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.
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.
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.
- With the permission of the attendees' parents, do a rain-party photo shoot! Have the kids pose with their umbrellas, rain jackets, and rain boots. You can also take some candids of the attendees playing safely in the rain. Polaroids are great party souvenirs that the attendees can take home with them to remember this fun party in the rain!
- Again with the permission of the parents involved, have the kids take part in mud painting. You can use the mud created by the rain to have the kids finger paint on canvases or on toys that you don't mind getting messy. This is a messy activity, but you can easily cover the guests in disposable rain ponchos.
- Before they come, have the kids make their own DIY boats, and do a boat race in the puddles! These can be made out of any found items, and as long as it's not raining too hard, everyone can set their creations afloat.
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.
- You can make rain and rainbow-themed decorated cookies to celebrate the rain and the happy rainbow that follows!
- Decorate rain ponchos or rain jackets. This way, the next time your kiddos play outside in the rain together, they can all wear their own designs.
- You can serve non-alcoholic juice drinks with umbrellas in them! Be sure to watch guests with the umbrellas; their toothpick ends can be sharp.
Make It an Indoor Movie Watch Party
You can put together a fun day or movie watching and even build sheet and pillow forts for them to settle into while they watch.
- Before the party, poll the guests (with the help of their parents) for their favorite movies. You can even select movies within a theme, such as Disney or Pixar classics.
- Provide movie theater snacks, such as popcorn and candy, so the guests can feel like they're watching a film on the big screen.
- If you do want your guests to watch a movie on the big screen, you can get a projector and make an ironed bed sheet into a big screen if you don't have a real screen. Here's a solution for how to make a DIY screen, if you have the time.
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.