10 Outdoor Entertaining Essentials
Whether you’re setting up your outdoor space for the first time or you’re looking to streamline your current setup, this list is a good place to start. Assuming you already have a grill, you’ll be in perfect shape to host outdoor gatherings all season with only the items mentioned below. You can add on any extras as you go!
1. The Right Furniture
When if comes to furniture, it’s all about finding the right setup for your lifestyle. Some good questions to consider are how much space you have and the type of entertaining you do most often. If you have a huge yard with plenty of space for furniture, try creating separate settings for eating and relaxation. Do you and your friends enjoy chatting over a glass of wine? Put together a lounge area with room for a few snacks. Do you host sit-down meals most often? Invest in an outdoor dining setup with comfy chairs.
2. A Fan
Bugs tend to avoid moving air, so if you have issues with flies and mosquitoes in your yard, a fan can help keep them at bay. There are several types to consider — a more permanent ceiling-mounted model, an outdoor plug-in tabletop version or a freestanding plug-in version.
3. Patio Umbrella
Unless you enjoy baking in the blazing sun, or your outdoor space has a roof, overhang or other built-in shade structure, you’ll definitely want to invest in some sort of patio umbrella for daytime get-together. Freestanding ones tend to be more flexible than the table-mounted type, giving you the freedom to move the shade exactly where you need it. Size is deceiving, so make sure to look for one a little bigger than you think you’ll need.
4. Outdoor Speakers
Other than lighting, nothing sets the tone of a gathering like music. You can opt for a basic portable wireless speaker setup or have a complete audio system installed, but having the ability to play music is key for all types of parties and get-togethers.
5. Serving Tray(s)
It is so much easier bringing out dishes, drinks and snacks when you have a few good serving trays on hand. Be sure to find a tray with handles (for easy carrying) and a lip so your cargo doesn’t slide off the edge.
6. Beverage Tub or Cooler
Keep a cooler or tub for beverages stocked to avoid unnecessary trips to the fridge. A separate food cooler to hold condiments or other perishables is also a good idea if you’re serving food.
Bonus: A bar cart! Although not essential, an outdoor bar cart is really handy for serving drinks or snacks to a crowd. It can also pull double duty by serving as a bussing station for dirty dishes. Just stash an empty dish pan on the bottom shelf.
Outdoor furniture can take a beating by being exposed to the elements. A tablecloth not only adds beauty to your table, but can also serve to protect it. Outdoor tablecloths are great because they tend to be water-resistant, so spills roll right off, but regular tablecloths work well too.
8. Durable Tableware
While you can definitely use your regular dishes outdoors for a party, there are times when something less fragile is appropriate. Consider having a set of durable tableware on hand – one that can also be used on picnics or camping trips. If you’re not a fan of plastic, enamelware or wood sets are a good alternative.
9. Throw Blankets
For evening gatherings or ones that start during the day and stretch past dusk, having some cozy blankets on hand is a touch your guests will appreciate. Keep a few draped over your outdoor chairs so they are readily available for anyone who gets chilly.
Bonus: For daytime parties, it’s also a nice thought to have a basket of sunscreen and bug repellent available for guests.
10. Mood Lighting
Is there anything more inviting than a patio at dusk illuminated by a soft glow? Consider lighting up your outdoor space at night with wind-proof candles (like hurricane lamps), string lights or a combination of the two. And while real flames are impressive, like those from a fire bowl table or contained fire pot, if your space prohibits the use of fire, a lot of ambiance can be made with battery-powered candles.