Outdoor Entertaining-6 Fabulous Tips for the Ultimate Party

by Amanda Gates
Gates Interior Design

After what seemed like the harshest winter Tennessee has ever had, it’s finally May, and there is no better way to celebrate summer than with an outdoor party. It’s starting to get hot and humid which makes us lethargic, and nothing soothes that summer heat better than a cool drink, (martini anyone?), fresh seasonal salads, and tasty B-B-Q!

Outdoor entertaining is a fun way to turn off the television, set down those phones and hook up with friends and neighbors to enjoy the cool summer nights together. Luckily, outdoor entertaining is easy, and requires very little, (a philosophy we at Gates Interior Design love!) One of our favorite quotes about entertaining:

“A successful dinner party doesn’t demand anything elaborate-just simple food, good company, and a convivial setting” – Real Simple

I love entertaining and I especially love entertaining outdoors. Here are 6 tips you can do to bring the party out side:

1) Outdoor rooms

Outdoor furniture is wildly popular and can be found just about anywhere. Summer Classics is one of my favorites. But why not bring out a couple of chairs from the dining room or an old sofa from the basement? Buy inexpensive slipcovers in white, (Target has a great selection), and bring those peices outdoors. It creates a more intimate and cozy feeling to your soiree. White is a great back drop for any setting and can easily be dressed up for any style or occasion. It’s unexpected and super fun.

_MG_85272) Lights

Never underestimate the power of lighting. Hang an old chandelier from an oak tree and light it up with candles, or have your skilled electrician install a real fixture. Put floating candles in the pool, string lights up through the trees, or take a strand of lights and use it as garland around the fence. You can never have too many lights and trust me, you can never have too many candles. Lights add whimsy and magic to the event and create a beautiful intoxicating mood.

Designer tip: Turn off any security features like motion sensitive flood lights. Nothing kills a mood like flood lamps hitting your eyes every time you run to the bathroom!

3) Comforts of home

Many parties start in the afternoon and continue through to late evening. Outdoor entertaining is all about the comforts of home. Relaxing, laughing and enjoying good food. Don’t spoil the magic because you weren’t prepared. Have bug spray handy  (I often keep it in the bathroom, in a basket on the counter), soft throws for your guests to snuggle up in, decaf coffee, soft music, anything you think they might need, have it on hand. When entertaining, make your guests feel comfortable and welcomed. The more accessible these items are, the more they will feel at home. Often people don’t like to ask for things. They feel it is too much to ask, and they will either leave or suffer. That isn’t a memorable experience. Have all of these items on a buffet table, in the bathroom, or in an area that encourages them to grab what they need without regret.

4) Dinnerware

Just like bringing out a few upholstered pieces from the house, I love using real dishes outside. Yes it’s not practical, they need to be cleaned but a mismatched set of china from a thrift store combined with old stemware is romantic and decadent. Life is too short, live it up and enjoy the simple pleasures in life! Take a trip to your local flea market and gather up beautiful mismatched dishes and stemware that work perfectly with your outdoor space. You’ll be amazed at how happy it makes you and the price can’t be beat.

5) Cloth Napkins and Silverware

Always use cloth napkins, even if it’s simple B-B-Q or hamburgers. If there are children at the event you can provide paper napkins for them, but the juxtaposition of formal-rustic is a good tug and pull for outdoor entertaining. It is more inviting, and they work a hell of a lot better than those napkins with seasonal prints that work as good as a plastic bag. Cloth linens are easy to find and not expensive. If you are concerned about stains, go for a black or brown option. Same goes for silver ware. Pick up an inexpensive set like this one from amazon, if you don’t want to use your every day stuff or get it from the flea market. It is more civilized and enjoyable. Guests will often sit longer and enjoy themselves rather than bolting for the door. Include them in the clean-up. Most guests are happy to help. It’s not the end of the party destination that counts, its the journey through the evening that should be enjoyed…even cleaning dishes!

6) Flowers

Always include fresh cut flowers on the outdoor buffet table, dining table, and in the bathroom – where ever your guests will be, give them flowers. They are pleasant and uplifting and suit the festivities perfectly. Outdoor entertaining is all about the outdoors! Not sure how to put your arrangements together? Click here for my secret floral arranging tips. Keep it simple and easy. The more simple you can make it, the more charming and delightful the arrangements are to your guests, especially if the florals are from the garden!

Amanda Gates
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