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Taking your Soiree Outside

Our temperate weather begs for taking your party outside. Whether you love to entertain at home or it’s your first time, throwing a backyard party is a great way to be a gracious host without committing to all the indoor prep and cleanup it can otherwise entail. 

Your aim is to provide a vibrant background for guests to eat and mingle without annoying the neighbors. 

If this is your first rodeo at hosting a party or if you haven’t been able to do one for a while, here are some of the basic steps to stage one that shines for everyone involved. 

Guest list and setting up

Decide how many people you can comfortably accommodate, and whether you need to set a firm cap or allow invitees to bring a pal or two. That’s likely to hinge on the amount of seating and standing room you can provide. This can be a combination of seats at tables, places to cluster in small groups and maybe some scattered poufs and floor pillows, depending on attendees’ ages and personalities. Consider how to accommodate any accessibility issues and make sure lighting will be adequate.

Menu

If you’re doing the cooking, prepare hors d’oeuvres or dishes you know will turn out well so there won’t be a lot of scrambling to do at the last moment. Even then, have a backup plan. If you go with a caterer or takeout from a favorite restaurant make sure your orders are clearly communicated as far ahead of time as possible. Use what you know about your guests’ dietary restrictions and preferences to judge how many alternative recipes you should offer. 

Keep the drinks as simple as possible, which will free up a little more time for you to enjoy your own party. Self-serve drink stands are perfect for water, tea and lemonade, and don’t forget to add some bright fruit slices, offbeat ice cubes or other flourishes to add visual interest. One or two more offerings, if clearly labeled, can be used for batch cocktails like sangria or Moscow mule punch, or you can add a margarita station. Of course, there’s always the option of bartender service.

Activities

What you choose to do hinges entirely on what you feel your guests will enjoy. If there will be a significant contingent of kids or teens you can set up an area with board games or some sport-themed video games to keep them active and excited. An informal gathering will happily congeal around some backyard favorites like horseshoes or cornhole. Other activities include incorporating card games or even tournaments built around volleyball, chess, quidditch or any other competition that can stoke the fires of friendly competition.

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