Hosting a party at your home generally comes with at least a little stress, even for seasoned pros. And it’s turned up a notch or two when you’re having the gathering outside in your back yard. The logistics are just more complicated, and you’re probably saying the occasional prayer regarding the weather while you’re planning everything out.
It’s difficult to give a lot of highly specific advice because so many details vary based on the type of party you’re throwing; the level of formality; the number of guests; the time of day and time of year; the size, layout, and features of your backyard; whether it’s a buffet and come-and-go-as-you-please kind of get-together or one with a sit-down meal together; and so on.
However, there are plenty of basic backyard entertaining tips that are generally applicable. They help make the whole event run smoother for you, and help make it more enjoyable for your guests.
How to Bring Your Outdoor Party to Life
- Design a menu you can completely or mostly prepare ahead of time; you want to be with your guests during the party—not inside, scrambling around in the kitchen—and they want to see you, too (hopefully). Of course, things are a lot easier on outdoor entertainers who have an outdoor kitchen.
- Do a thorough check around the yard beforehand to clear any twigs, tools, kids’ toys, anything your dogs may have left behind, etc.; you don’t want your guests tripping on (or stepping in) anything.
- Make sure the lawn is raked and mowed and otherwise nicely manicured too, of course. And don’t forget to turn off the sprinklers if they’re on a timer to come on during your party, or in the hours before—you don’t want wet grass when your guests arrive.
- Don’t forget to tidy up and clean inside, too. The party may be outside, but guests will go in to use the bathroom, and they often migrate into the kitchen if you’re in there to chat or offer assistance.
- Establish a few separate seating areas—each set up to facilitate conversation—to give your guests options as to where they go and to make it easier for people to circulate and converse with different people.
- Put up string lighting around the outdoor entertaining area or even the whole yard for increased visibility and to create mood if the party’s taking place at dusk and beyond.
- Light a fire for ambiance (and warmth, if needed) if you have a safe, convenient way to do so; this is just one of many reasons to install a fire pit in your yard.
- Make it easy for guests to find and serve themselves drinks, and always have water and non-alcoholic options in the same location; people may feel awkward having to ask where to find something, or if they can get something that hasn’t been provided.
- Keep bowls of cold food colder longer by placing them in larger bowls filled with ice, and sprinkle the ice with some kosher salt; dump and refill the bottom bowl periodically as needed.
- Remember to set up citronella candles to repel mosquitoes when applicable (as a bonus, decorative ones help enhance the atmosphere, too).