Last night Mister and I had a chance to enjoy the new bistro set for the first time. Mister made his feta chicken burgers and I
burnt grilled some asparagus. It was awesome to just enjoy being out in the sun and kickback after a long day in the office.
While eating, we started talking about all of the things that we'd like to do this summer. And while we've got loads of ideas and adventures planned for the next couple of months, the one thing that we're both dying to do is entertain our friends on my deck - nothing formal, just a couple of good ol' fashioned BBQs / poker nights. This got me thinking about what goes into making a great evening outdoors and some of the do's and don'ts of making the evening enjoyable for everyone involved.
Therefore, I bring to you my official list of do's and don't for outdoor entertaining.
Do take seating into consideration. Your guests might enjoy milling around the food and drink table for awhile, but at some point they're going to want to sitdown. Consider picking up a couple of cheap folding chairs, or hit up someplace like Canadian Tire that carries folding benches that can seat two or three guest. Plus when you're done that take up little space.
Don't forget that it is summer and that there's mosquitos and bugs all over the place (especially if you live on the Canadian prairies). Nothing kills an evening faster having your guests sitting around swatting at mosquitos. It can be the nicest night outside but if your guests are being eaten alive don't expect your party to go into the wee hours of the morning.
There are several options available - from candles and torches, to electric zappers or fogging a few days before your event. It's worth the time, energy and extra coin to do so. Your guests will thank you.
Do invest in plastic or acrylic dinner and serving ware. While I love my friends to death, there are few that can be a bit clumbsy from time to time (or after they've had a few glasses of wine), so I'm definetly investing in some acrylic stemware this summer to prevent breakage of my good stemware.
There are loads of options available at a number of different price points. I'll be hitting up my local Real Canadian Superstore for some tumblers and also some wine glasses. They look awesome and I can continue pouring drinks without worrying about cleaning up glass shards later in the evening.
Don't forget about lighting options for when it gets dark. Have you ever tried playing cards in the card? It's not that easy is it? If your space comes equipped with exterior light fixtures, consider putting in a stronger wattage of bulb for the evening of your event - it can easily be switched out to a lower wattage unit for when you don't want to see every square inch of your space. Also, consider adding accent lighting to your space to create a more intimate feel. It seems like each season retailers are coming up with more and more options for great outdoor accent lights - everything from lanterns and rope lights to candles, lamps and chandeliers that can be used with tealights.
And while there are loads of amazing pieces out there that you can spend oodles of money on, there are also some great ideas that are very inexpensive. Paper lanterns with battery powered tealights can be had for under a couple of dollars each, tealights that you can place in glass juice tumblers that you already have are a dime a dozen. Or consider something unique and different like using lightweight wire to hang clear glass canning jars from a tree or from the beams of your covered deck? This idea might take a bit of time, but who beautiful would a scene like below look at your next gathering? That and your guests will be raving about how creative you are.
Do consider non-alcoholic drink options for those of your guests who may not drink, or those who wish to limit their alcohol intake. Most people have the usual 'mixes' out for their guests, and while this is fine and dandy, it can get a bit boring. Check around online to find different 'mocktail' recipes. Also, next time you're wandering around the supermarket pickup a sparkling water like Perrier and flavoured syrups to create Italian sodas. Or look for sodas in glass bottles or choices from abroad.
Don't rule out the idea of creating a themed evening. As your guests arrive throw a lei around each of their necks and let the shenanigans begin. I'm not saying that you have to go all out and come up with a whole Bollywood theme, complete with dancers, but hey, why not do something a bit out of the ordinary. Come up with some goofy centerpieces or some funky background music to keep guests moving around.
Do make sure that you've got some great music going on - be it by bringing out the satellite radio, hooking up your iPod to a set of speakers. Some good tunes puts your guests in a relaxed mood and can help set the pace of the evening. Think about who you're entertaining and try to come up with a mix that's appropriate for them. And if all else fails and your guests have no sense of musicality at least you'll be entertained.
Don't forget to have lots of good eats! When I'm coming over to your house for a party, I want something to eat....something besides potato chips that is. Don't worry, we don't expect you to make appetizers from scratch (unless you're known for your culinary skills then chop chop....back in the kitchen you go). There are a lot of great ready-to-go options available at your local grocery; from fruit and vegetable platters to cheeses, meats, skewers, crackers, etc, etc. Keep it easy, keep it fun, keep it tasty....no strange stuff. You don't wanna scare your guests with some sorta strange idea that you found in a random dust covered cookbook that you've recently unearthed.
And lastly, do remember that you're there to enjoy yourself as well. Don't worry about everything being perfect - your guests are there to enjoy themselves and have a good time with you! Kickback, enjoy the company of your guests and most importantly bring on the food and drink!
Now let's start planning!