Outdoor Entertaining Beyond the BBQ

Outdoor Entertaining Beyond the BBQ

This is the first in a series of posts on outdoor entertaining.

Outdoor Entertaining Tips | TheSavoryAffair.comDo you need some tips when planning an outdoor event that’s a step up from a backyard cook out?
Outdoor entertaining comes with a unique set of challenges to manage. Here is a little inside advice from an event planner’s perspective, the posts will cover different aspects you should consider when planning an outdoor gathering like a shower or cocktail party.

Prepared to get inspired for hosting your next special occasion celebration outdoors.

There is a lot to consider when outdoor entertaining. We’re not talking about your Fourth of July BBQ or the neighborhood potluck get together but about when you want your outdoor entertaining to be a step above. When hosting an anniversary or engagement party, a fundraiser, Bat Mizvah, First Communion, or graduation fete, where do you begin?

Tips for how to start planning

– Give yourself time to plan ahead. This kind of event takes more forethought and preparation than whipping together a BBQ.
– Decide where to hold the outdoor event. Are you renting a venue, using grandma’s back yard or your favorite beach?
– Start by taking an inventory and doing a general safety inspection of your backyard or outdoor location. Look for holes, tree roots, or sinking spots (fill them, let them settle, then refill and seed – see why we need to plan ahead).
– Even for an optimist we need to think a bit about the worst case scenario. Start there then organize the rest from there. Figure out the biggest obstacles, the unavoidable things, in your space. Solve those issues first and build the floor plan around that. For example, don’t put a huge tree root in a main traffic area. Can you cover that with a buffet table, or avoid that area in your planning altogether?

The Weather and Tents

– No matter how beautiful the weather will be or might be, plan to get a tent or tents. No, we’re not talking about the little EZ Up tents you use for camping or your Labor Day shindig, but large, sturdy, professional, rented tents.
– Your tent company can help you with this, but be sure to leave room for bars, dance floor, tables with chairs, space for buffet tables and/or stationary displays, as well as space along edges of tent and within the tent for movement of your guests.
– Tents offer shade guests, your food and bar and protection from a shower or rainy day. Situate your tent opening toward the house or building where guests will use the restrooms.
– In hot weather putting the sides down will create a greenhouse so consider how you will ventilate it. Can you use no sides or only three sides? Think about fans to circulate air keeping them out of the way of dresses or children.
– In the event of rain, most companies will allow you to add marquis (the “hallway” tents to allow guests to go from the building or house to the tented party) up to a few days ahead. While more costly, you may want to consider putting in a floor if the ground is muddy or has a lot of sinking. Also, if is rainy and you need to lower the sides of the tents there will be less room under tent, be sure you’ve planned ahead with your layout leaving enough room around the edges.
– If your outdoor entertaining will be in the fall or early spring, consider outdoor patio heaters (also called mushroom or umbrella heaters).



– Where will guests go to the restroom?

– Some general bathroom party tips no matter what time of year you’re entertaining or whether the festivities are inside or out:
– Don’t use cloth towels, instead provide paper hand towels
– Start with new roll of toilet tissue
– Put someone (or several family members) in charge to check the bathroom(s) throughout the party      to  empty the waste basket, wipe down the sink, and put out a new roll of toilet paper if it’s at all low.

– If you’re using a caterer, is there a kitchen for them or will you need them to set up an outdoor kitchen? If they need an outdoors kitchen, that requires a catering tent, tables, electric, and other rentals and electricity.

– Do you have enough amps and easy access to electric for caterers, DJs, bands, lighting, fans, etc.?

– Another logistical element is your pets. Dogs and pets don’t often make the best party guests, so consider kenneling, caging or boarding your pup somewhere else for the party. As hosts, our job is to make our guests feel comfortable and at home and for many, a dog or other animals at the party can be awkward or make them ill-at-ease.

– Consider the seating needs of your guests and when planning a cocktail party, count on about 2/3 seating, for a seated dinner with assigned seating you need as many seats as guests, of course, but for a dinner with open seating, you should plan for 10-15% more seating than guests.

– Think creatively about your seating, in fact interesting seating options are trending. Use cushioned banquets or love seats against a table instead of chairs, set up lounge sets, high and low cocktail tables, tables with umbrellas across a lawn or maybe even beautiful quilts that fit your style and theme for younger guests and children. Consider that you may need to rent additional seating.

– Be sure whatever you use is cleaned and wiped down, free of pollens, puddles, and cobwebs.

Check back for our next post on outdoor entertaining tips for your menus and bar/beverage.

© Copyright The Savory Affair 2015

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