Easy Outdoor Entertaining Tips and Ideas

Whether you're hosting a small get-together among friends or a large neighborhood potluck, you'll entertain outdoors like a pro with our easy-to-follow ideas for outdoor parties. We've included tips for planning, decorating, and food prep -- plus our best recipes for outdoor entertaining.

Outdoor Party Planning Tips

Follow these easy outdoor entertaining tips when organizing and planning your next outdoor party.

People mingling outside

  • Send invitations if you're going to invite more than 12 people or if you have a theme for your outdoor party. Otherwise, call or invite guests in person.
  • Ask guests if they have any food allergies or special preferences (vegetarian, kosher, diabetic, etc.), so everyone is able to enjoy the party fare.
  • Lessen the stress of hosting an outdoor party by making it a potluck. Assign each guest a dish -- appetizer, salad, side dish, or dessert -- to contribute, so you only have to make the main dish. If you want a cohesive buffet, organize the potluck around a theme, such as Tex-Mex, Asian, or All-American.
  • Mix up the seating. If you have multiple outside spaces, set up a table, chairs, and blankets throughout the yard.
  • Make 50 percent more food than you think people will eat to ensure you have enough. For large parties, rely on dishes that will freeze so nothing goes to waste.
  • Account for anything that might prevent entertaining outside: If you think bugs, rain, heat, or cold might get in the way of your party, make sure you have a backup plan.


Outdoor Party Table Setting Tips

Set the perfect outdoor table for party guests with our easy ideas and tips.

Outdoor table settings

  • Buy two of the same tablecloth if your patio table is too large for one to cover. Simply fold each in half and drape over the ends of the table.
  • Keep your tablecloth weighted down on windy days by wrapping raffia a few times around pretty stones or heavy seashells, then attaching them to the tablecloth with a thread and needle so they'll dangle from the corners and edges.
  • Coordinate your tablecloth, place settings, and table decorations to give your outdoor party table a coordinated look.
  • Carve holes into apples, pears, or other firm produce to make unique garden-theme candleholders. Produce can make attractive serving pieces as well -- serve fruit salads in melon halves and sherbet or seafood in lemon halves.

Outdoor Party Decorating Tips

Transform your space and add a bit of elegance to your outdoor party with a few of our simple and easy outdoor decorating tips.

Outdoor Party Lights

  • Hang string lanterns from trees to make your outdoor party glow.
  • Find inspiration for outdoor party decorating right in your backyard: Add a pretty touch to an outdoor party buffet table with a basket of pine cones, or float fallen flowers in shallow clear glass bowls filled with water.
  • Grab a pretty pot of annuals from your front step or garden and place it in the center of the table for a quick, no-fuss outdoor table centerpiece.
  • Use candles on the table if you'll be dining outdoors after dark. Votives can be set in wineglasses, jars, or tin cans with holes punched around the sides. To create magical overhead lighting, make wire cradles for jars and suspend them from trees.
  • String icicle lights along a fence, around a porch, or through a tree or shrub for another take on whimsical outdoor lighting.

Continued on page 2:  Outdoor Party Food Prep and Menu