several jars filled with various S’mores ingredients, such as graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate bars, caramels, Andes mints, fudge striped cookies and more. Have a jar of bamboo skewers at the ready so guests can prepare their marshmallows for toasting over the tins of Sterno. Also, be sure to have a bowl of individual wet wipes at the ready, as some enthusiastic party-goers can find themselves up to their elbows in the ooey-gooey goodness!
KCH&S: Any other fun decorating ideas for my next outdoor patio party?
FREEBERN: Fire pits with colored glass chips in them that are built into cocktail tables add the perfect ambiance to any outdoor patio party. These are designed with burners in them, fed by a propane tank to keep the fire going all evening long.