Now that the weather is warm and the skies are blue, it’s time to enjoy some outdoor entertaining. Whether you’ve got a quarter-acre block, a courtyard or a small balcony, here are some hints and tips for getting the most from your space.
Party planning primer
Whether you’re organizing a kids’ birthday party, a family lunch or just a lazy Sunday afternoon barbecue, a little planning will go a long way towards ensuring everybody has a great time. Make sure you cover off:
- Invitations: let guests know when to turn up (and when you’d like them to leave); what’s happening with food (what, if anything, to bring, as well as if and when a meal will be served); what to wear (especially important for kids’ events) and, depending on the weather and your venue, what to do if it’s raining.
- Catering: make sure you provide enough food for everyone, without going overboard. Be practical here and make sure your cooking space (kitchen, BBQ etc.) will be able to produce enough food fast enough to keep everyone satisfied.
- Seating and eating: will you need to seat everyone for a meal or a cake-cutting? Or will the gathering be more informal? This connects with your plans for crockery, cutlery and cups: disposables make cleaning up a breeze but will they be sturdy enough for the food you’re serving?
In the backyard
It may sound blindingly obvious, but get the lawns mowed at least a day before the event, preferably two or three days before (so any stray clippings or other debris will have time to disperse). Also trim the hedges and flower beds, and make sure anything that might cause a problem – like rose bushes, oleander or nettles – is trimmed, roped or otherwise made safe for guests.
Shelter from the sun is important in summer, but you’ll need to balance this with the need for kids (if any) to roam free and be safe while doing so.
If your event will run into the evening, make sure you’ve got enough lights and be careful with any power cable runs – keep them out of the way, pegged down etc.
In the courtyard
Courtyards are a very different proposition to backyards. Be mindful of surfaces and shelter – you don’t want barefoot guests burning their feed on hot concrete – and also of how people will flow from courtyard to interior and back.
De-clutter your space before guests arrive and rely on larger pieces to create the right atmosphere; if your courtyard is mostly tiles, some large potted plants will soften the mood. As with a backyard, make sure there’s shade and seating for all.
Finally, check your sound system. Cranking in the living room stereo probably isn’t a good idea; a small portable system (or a set of outdoor speakers) will be your best bet. Your neighbours in particular will thank you, as background music will make individual conversations harder to discern and any noise from your gathering less intrusive.
On the balcony
Balconies are the trickiest spaces of all, especially if you’re hosting a barbecue. As with a courtyard, clear the space of all but the essentials and rely on a small number of larger pieces to decorate and add mood.
Arrange any furniture around the outside of the balcony and consider using a mobile trolley for serving; you can stow it when food has been served and people want to mingle.
Bonus tip: when buying furniture for your balcony, go with wire or a similarly light design and leave the heavy wicker and wood settings for bigger spaces.
In the park
If your space isn’t big, or if you’re planning a large gathering, definitely consider a local park – or even something further afield. There’ll be plenty of room to move and most have BBQ facilities of some sort on-site. Make sure you take a reconnaissance trip a week or two before and arrive early on the day to set up and stake out your space.
Be respectful of other people using the public space and be sure to check whether any bookings or other permissions are necessary (for example, you may need permission to bring your own portable BBQ to a park).
Finally, enjoy the space, but be sure to keep an eye on any kids – and leave your space as clean as it was when you arrived.
Have a great day!
It’s easy to get stressed when you’re planning a gathering but it’s important to remember that rule number one – have fun – applies to you too. So relax and remember that the best contribution a host can make is to be happy and having fun. Bad moods and stress are contagious, after all – but so are good moods and relaxation.