A backyard picnic, a garden party, an outdoor dinner party, or an al fresco (in the open air) dinner party - no matter what you call it, enjoying a meal with your closest friends in an outdoor space is something everyone can look forward as the weather starts to warm up!
In this guide, we'll take you through some of the best backyard dinner party ideas you'll need to consider to make your next get-together a huge hit. We've thought about everything from the weather to the main attraction!
The best time of the year for a backyard dinner party
Along with winter, spring, summer, and fall, patio season is also deserving of its own excitement and traditions. As the days get longer and the temperatures rise, there's something extra special about creating an outdoor space to host family and friends for dinner and drinks.
Kids and adults alike can appreciate the ambiance of an outdoor dinner party, and you can create an evening as casual or elegant as you like with tips for entertaining.
Spring, summer, and early fall tend to be the best time of year to enjoy a meal outdoors, but other things to consider when planning are when the weather is the most likely to be nice, when the bugs aren't too bad, when your outside gardens are in full bloom, and when the hot weather won't be a deterrent for being outside.
What to consider when planning a backyard dinner party
Hosting an outdoor dinner party can be fun and memorable, but there are a few important things to consider that are different from hosting dinner indoors:
It's an unfortunate truth about even the most beautiful outdoor spaces that bugs will likely be making an appearance. But there are some things you can do to deter pests and help keep your guests comfortable.
Some flowers, including lemongrass, lavender, and mint, are aesthetically pleasing and can help keep the bugs away. Consider including them in a bouquet on the table.
Have bug spray available for your guests.
Light citronella candles or torches as the sun sets to enjoy the candlelight and keep bugs away.
Fans and moving air can help deter bugs, so bring some fans outside
Open food and dirty dishes can also attract unwanted party guests, so keep food covered when possible and tidy as you go throughout the evening.
Unlike an indoor party, the weather can make or break your backyard dinner party, so keep an eye on your weather forecast when planning for your next outdoor gathering.
Be sure to have a plan in case of rain.
Whether you have an outdoor covered space where you can set up your dining table and chairs, or if the party has to be moved indoors, don't get caught in the rain without a backup plan!
Like rain, too much sun can also be a nuisance at your outdoor dinner party.
Be sure to set your table up in a spot that won't bake your guests in the sun or leave half the table squinting into the sunlight. Be sure to offer some shady spots for those who might be sun sensitive.
If your guests are coming over in the afternoon before your meal, offering sunscreen to keep everyone safe from the sun while enjoying the outdoors can be a good idea.
Setting up a shade umbrella over the dinner table is a great way to combat too much sun exposure. Setting up a conversational sitting area under a tree or in a shady spot in the yard can be a great reprieve for guests looking for a cool spot to sit.
While wind might help keep the bugs away, it can also wreak havoc on your outdoor setup.
Consider weighing down your tablecloth and opting for heavier dinnerware over paper plates to help curb the impact of the wind on your outdoor dining experience.
Cooling temperatures into the evening
While we all look forward to warm summer nights, it's important to remember that temperatures start to cool once the sun goes down.
To help keep your guests comfortable into the evening, have some blankets or sweaters to wrap up in to keep the party going even after the sun goes down.
Prepare as much as possible ahead of time
Dinner parties inside almost always revolve around the kitchen, but when you're hosting an outdoor event, you don't want to be stuck inside prepping while your guests are enjoying the outdoors, so prep as much as you can ahead of time to get the most out of your hosting experience.
Furniture ideas for a backyard dinner party
Backyard dinner parties are the perfect place to enjoy great food, the outdoors, and the company of your favorite people. The best way to enhance the experience is to ensure everyone is comfortable on furniture and at tables that encourage conversation.
Consider setting up areas conducive to a conversation, around dining tables or coffee tables for instance.
Transformer Outdoor Living helps you seamlessly create different seating configurations no matter the size of your guest list, and the space-saving integrated chairs will maximize your space even after your company leaves.
You can also ensure that there's enough seating by bringing some indoor furniture outside if you need to in order to accommodate guests.
Depending on the vibe of your dinner party, there are a few options for setting up and decorating your table to enjoy your meal with guests.
If you're looking for a bohemian backyard dinner party, a low table with elegant decor and seating on the ground can create a unique ambiance
You might also want to set up a few tables, one for drinks, another for food, and one for eating. This will help you make the most out of your space and encourages guests to use your whole space.
Backyard dinner party ideas
There's something about enjoying dinner outside that can make for an unforgettable evening because being outside can tie in so many nostalgic elements.
Try some of these ideas so your next outdoor dinner party will be one to remember!
Keep the food simple
Some of the best outdoor dining experiences are when the food is simple and allows guests and hosts to enjoy the outdoor space and company.
So when planning a simple dinner party, consider some of these outdoor dinner ideas that are sure to please.
Grill up your favorites for a menu that everyone can enjoy!
Whether you're grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, salmon and steaks, or vegetable skewers, lighting up the grill and getting to cook outside is a great way to host an outdoor dinner party.
A taco bar is a great option for outdoor dining because so much of it can be prepped ahead of time. That way, you'll be ready to spend the evening with your guests without distraction.
Prep the toppings and keep them in covered bowls that can be easily brought out from inside when its time for dinner, and put back into the fridge for easy clean up when the meal is over.
Be inspired by the outdoors and add many fresh ingredients from your local farmers market, such as fresh cilantro, peppers, lettuce, and spinach, so the outdoors is also part of the meal.
There's really nothing that says summer weather like a pulled pork, chicken, or beef sandwich, and when you offer the main course on a bun, it can help keep the clean-up minimal.
Pair your barbeque sandwich with your favorite side dish (salad, cornbread, or macaroni and cheese are great options) and refreshing drinks, and you'll be ready to please your guest list.
If you're looking to host your al fresco dinner party during hotter summer temperatures, a salad bar might be just the menu you're looking for to offer guests a variety of cool foods.
You can ask guests to bring their favorite summer salad for a potluck meal or offer a build-your-own salad bar that allows you to prep all the toppings ahead of time or on the grill outside. This lets guests build the salad of their dreams and takes a lot of the pressure off you!
There's nothing that says summer weather like lemonade, so try setting up a self-serve lemonade stand for your guests to enjoy.
Gather your favorite outdoor glasses and dress up your lemonade with different fruit options - strawberries, raspberries, lime, kiwi or mint leaves can help take your lemonade stand to the next level.
Elevate your table decor with something special for your guests.
Place cards are usually reserved for special events, but personalizing your table and place settings adds a special touch to your backyard dinner for your guests.
There are some things that outdoor dinner parties can deliver that you just can't get indoors. String lights under the stars can help set a magical ambiance, unlike anything you can do inside the house.
Other great ideas for table decorations you might already have around the house that will enhance your outdoor table are fabric napkins, candle holders, and flowers.
Many of us have indoor speaker systems to play when hosting, but sometimes it can take extra forethought to include music at your outdoor party.
Bring a wireless speaker outside and find a playlist that sets the right mood to boost your garden party.
There's nothing like roasting marshmallows or making s'mores, so try integrating the fire pit into part of the meal and make dessert over the flames.
Warm weather brings the perfect excuse to gather your friends and family and host your next dinner party outside!
Now you should have everything you need to host your own backyard dinner party. Though prepping a get-together like this can be stressful, don't forget to kick back and relax yourself. Using these ideas, planning your own backyard dinner party will be a breeze.