There s nothing quite like the outdoors for entertaining guests. If you have a large space, guests can move freely while socializing under the sun or stars. When entertaining al fresco, with a little advance planning, your event can go off without a hitch. Here are some handy tips to make your party a winner.
No matter how many times you tune into your local weather forecast, remember that the weather could change in an instant. Be prepared with an alternate plan, such as a rain date, moving the party indoors, or renting a tent or awning that is large enough to cover your guests. Also, if hosting on a sunny day, allow for areas of shade and sun so that guests can be comfortable.
If hosting on a day that s slightly cool, consider renting or buying heat lamps.
Bugged by bugs
Don t let insects interfere with your event. Place a bug zapper at the perimeter of your party location for nighttime events. You may also want to stock up on citronella candles or insect repellent spray. Keep away bees, flies and other insects attracted to food by placing a jar filled with a sweet liquid (such as mixing a sugar-water solution) on your property, but away from guests. Insects will be attracted to the aromatic and tasty liquid and not what you re serving.
If you re short on serving bowls, space, or you want to cut down on the amount of post-party clean up, consider using hollowed out round loaves of bread for salads and dips, and hollowed melons for fruit salads and desserts.
Think finger foods
Finger foods are easy to carry around and won t require guests to lug plates and forks. Purchase inexpensive wood skewers, and thread with cheese cubes, fruit or slices of meat.
Help guests keep track of their beverages by supplying wine charms and/or personalized beverage holders. You can also just write guests names on self-sticking labels or tags and have them attach to a disposable cup.
Keep beverages cool by filling a children s pool or plastic tub with ice. Or, stash all beverages in a cooler so you don t have to make repeated trips indoors to the fridge. Place chilled foods in bowls surrounded by ice. Remember to put out refrigerated items last so they won t spoil.
Watch the wind
Use net food covers or something similar to prevent bugs from entering food. Also, prevent tablecloths from blowing away by attaching metal washers or coins into the hem of the four corners (you will need to remove a few stitches from the hem). For plastic tablecloths, tape the tablecloth to the underside of tables. Use weighted napkin holders to store paper napkins.
Light it up
A porch light may not provide enough lighting. Scatter candles or tiki torches around the entertaining space. You can also use tealights beneath homemade luminary shades, made by punching out a design in hollow metal food cans.