From cocktail hour rooftop soirees and all white poolside parties, to rustic vineyard weddings and picnic style backyard barbecues, I’m sharing “Tara’s Tips” to plan the perfect outdoor event (with extra bonus tips that you may not have thought of 😃) to help you host an outdoor celebration full of style and substance – without a hitch.
There’s a nostalgic charm to outdoor events that has a way of brightening spirits and warming hearts. Whether it be the wafting aromas of freshly grilled cuisine, the energizing rays of sunlight peeking through patio shades or the casual breeze as you mill about and chat with guests amid nature’s soothing surroundings, the ambiance of al fresco affairs is absolutely enlivening.
As warmer weather approaches, you may be feeling nature’s irresistible call. If you are inspired to plan an outdoor event, you not only want to dream up the ideal setting, theme and all the ways to bring “the fun” – you also want to consider all the caveats, to ensure you have a contingency plan in place to keep the fête festive and fabulous!
COMFORT IS KEY:
With any outdoor event, to keep your guests comfortable, you must first consider the weather and the length of time your guests will be required to remain outdoors
- Half & Half: Circulate your event to be both indoors and outdoors. This will provide guests an opportunity to break away from the heat to cool off. It also empowers guests to determine how long they will expose themselves to the outdoor elements.
♢Bonus Tip: Indoors may be the best location for food, with the outdoors serving as a gathering location for socializing, networking, and activities.
- Hydration: Provide outdoor relief from the weather via a self-serve beverage station or butler service with a variety of iced teas, infused-water, or lemonade to refresh and quench thirst. Cool beverage offerings should be planned for prior to the start of your celebration and throughout the event..
♢Bonus Tip: Branded water bottles make an excellent eco-friendly gift; helping guests stay hydrated while promoting your brand or personalized message.
- Cooling: For a robust cooling method (and if you have access to a power source), electric ceiling fans or portable air conditioning units are an optimal cooling solution. For reliable service with portable air conditioning units, I recommend my friends at Airpac. Fan surfaces are also great “real estate” to brand your event with your logo or pertinent event info.
♢Bonus Tip: Personalized handheld fans offer sweet relief from the heat and serve as crowd pleasing keepsakes – not to mention an inexpensive cooling off solution!
- Sun Protection: Reducing guest’s exposure to the sun should be top of mind. Be sure to position your party in a shaded area, avoiding the direction of the sun. Place large patio umbrellas or canopy draping throughout the seating area. Depending on the type of event and ground space, make sure that your area is tented or has a pavilion, pergola, or other type of covering.
♢Bonus Tip: Parasol umbrellas, designed to suit every style and taste, make an aesthetically pleasing, sun-shielding accessory for weddings and all types of elegant outdoor events.
When planning an outdoor party, you should always have a back-up plan.
- Think of a back-up plan not only for rain conditions, but also for extreme heat temperatures. When contending with the threat of unfavorable weather, communicate your back up plan with:
- your venue location
- vendors – everyone should know your Plan B.
♢Bonus Tip: Decide on a “call time” – a time when you will make the decision to change to your Plan B. This decision should be implemented at a minimum of 4 hours prior to your start time. This gives all vendors adequate time to relocate any equipment, and the opportunity to update your guests.
To create an environment that is free of “unhappy” sounds:
- Choose a location that is quiet and serene, away from distracting noise intrusions
- If there is a formal program or opportunities for speaking, make sure you have access to equipment that will amplify and provide microphones, so that speakers will be heard by your guests.
♢Bonus Tip: Your DJ or Band will possibly have a solution for sound equipment capabilities. If not, contact a local audio visual company.
Simply put, will guests be able to see what’s going on?
- Although your event may start during the daylight, dusk will eventually fall. Plan to have adequate lighting as the event carries into the evening. Consider lighting options such as candles, lanterns, torches, chandelier lighting in your tent, etc. You do not want to end up in the dark.
♢Bonus Tip: Create ambience with lighting. Bistro lighting is a great way to add visual interest to architectural details, such as arches and beams.
The best thing about the outdoors is that it is equipped with its own natural beauty.
- Add an organic aesthetic to your outdoor event by decorating with earthy elements, such as wildflowers, branches, wood slices, driftwood, river rocks, etc. Make sure that it compliments (and does not compete with or detract from) Mother Nature’s encompassing beauty.
Now that you are prepared to keep guests comfortable and sociable, it’s time to plan your food offerings:
- Soups: Some food items that are popular in cooler months can also be pleasing during the summer, such as soups. If you have soup on your menu, I suggest the following chilled soups:
- cucumber gazpacho with watermelon and mint
- cool cantaloupe soup with basil cream
- strawberry coconut soup
- fresh green pea soup with grape salsa.
- Salads: Keep your salads fresh and light. From the main ingredients to the dressing, you want the feel of coolness from start to finish. For a savory salad that’s sure to satisfy, consider:
- heirloom tomato salad with a vinaigrette dressing
- melon, berry and feta salad
- poached pear salad
- red and yellow watermelon salad with mint and feta
- citrus salad with spiced honey
- Side Accompaniments: When selecting your entrees, have a protein as the main dish, to be served hot. Pair your entree with light side dishes that aren’t heavy in taste or on the stomach:
- couscous, orzo
- petite herb yukon gold and red bliss potatoes
- mixed grilled vegetables
- squash and zucchini spaghetti
- Cool Treats: Add an element of surprise by having cool treats such as ice cream or gelato stations. Beyond stations, an unexpected alternative is to hire an onsite ice cream truck to provide novelty treats to your guests. A few vendor partners I’d gladly recommend:
- Dairy or Egg Products: To avoid the risk of the heat jeopardizing the integrity of your meal, and your guests getting sick, make sure that you are able to keep dairy and eggs products cool, or use alternative food choices.
♢Bonus Tip: If needed, work with a well-established catering company to provide you with the appropriate summer menu for your outdoor event.
You don’t want to observe your guests constantly swatting or complaining about little uninvited guests.
- If budget allows, have the outdoors chemically treated – on the ground and in the air
- Citronella candles are always a handy option to thwart pests
If you choose to have your outdoor event in a local governmental park, make sure that you have obtained the required permits, and that you are aware of any noise ordinances that you must obey.
- When planning outdoor events at your home, consult with your local homeowner’s association for rules and regulations
- Beforehand, send a lovely note to your neighbors to inform them of your event.
Taking these precautionary steps will remove the need for local authorities to approach your event and will prevent your outdoor event from having to end earlier than planned.
You are now well-informed and on your way to hosting an ideal outdoor event successfully. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need expert help to conceptualize and create a flawless, unforgettable outdoor experience to marvel your discerning guests