When the weather is fine, it’s time to take the party outside. Whether you love planning elaborate menus and decor, or prefer easy last-minute cocktails with friends, the key is finding the fete to suit your style. Get inspired by these eight outdoor party ideas, from beachy cocktails to just desserts.
1. Chill in an outdoor living room. Make your patio even cozier by bringing a few home comforts outside. Roll out a rug, plump up the couch with extra pillows and keep a soft throw within reach.
If you’re short on outdoor furniture, haul a few pieces out from your living room temporarily — sitting on real furniture outside feels luxurious.
2. Sun bleached and beachy. Conjure up a summery mood with pale tones of white and sand. Hang white curtains or suspend fabric overhead to provide coverage from the sun. Decorate the table with white shells, hurricanes filled with sand and tiny tea lights.
3. Outdoor dining, French or Italian style. Draw inspiration from the French and Italian traditions for long, leisurely lunches al fresco. Set out big platters of simple, seasonal foods family style, along with wine in glass carafes.
Keeping a basket of essentials (sunglasses, straw hats, sunscreen) available for guests to grab as needed is a thoughtful touch.
Tip: Make the bash budget friendly. Hit budget-friendly stores like Ikea and Target to stock up on party supplies in goes-with-everything white. Paper lanterns, string lights and candles set the mood, and an inexpensive set of plates and unbreakable cups will see you through many parties. Give a basic picnic table a DIY update by stenciling words onto the surface.
4. Tropical takeout. Who says you have to cook to throw an awesome party? Order in from your favorite local restaurant instead and focus your effort on the decor.
A coffee table placed on colorful outdoor mats and surrounded with floor cushions makes a fun spot for a small dinner party to congregate at. Set out colorful parasols, lanterns, potted succulents and sculptures or other artwork borrowed from inside.
5. Homegrown-edibles swap. Get together with garden-loving friends for a party that celebrates the bounty of the season. Invite guests to bring something they have grown, picked or made from scratch — from a basket of perfect juicy tomatoes from their garden to jars of homemade jam or pickles, or even home-brewed beer.
6. Foreign cinema. With a small projector (either purchased or rented) and a laptop, you can screen a movie right in your own backyard. For a sophisticated evening, set up tables outdoors and show a foreign film along with dinner.
For a family-friendly twist, show an independent kids’ film and follow up with s’mores around the fire pit. Check out the DVD list from the New York International Children’s Film Festival for ideas.
7. Just desserts. When you would really like to have people over, but dinner sounds like too much, host a dessert party instead. Invite friends to show up after dinner and surprise them with an elegant dessert table set up on the patio.
A few desserts, perhaps a cheese plate, plus coffee and tea are all you need. Finish off the evening with a special dessert wine if you like.
Tip: Create mood lighting. Beautiful lighting is the key to hosting an outdoor party that really wows guests. And the great thing is, it doesn’t need to be expensive! Line up hurricane lamps or tiki torches along a path, scatter tea lights on tables and hang lanterns and string lights overhead. If you are concerned about fire, stick with battery-powered candles rather than the real deal.
8. Cocktails at dusk. Ask guests to arrive just as the sun is beginning to set for cocktails and small bites on the patio. As the sun dips lower, turn on the landscape lighting and clusters of candles on every surface.
Tell us: what was the best outdoor party you’ve ever had?