The pandemic has kept us all apart and isolated for well over a year by now. Thankfully, with the distribution of vaccines, there’s hope that we will see the end of the pandemic soon. To celebrate this occasion and take advantage of the summer weather, we’ve come up with 10 tips for planning the ultimate backyard dinner party for your friends and family once it’s finally safe to do so.
Preparing the Venue
The backyard shouldn’t feel like a limitation so much as a canvas on which you can create your perfect event. Prepare your backyard venue by revitalizing the landscaping and adding natural features like trees and flower beds. These create beautiful scenery and a more comfortable space where people can sit and socialize. Furthermore, taking advantage of the warm weather, set up amenities like canopies and hammocks that allow your guests to lounge in comfort and shield themselves from the sun if the heat starts to get a little too intense.
Tables and Seating
The chances are good that you don’t have the tables and chairs sitting around to host as many guests as you’d like. You don’t have to make a major investment into extra tables and seating if you don’t want to. Instead, a good DIY solution is to use a large piece of wood or plywood from any home improvement store and set it atop cinder block legs. This will create a functional table that you can make more visually appealing by simply covering it with a tablecloth of your choosing. This solution is easy and allows for some creative freedom in how you want to dress it up. Pull additional seating from the house in the form of kitchen chairs, desk chairs, or ottomans. If you’re looking for more natural seating, consider hunting for stumps in any nearby woods. A bonus of making your own tables is that you have more control over its size and shape so you can make sure it fits your backyard’s space well.
Setting the Table
The utensils and plates you choose will play a role in setting the mood of the party. You should use actual plates and silverware if you want your backyard party to be more like a dinner party where you expect everyone to spend most of their time at the dinner table. However, paper plates and plastic utensils will create a more casual impression that is also much easier to clean up afterward.
Further than that, however, you may want to consider decorating the tables—DIY tables or not—to add a bit more flair and style. It needn’t be anything complex—flowers or decorative linens are great and help to create a more festive mood.
If you’re going to have a backyard party in the summer, then adding barbecue to the menu is a no-brainer. Nothing’s better than a home-cooked meal, and the summer is really the only time to make home-cooked barbecue. Whether you’re an amateur or an expert at grilling, a barrel barbecue grill is easy to use and creates meals just as delicious as those made on a traditional grill. Furthermore, there is a bevy of smoker grill accessories that allow you a wider variety of recipes and methods. No matter what you want to cook, a barrel grill will do the job without taking up a lot of space.
To encourage mingling and prevent your guests from feeling like they’re stuck in one seat, adopt an open seat policy. Many refer to this as a “cocktail style” party, where food is available throughout the evening for guests to take and eat at their leisure as they socialize. This setup helps guests find what is most comfortable for them and create a more relaxed atmosphere.
The backyard offers opportunities for games and activities that would make for a fun addition to any party—especially if you’re expecting kids. Cornhole and bocce ball are classic lawn games that are easy to both set up and learn how to play. You can either leave these out for guests to play as they like or, if you prefer group activities, organize a friendly competition and have people team up.
Define the Outdoor Space
Beyond landscaping and natural elements, defining your backyard with furniture and amenities allows you to express yourself and create a space unique to your home. Something as simple as an umbrella will shield you and your guests from the sun while adding character to your yard. Features like firepits and porches add natural spaces for guests to gather around and socialize, while a bench in a corner will provide privacy and a reprieve from the festivities if anyone needs it. You might also repurpose indoor furniture for outside, such as using pillows from couches to make outdoor seating more comfortable. Whatever you choose to do, endeavor to make it both comfortable for your guests and expressive of yourself and your tastes.
Set Up Precautions
No one adds bugs to their guest list. Protect your party from pesky mosquitos and other pests by setting up a perimeter of incense or citronella candles. These will ward off bugs while also looking nice so as not to compromise your backyard aesthetic. Furthermore, if you’re expecting a lot of sun and heat, it’s a good idea to set aside sunscreen for guests to use to protect themselves from sunburn. These small considerations can make a big difference, so endeavor never to neglect them.
This point is particularly pertinent if you intend to have your party during the evening or expect it to last after sunset. As the sun goes down and the dark creeps in, you want people to be able to see, but the last thing you want is harsh lighting. Set the mood with overhead lighting, faerie lights, or flameless candles to add a warm glow to the party. It will be much more relaxing and comfortable for your guests than floodlights. If you have a firepit, then creating a small bonfire is another good way to set the mood and keep your guests warm if the temperature begins to drop.
Have a Backup Plan
Finally, perhaps the most important of the 10 tips for planning the ultimate backyard dinner party is always having a backup plan in mind. Sometimes, the weather takes a turn for the worse, you end up short on supplies, or an accident occurs during the party. Think about how you’ll address these twists of fate or emergencies so that, while compromised, your party can continue and still be a success.