There's always one magical gathering every year that has everyone talking long after it's over. It's about getting people together, enjoying good food, music, and cocktails, and creating memories that will linger long after the last guest goes home.
With a little planning and preparation, you can be the one to throw the best party of the year. You can use your backyard long into the fall and early winter season if you take a page from tailgating's book. Tailgaters know it's not as easy as simply moving an indoor dinner party outside. Outdoor parties require some special TLC, especially if the weather is a little on the chilly side. Here are some tips for delighting your guests:
Keep the menu simple, but outstanding
Do casual, easy food, with a few surprises. We're not talking about fussy chateaubriand here. For a group of, say, 20 people, fire up the grill, appoint a grillmaster or two, and do steaks, fish, chicken, kebabs or ribs. For sides, go with a big plate of veggies like peppers, onions, zucchini, asparagus and tomatoes marinated in balsamic vinegar and grilled to perfection, topped with crumbled goat cheese. A big bowl of fruit and you're good to go. For larger crowds, you can do heavy hors d'oeuvres or go all out and cater it in. A full Southern barbecue with all the trimmings. Book that hot new Jamaican food truck everyone's buzzing about. For chillier weather, nothing beats a big pot of chili, an Italian feast or a taco bar.
Set the mood with music
Forget lugging your indoor sound system outside. Use a Bluetooth speaker with stellar sound like the LG PK7 Portable Bluetooth Speaker with Meridian Audio from LG Electronics USA. This highly portable speaker packs a big punch with 24-bit music quality over a Bluetooth wireless connection. You can even make calls on it, too. Bonus: It is splash proof and touts a 22-hour battery life on a full charge, so there’s no need to worry about using it by the pool or plugging in throughout the day. Just fire up your favorite music apps and start your playlist, because with sound like this, your guests will be wondering if Keith Urban is serenading them live.
Let the weather be your guide
If it's a balmy night you've got no worries, but if the temperature is going to dip a bit, make sure you have outdoor heaters and a fire pit or chimenea to keep your guests warm and toasty. There's nothing cozier on a dark, chilly night than standing in front of a fire with something warm to drink (hot brandy, anyone?).
Make sure to have a ‘plan b’ if Mother Nature gets really upset you didn't invite her. A little nip in the air is one thing, sleet is another. Watch the weather in the hours before your guests arrive and be ready to mobilize. This could be a party tent, an empty garage where you can move the tables and still watch the rain, or a different venue you have on speed dial.
Have a signature cocktail
It could be a spritzer with lemon and berries, hot cider with a splash of rum, or something a mixologist creates just for you. Complement that with drink stands in various spots in the yard, with wine, beer and other adult and non-alcoholic beverages. But ban the dreary coolers. Get creative! Fill a wheelbarrow with ice and load it with beer and other bottles. Go on a hunt in your garage or basement for inventive vessels to use. Another tip: stock up on more ice than you think you'll need. That, you can store in a cooler in the garage.
Create atmosphere with lights
Turn your yard into a midsummer (or fall) night's dream. Candles everywhere. Hint: Use the ones with battery-powered "flames." They won't be affected by wind, and there's no chance they'll fall over and catch fire. Hang paper lanterns from tree branches and drape holiday lights on fences. Float water lights in the pool for the ultimate party setting. You'll create a magical wonderland your guests will want to lose themselves in.
Create seating stations
Whether you're serving a sit-down dinner, having a buffet or simply cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, your guests are going to need places to sit. Depending on how many people you invite, you can rent tables and chairs from a party rental company, use your outdoor furniture or bring the inside out. The idea is to create spaces for people to sit and talk. On chillier nights, make sure heating elements are nearby and strew lap blankets here and there.
Attend to the little details
Bugs: Make sure you have enough citronella candles to ward off mosquitoes. You may also want to set up a basket containing various kinds of bug spray for your guests. Plates and flatware: You don't want to use your indoor dishes, but paper plates? Please. Not only are they hum-drum, they clog up landfills. Instead, try eco-friendly, disposable partyware. You can find biodegradable paper plates and cutlery, but why not make a statement with disposable plates made of palm or bamboo? They are recyclable, compostable and gorgeous.
Use these tips to throw the magical party everyone will be talking about all year long.