How to Throw an Outdoor Party

Outdoor party at night with string lights

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Next time you decide to throw a party, consider having it outdoors. As the warmer months approach, it’s fun to take advantage of the nicer weather and dine al fresco with your favorite people. And when the temperature drops, get a fire pit and have plenty of blankets available so everyone can stay comfy.

Whether you have a patio, screened-in porch, or a backyard pool, you’ll be able to enjoy some fresh air and a wide-open space as you mill about and chat with your guests. There's something about being outside with friends you enjoy that brings out the fun in people. Here are some ideas to help make your life easier when you throw your next outdoor party.  

Make a List

Keep a running list of everything you’ll need to do and check it off as you accomplish each task. Include your grocery list, beverage list, music, games, setup, and whatever else is needed for the party.

Your lists should be easy to alter so you can add things as you think of them. Also, have a guest list and put a mark by people's names when they accept or decline.

Person checking a grocery list while shopping

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Invitations

Even for an informal outdoor party, it’s a good idea to send out some type of invitation. It can be sent through snail mail, email, or even a phone call or text message. 

You’ll want to be specific with the date, time, and location where the party will be held. Include the type of party, whether it's a pool party, outdoor bbq, birthday party, etc. Add in a quick note on the food being served, so your guests know if it's appetizers or a meal. Jot down any special information if your guests should bring anything, such as a swimsuit and towel, a dish to pass, or BYOB. If you're planning to play outdoor games, include that too, so your guests will know to wear more casual clothes and comfortable shoes. 

Be sure to request an RSVP so you know how many people to plan for.

a party invitation

Stocksy / Kelly Knox 

Menu Considerations

Planning a menu for an outdoor party doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Offer a buffet with a variety of food options such as vegan or gluten-free to make sure everyone can have something they enjoy. 

Another thing you may want to consider is having a potluck. It gives your guests an opportunity to share their best dishes. Serve the food buffet style so you don't have to serve everyone.

Have a way to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Position the serving table near an electrical outlet for food warming trays. Place a shallow pan of ice beneath platters of items that need to be kept cold.

Round out the meal with an assortment of desserts. Cookies, fresh fruit, or other simple finger food desserts that are easy to eat are good choices.

Menu spread at an outdoor party

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Beverages 

The best hosts offer a variety of beverages to their guests. If you choose to serve alcohol, also provide some nonalcoholic options for those who choose not to imbibe or consume less alcohol. There is also nothing wrong with having a BYOB set up since everyone has specific preferences.

Put your beverage station in a different location from the food area. This can prevent a bottleneck when everyone is trying to get something to drink and eat. Have a cooler or ice chest filled with enough ice nearby.

Drink dispenser outside at a party

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Trash and Dirty Dishes

If you're using paper products, have at least one trash can available. Keep an eye on it and empty it before it starts to overflow.

You'll also need a place for everyone to put their dishes and glassware after they are finished. This can be a table or plastic bin that you set in an out-of-the-way location.

Having this system already in place will also make the post-party cleanup easier for you.

Trash and recycling bins

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Seating for an Outdoor Party

Provide plenty of seating for everyone. You can use a variety of seats from your patio set, lawn chairs, and folding chairs as long as they are in a secure position and on a level surface. Another option if the lawn is dry is to have blankets for those who are willing to sit on the ground.

If you don't have enough chairs to seat everyone, don't hesitate to ask friends if they can bring some over to help accommodate all the guests that are attending.

Blankets and pillows on the ground for party seating

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Shade and Light

If you’re hosting an outdoor party during the day, have some places with shade so your guests can get out of the direct sun. This can be a patio with a roof, a tent, an awning, or an umbrella.

A nighttime outdoor party needs plenty of lighting. It doesn’t necessarily have to be bright as long as your guest can see well enough to move about and have conversations with others. Use string lights, lanterns, candles, and other lighting you may already have in your outdoor area.

Decorations

If you like colorful decorations, you can go all out at an outdoor party. Hang colorful lanterns, put up a piñata, and pull out your brightest tablecloths. Even your place settings can be as colorful as you want. Don’t be afraid to mix and match colors and textures as you decorate.

Outdoor party celebration with balloons and decorations

Alistair Berg / Getty Images

Plan the Playlist

Every party needs music, so work on your playlist based on the people you’ve invited. If a variety of generations are attending, offer music that spans the decades. Keep the music upbeat, happy and fun.

Set up the playlist using music-streaming services like Spotify, iHeart, or Pandora and plan to have tunes that will play for five to six hours to ensure there are no repeats or interruptions to music. You can also ask the guests to contribute to the playlist, making for what could potentially be a very eclectic and fun combination of music. 

