Patio Party

Summertime is a great opportunity to entertain guests on an outdoor patio. Whether you’re planning a family barbecue, a friend’s birthday celebration or an elegant dinner party, now is the time to get your patio ready for guests.

Sharon Ringier, an officer with the Event Planners Association and founder of Sharon Ringier Events, says it’s important to know your environment and your audience.

“Throwing an outdoor party is all about setting the overall ambience,” Ringier says. “Try to use your outdoor space as your landscape, and then add details from there.”

Incorporating decorations in unexpected ways can complete a party’s overall look. Small details such as colorful linens, eclectic glassware and unusual floral arrangements stand out at any event.

Summer Barbecue
Take the opportunity to gather friends or family together, and enjoy an evening on the back patio. Incorporate colorful summer linens into your tablescapes. Turquoise, lemon yellow or papaya orange contrast well with the greenery of a backyard. Think of your backyard as a blank canvas; the addition of brightly colored tablecloths, napkins or dishes will stand out in comparison.

“Go with a standard color as opposed to using a floral table cloth,” Ringier says. “Add accents of color through the napkins and glassware.”

Add more interest by using food as decoration. Even a “clear vase filled with green apples, lemons or limes with twigs and flowers gives tables a natural flair,” says Paula Chapman, former owner of Inside Outlet, a home furnishings store. Use different-colored fruits or vegetables to match your overall theme or table arrangement.

Birthday Celebration
Flowers are a simple, beautiful way to liven up a table setting for a summer birthday party. Bring in eclectic tableware or Mason jars and pair them with fresh-picked wildflowers.

Wildflowers are heat-resistant, long-lasting and sturdy enough for an outdoor birthday party. Stephanie LaHue, co-owner and merchandising manager of My Secret Garden, says bachelor’s buttons, sunflowers, gaillardia, coreopsis and wild daisies look charming within a table arrangement or around the patio. Small groupings of wildflowers can be placed in miscellaneous jars, vases or bowls. Even a simple, lone hydrangea can pull together a table.

If children are invited to the celebration, Chapman says, “Give them their own table with some outdoor toys to entertain them.” She also recommends setting up a game of bocce ball, croquet or badminton so guests can play while you are preparing food or chatting with friends.
Dinner Party
When entertaining close friends for an elegant dinner party, small embellishments will make people remember your dinner party decorations as discreet yet remarkable.

Ringier recommends incorporating enclosed candles, Tiki torches or lanterns to illuminate a patio and set an ambience for a dinner party. Enclosed candles help prevent the lights from blowing out on a windy night, and Tiki torches create an upbeat summer atmosphere. Unscented candles are best when serving food.

Vibrant, unusual flowers add interest to dinner party décor. “Even though it’s an evening event, it does not mean you have to use all white,” LaHue says. “You can definitely bring in color and tropical flowers.”

Tropical blooms such as bird of paradise and protea can withstand the heat if the sun is still up when your dinner party begins. The overall look with tropical flowers can be wild and dramatic, or sleek and simplistic.

Pro tip: “Set up a table for buffet style serving if guests exceed eight.” ­— Paula Chapman