Rained Out Outdoor Party Ideas

Rained out party
Matthias Ritzmann/Getty Images

The lawn is freshly mowed, the deck is draped with balloons, and the folding tables are perfectly arranged when, suddenly, the clouds come rolling in, threatening to wash out your party before it even begins. Anyone who has ever planned an outdoor event knows the dread of such a scene. It doesn't matter if you micro-manage every little detail; the one thing you can't control is the weather.

Any outdoor party should always be planned with a weather contingency in mind. While panic may lead you to believe you have to cancel your party (and thus, waste all your hard work and planning), that's simply not true. With a few simple tips and a backup plan in place, you can still celebrate—rain or shine.

Move It Indoors

When rain threatens an outdoor party, your first instinct may be to move the party indoors. It is rarely simple, however, without a predetermined plan for such an occurrence. When planning your outdoor party, it’s a good idea to plan for an indoor party as well. When creating the guest list, for instance, consider how many people you can reasonably entertain indoors, which may be less than the amount you could spread throughout the backyard.

While some themes can easily make the transition from outside to inside, others may rely on the outdoor setting. A pool party, for instance, isn’t something you can move indoors, but that doesn’t mean the entire theme has to be scratched. Kids can still wear their bathing suits indoors, and though they may not be able to swim, they can enjoy an indoor beach party instead. A garden tea party can be moved indoors as well, when you gather all of your house plants and some artificial floral accents together to transform one room into an indoor garden. Perhaps you planned a large, outdoor scavenger hunt for your pirate party? Hide the birthday cake inside instead. Write a note from a rival band of pirates claiming to have stolen this birthday treasure, then plant a trail of clues leading to the location of the cake.

Buy Versatile Decor

When you gather the supplies for your outdoor party, consider decorations that can be easily relocated, or pick up a few extras to keep on hand in case you have to transform an indoor space on short notice.


Outdoor parties and barbecue grills seem to go hand in hand. If the grill is located beneath an overhead shelter and the rain isn’t too heavy, you can still grill outside and just serve the food inside. When rain crashes your party, however, there is always the chance it will bring along its unruly friends known as wind and lightning, leaving you with nothing to feed a house full of hungry kids. Save the day (and your sanity) by keeping the number for a pizza delivery place on hand, or go with some of these alternate suggestions for a backup menu:

  • A couple of casseroles, made and frozen ahead of time, can be thawed on the morning of the event if the weather forecast threatens to storm. And they won’t go to waste if the sun is shining. Just keep them in the freezer and use them the next time you need a quick-and-easy dinner solution.
  • Finger sandwiches are easy to put together on the morning of the party, or you can plan for a sandwich platter and a few easy sides, such as chips and salads, to go along with your barbecue foods. If the party moves inside, you could even spread a blanket out on the floor and let the kids enjoy an indoor picnic.
  • Convenience foods that go straight from the freezer to the oven or microwave are also, well, convenient to have in stock should you need a last-minute menu change. Some kids’ favorite selections include pizza, chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, quesadillas, and French fries.

Stay Outside

Maybe the day isn’t expected to be a total washout. When the forecast predicts scattered showers or drizzle, you can still salvage your party plan—with a little help from some outdoor shelter, that is. If your deck or patio has an awning or gazebo, set the party table beneath it. This way, kids will have a place to gather during periods when the weather keeps them from the rest of the yard. Another alternative is to set up some tarps or party tents in the yard. The garage is another space that comes in handy for a rainy day party. Raise the doors, move the car out, clear some space, and set the party table inside.

Call parents on the day of the party and ask them to pack their kids’ rain gear. If the temperature is warm enough, it won’t hurt your guests to get a little wet. It will probably thrill them to make the best of the wet weather with impromptu party activities, such as rain dancing, umbrella twirling, and puddle jumping.

Rain Date

If your party truly relies on its outdoor setting and a sunny day, you may have no choice but to reschedule. Choose a rain date and add it to the invitation. With any luck, you won’t have to use it, but guests should know ahead of time what to do in the event of rain. A rain date also lets guests know to keep the secondary date free, as well.

Rainy Day Party Theme

If you can't stop the rain, embrace it instead. Change your party theme to "rainy day" and enjoy a celebration complete with rain-themed decorations, games, and food.