When playing the music, there's no need to blast it. Just keep it at an even level of sound so people can chat together and not have to yell over the music. 

Person planning a party playlist

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Activities

Once you know who is attending your party, you’ll need to determine what activities they’ll enjoy. It helps to know your guests' preferences.

Some people may prefer quiet conversation and listening to music, while others will enjoy a game of charades. You may even want to have various areas set up for different interests.

If children will be at your party, make sure you have plenty of activities lined up for them. Water sports and games are always fun because they keep the kids cool while they splash around. Make sure you arrange for enough adults to supervise the little ones.

A fire pit comes in handy, not only for keeping everyone warm during a cool evening but also if you want to toast marshmallows. This is a great activity that brings everyone together.

A DIY Cornhole set with bean bags scattered around.

The Spruce / Lisa Ruschioni

Themed Party

Parties that have themes can not only make your planning easier but provide a ton of fun, too. If it's a special event, holiday, backyard movie, masquerade, or an elegant cocktail party, knowing the theme makes the decorations, food, music, games, and dress simpler for both you and the guests.

As an example, Halloween-themed parties can be a lot of fun with everyone milling around in costumes, food, and drink inspired by pumpkins, ghosts, and goblins, along with music such as the Monster Mash playing in the background. 

You will find themed parties bring out a lot of laughter and merriment in your guests that attend. It's one of our all-time favorite types of parties, whether indoors or outdoors. 

Outdoor movie night themed party

Mixetto / Getty Images

Prepare Large Batches of a Cocktail

Select a cocktail that you can make up in large batches before the party. This will save time during the party, and you or your significant other won't be playing bartender all night. If it's a theme party, choose a drink that works well with that theme.

For instance, for a Mardi Gras theme party, you could make up a batch of Hurricanes or Daiquiris. Batches of sangrias also are popular to prepare for outdoor parties. Whatever cocktail you decide to make, have both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version prepared and clearly marked so people can choose the drink of their choice. 

Pre-made party cocktails outside

Kaizen Nguyen / Unsplash

Potential Noise Issues 

Outdoor parties can become quite noisy if you allow them to. If you know that your neighbors object for any reason, consider bringing the party indoors after a certain time. 

It’s also good form to invite the neighbors. If you do this, they’re not as likely to complain about the noise.

Dealing With Pests

When the weather heats up, the pests start swarming. There are several things you can do to keep the bugs at bay. Before the party, make sure there is no standing water in the area. 

Some well-placed fans will keep mosquitos and flies away from your guests and the food. Have some bug spray or repellent wipes available in case your guests continue to be bugged by flying pests. You can also use citronella candles to help with pest control.

Don’t forget that bugs enjoy a good feast too. Cover the food with netting or a specially designed lid to keep the insects from getting into the dishes you worked so hard to make.

Using tiki torches to keep out pests

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Prepare the Outdoors

Mow your lawn and trim your shrubs in the area where you plan to have your outdoor party. It’s best to do it the day before the party so it will still be fresh but you won’t be exhausted.

You’ll also want to clean your outdoor furniture to make sure it is free from dirt, bugs, and mildew. Sometimes all it takes is a good hosing to knock off the dust that formed since you used it last.

Person mowing the grass in the yard

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Be Prepared With First Aid

Even though you don’t plan for anyone to get hurt or have an accident, it’s always good to be prepared. Have a first aid kit at the ready, in case a bee stings someone or they fall and scrape their knees. 

The first aid kit should include items such as:

  • adhesive bandages in various sizes
  • sterile gauze pads in multiple sizes
  • antiseptic wipes
  • paper tape
  • cream or spray for bug bites or bee stings
  • tweezers
  • disposable gloves

Have a Backup Plan

If you're hosting an outdoor party, you should be prepared for a possible change in the weather. It might be a beautiful spring or summer day, and the skies darken, and it begins to rain. Always check the forecast to ensure you know what type of weather might move in and have a backup plan.

Smaller-sized parties can easily be moved inside your home and take place in the living area. With larger groups, you should plan to have a tent or canopy on-site (also beneficial to give your guests shade during the hot summer months) and make sure to have a few umbrellas on hand to escort people to their cars or into the house if necessary. 

Have Fun

The most important element of your outdoor party is to have fun. The event is finally here, so mingle with your guests, take the time to talk to everyone you invited, and enjoy yourself. If your guests see you laughing, chatting, and having a good time, they're more likely to enjoy the party as well.