30 Outdoor Entertaining Ideas www.dunelm.com
Summer days are ideal for outdoor dinner parties and informal gatherings. They’re a world away from traditional dinner parties, where perfectly matching dinnerware and exacting etiquette are expected. Instead, it’s a chance to create a relaxed and memorable atmosphere without worrying about fuss and formalities. Simply invite your friends, cook your favourite food, and enjoy the warm weather together. Perfect. To help you create an experience to remember with minimum fuss, we’ve put together 30 of our best tips for outdoor entertaining. Be warned: it’s addictive! Once you get started, we’re sure you’ll come up with some creative ideas of your own. www.dunelm.com | 1
Getting organised • The beauty of garden dinner parties is that they don’t need hours of organisation time. However, if you send your invitations out early, you’ll get the best possible turnout and create a real sense of occasion. • Text and email invitations are good for ad-hoc gatherings, but if you’ve got time, send very special hand-made invitations through the post. Rough recycled paper with hand-written messages works well. • If you’re putting on a sophisticated party, make sure your garden looks presentable. Mow your lawn, trim hedges and tidy up before guests arrive. • Don’t worry about matching china and perfect cutlery. Use a selection of bits and pieces from around the house, or buy a quirky patterned set like the Rose and Ellis collection. The little quirks only add to the informal atmosphere! • Tablecloths should be wipe-clean so you don’t have to worry about mess. PVC types work great, and are available in all sorts of fun, retro-style patterns. • You can use brown parcel paper as a table covering. This looks really rustic and is super-easy to clean up afterwards. 1. 2. 3. Table settings www.dunelm.com | 2 4. 5. 6.
Create a centrepiece www.dunelm.com | 3 • Repurpose a watering can as a vase. Use big, colourful flowers. • If you’re partying in a gazebo, try hanging bundles of topiary balls over your table. • Gather some branches, paint them silver and place them in a vase weighed down with sand or stones. Artificial branches work just as well as the real thing. • A simple flower arrangement never goes out of fashion! 7. 8. 9. 10.
Furniture and accessories • Dress your garden to impress with rattan furniture. These wicker wonders mimic the shape and comfort of indoor chairs and tables, creating a real ‘home outside the home’ feeling. That said, rattan furniture sets boast a sophisticated style that’s quite unlike anything you’ll find in your living room. They make a very special addition to your garden. • Light wicker chairs work well if you’re going for a feeling of chummy informality. Make sure you pair them with a sturdy table. • Metal tables painted white have a charmingly old-fashioned look. If you opt for the full shabby chic set of a metal table and chairs, make sure you’ve got plenty of cushions to keep guests comfortable. • A gazebo is a great idea. As well as providing shade and helping shield you from unexpected summer showers, they help ‘define’ your party area and create a sense of occasion. If you can’t get a gazebo, make sure you at least position a parasol over the place you’ll be eating. • Rather than confining everyone to the table, create private nooks in your garden where guests can gossip and catch up. A wooden arbour scattered with comfy cushions works perfectly – or try a simple, pretty bench situated in a shaded and secluded part of your garden. 11. 12. www.dunelm.com | 4 13. 14. 15.
Food • You can lay on the three-course dinner party experience, but try to keep food as simple as possible. The last thing you want is to be running back and forth between the kitchen and the garden. • When it’s scorching out, it’s unlikely people will want to eat until they’re stuffed. Don’t rush all the food out in one go. • Buffet-style plates of small nibbles work well. This way, guests can help themselves when they feel peckish. • A big bowl of fruity, home-made punch will go down a treat in hot weather. Simply mix your favourite fruit juices together until you find a combination that’s just right, then top up with lemonade (and perhaps a splash of light rum). Garnish with orange and lemon slices and serve. Easy! • Here are some quick menu ideas. Try Greek-style nibbles like stuffed vine leaves and olives, or throw together some tangy balsamic salads. Serve up a selection of home-made pizzas. Cut up some tasty veg and provide dips like hummus and ranch dressing. Create fruity desserts like fruit salads and that much-loved summer classic: strawberries and cream. 16. 17. 18. www.dunelm.com | 5 19. 20.
Setting the scene • Giving your party a ‘theme’ doesn’t have to mean dressing up in silly hats and giving out party bags. You can create a sense of atmosphere and continuity with subtle touches like music and entertainment – or you can go all out, it’s up to you! • Make music playlists to set the mood. For something a little different, try dramatic film soundtracks, evocative classical pieces or 1950s pop music. • Play traditional summer garden games like croquet or quoits. Keep score on a chalkboard and nominate a ‘referee’ to give the games a bit of organisation. Otherwise, it’s likely to descend into fits of giggles! • Garden ornaments, wall art and water features can all add to the atmosphere. 21. www.dunelm.com | 6 22. 23. 24.
After dark Remember to be careful around naked flames – never leave them unsupervised or place them near flammable materials! 25. • Create a mysterious atmosphere when night falls with large incense sticks or citronella candles. • Use a rustic chiminea or a funky bio-ethanol fireplace to keep everyone warm when the sun’s stopped shining. • For a really memorable occasion, move your chairs away from the table and sit around a fire bowl or pit. Give out some blankets and get really warm and cosy as you watch the stars come out. • Install some solar-powered lights along pathways. Not only does this look magical, it helps guests find their way around your garden safely! • Buy some outdoor fairy lights and drape them over a chandelier-style light fitting hung over your table. This makes a beautiful night-time centrepiece for your dinner party. • Place tea lights in jam jars and dot them around your garden (in safe places!). When lit, the light will cascade on its surroundings beautifully, and the jam jar will seem to glow. 26. 27. www.dunelm.com | 7 28. 29. 30.
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