6-Step Checklist for Making Your Next Outdoor Party a Success

An outdoor party takes a little more planning than an indoor one. Here are some of my tips for ensuring everyone has a great time at your next barbecue, cocktail hour, or pool party.

1. Seating:

Once you’ve figured out how many guests you’ll be having, you can determine your seating arrangements. Will your guests be seated at a long table? Or will you create a variety of seating arrangements for individual conversation groups? If there will be children present, do you want a kids’ table?

You may want to rent additional tables, tablecloths, linens, and chairs. In the past, I’ve ordered bamboo tables that seat four people and pushed them together to seat six.

2. Table Settings:

It worked out better here to have two small tables with umbrellas instead of one large table. We used same fabrics for both seating arrangements. (Photo: Michael Hunter. Designs: Margaret Chambers).

I recommend decorative melamine plates because they are shatterproof and dishwasher safe. With melamine, you can hardly tell that it’s not real porcelain. Acrylic stemware is a sturdy alternative to glassware — after all, you don’t want glass near the pool.

3. Food:

It’s imperative that the food you serve won’t melt or wilt in the heat. Some tried-and-true choices for outdoor parties include nuts, crudités, hummus dips, puff pastries, charcuterie boards, and dried fruit.

4. Drinks:

Self-service drink areas encourage guests to circulate the space and possibly cross paths with someone new to talk to. Stock your drink station with glasses, cups, straws, lemons and limes, club soda, and a cocktail shaker. Also, consider including your own cocktail mix or punch (serve ice separately so that you don’t water down the mixture).

5. Games:

Food and drinks are not the only ingredients for a successful outdoor party: Don’t forget to include games so that your guests never get bored. Good outdoor party games include horseshoes, croquet, giant Jenga, and badminton.

6. Weather:

Here in Dallas, the window of opportunity for perfect weather is small. If chill is a concern, provide throw blankets, outdoor heaters, or a fire pit to keep guests warm. During the hot summer, guests will appreciate access to cold nonalcoholic drinks, misters, plenty of ice, fans, and shade.

Even if you’ve never entertained outdoors before, you can plan with confidence if you keep these tips in mind.

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Margaret Chambers

Margaret Chambers, a registered interior designer (RID) and member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), leads Chambers Interiors and Associates. Her colleague Caitlin Crowley helped edit this column. Find more design advice at chambersinteriors.com/blog

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