If you're a party-throwing veteran, you know the drill when it comes to hosting one at your house: send the invitations, create stations for food and drinks, ask Alexa to play your favorite playlist, and maybe set out a board game or two. These are definitely the ingredients for a great indoor party — but what does it take to throw one in your backyard?
Although the party-planning basics are still there, outdoor party ideas require a bit more thought and consideration that maybe haven't crossed your mind. You are out in nature, after all, and there are things like bugs, darkness, and weather to consider, let alone how you'll play your favorite tunes and serve food when there isn't a countertop in sight.
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We've outlined some of these elements for you, which you can use as a guide the next time you're planning an outdoor soireé. Get ready for a magical evening under the stars with friends and family.
Step 1: Food
Unless you have a gorgeous, long, outdoor table where you can serve elaborate meals, we suggest sticking to finger foods that your guests can enjoy while milling around your backyard. Keeping the food easy means it will also be painless to carry apps from your kitchen to the patio (unless you finally build that outdoor kitchen you've been dreaming about) and you'll be able to relax even more during the party if you're not tending to food on a stove.
Step 2: Dishware and Flatware
So, we know that paper products are typically not the chicest things around — unless you know where to look. Forgo porcelain plates and your best wine glasses that will have you biting your nails all night long, and instead opt for paper versions that you can purchase from retailers such as Paper Source and Etsy, or you can try melamine for a fancier look. These days, it really is easier than ever to find disposable tableware in biodegradable materials and stylish patterns. You can even track down high-quality, plastic flatware that won't break every time you attempt to cut anything other than cheese.
Get the look: Odeme Fête Melamine Dinnerware, $28 - $45
Step 3: Refreshments
Outdoor party ideas just aren't complete if a few cocktails (and mocktails) aren't served — at least that's what we think. Sure, you could put some drinks on ice, which is customary for al fresco fêtes, but we think you should take it up a notch. We suggest creating a real-deal outdoor bar, using a vintage trolley or crafting one of your own using an IKEA kitchen cart which you can simply wheel out to the patio. It'll hold all the refreshment must-haves that your party requires: bottles of your favorite libations, lemons and limes, glasses and other bar accessories.
Step 4: Layout
If you're throwing an outdoor party, we have no doubt that you already have a stylish patio in place, but you still need to consider the layout of your space to ensure it is party-ready. Are the chairs and sofa set up for easy conversation? Are there surfaces nearby where guests can set down their food and drinks? Is there enough room for people to move around? Even a small patio can have good flow if a space-maximizing layout is used.
Step 5: Style
Give your outdoor party idea a specific look and feel by sticking to a certain design style or theme. For a free-spirited, casual bash, bohemian touches are just right. For a slightly more formal affair, like a baby or wedding shower, or a housewarming shindig, consider farmhouse styling. Having a garden-style tea party or brunch? Floral decor and a dreamy tablescape will hit just the right note.
Step 6: Seating
And don't forget to give your seating a second glance. Is it comfortable and cozy for outdoor get-togethers? And more importantly, do you have enough to accommodate all of your guests? If the answer to both of these questions is "no," we advise shopping for a few more outdoor furniture pieces that can be moved around easily and will make your guests feel welcome and at ease.
Get the look: IKEA PS Vågö Chair, $29.99
Step 7: Decor and Accessories
There are tons of ways to infuse your outdoor party idea with personality and originality. First of all, an outdoor rug is a straightforward way to bring color and patterning to your patio, and it will save the day if any guests spill food or drinks. You can also add your DIY spin with a handmade bench, pallet sofa, or coffee table, things that are sure to be conversation starters.
Step 8: Lighting
This isn't a newsflash or anything, but we do want to remind you that eventually, it's going to get dark during your outdoor party. Since a bunch of guests stumbling around and tripping over croquet mallets and beach balls doesn't sound all that fun, we suggest lighting that will illuminate your entire backyard.
If you want your space to always be party-ready, install some sconces ahead of time that will shed light on the shadowy areas of your yard. Pendant lights and pathway lights are smart options, too. They'll be a bit more of an investment, but when your annual pool soiree rolls around, you'll be glad you made it. For something that's friendlier to your wallet, simply hang string lights. They'll bring surprising amounts of illumination to your party, and there's something about them that makes everything look enchanting.
You can never go wrong with torch lights. The real flame variety will add a tropical ambiance to your party, and if they're citronella candles, they'll keep bugs at bay. Plus, they'll make you feel like you're at a Hawaiian luau. But for the most uncomplicated and convenient option of all, look no further than outdoor table lamps. They're portable, and nowadays, they're so cool that we'd like to use them indoors, too.
Get the look: Room Essentials Clear Globe String Lights, $9.99
Step 9: Games and Activities
While you and your guests will likely be having plenty of fun talking and sipping a cocktail or two, it doesn't hurt to provide additional activities — we strongly recommend yard games, and lots of 'em. Lawn bowling, outdoor darts, bocce ball, and backyard tic-tac-toe are all great picks. It's also enjoyable to set out giant versions of some of your all-time faves, from Dominos to Dice.
In between the giggles, make sure the playlist that you've created especially for your outdoor get-together is still playing in the background, on the outdoor speakers you bought ahead of time, of course.
Get the look: Crate & Barrel Tumbling Tower Game, $149.95
Step 10: Insect Repellant
Last but not least, nothing puts a damper on an outdoor party faster than a swarm of bugs buzzing around party guests, drinks, and food. Running around with a fly swatter and bug spray doesn't exactly set a relaxed, festive mood, so instead, we suggest a few DIY candles placed all around that will combat those little pests. Comprised of beeswax and essential oils like eucalyptus, citronella, grapefruit, and cedarwood, it's an all-natural (and nice-smelling!) way to drive away any bugs that might be a bummer at your party. Fans, incense, and food domes can also be helpful to deter insects, too.
Where to Shop for Outdoor Party Essentials
Some of the absolute best paper products around can be discovered at Paper Source, known for their punchy prints, vibrant colors, and cheeky visuals. Flamingo straws or palm print napkins, anyone?
If you need some additional outdoor seating for your gathering, definitely head to IKEA. You won't blow the bank as you provide enough seating for everyone at your party, plus it'll make your outdoor space look incredibly modern and sleek.
We think your outdoor party idea is dearly in need of extra-fun decor, and that's where Target comes in. Shop here for paper lanterns, inflatable decorations, and sky lanterns.