It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly eight months since our world was turned upside down by Covid-19. Socially distancing was bearable this spring and summer, but with temperatures dropping, many are wondering how they can continue seeing family and friends outside safely and comfortably. Outdoor entertaining in the fall and winter can be challenging, but we have several ideas to make it as warm and cozy as possible.
Make a Plan & Stick to It
- Make a plan and make it known. Everyone has different comfort levels and differing opinions on what’s “safe” these days so make a plan in advance and let guests know exactly what to expect with the invitation. This ensures guests feel comfortable coming into a social situation and, just as importantly, lets guests know what you are comfortable with as a host. Make it clear where you’ll be gathering (backyard, screened-in porch, inside) and how many people will be there. Also note what type of surface you’ll be on if outside and whether or not there will be heating so guests can dress appropriately.
- After you communicate your plan, stick to it. As guests settle into the night, it’s easy to throw caution to the wind. Stick to the plan to avoid uncomfortable situations or next-day regrets.
- The key to successfully entertaining outdoors this winter is keeping your guests warm and comfortable. For those without an outdoor setup for entertaining, there are updates that can be made at every budget. On the lower end, a fireplace or fire pit (permanent or otherwise) surrounded by Adirondack chairs draped with sheepskin rugs. On the higher end, screened-in porches or an outdoor structure such as a cedar gazebo or pergola. Give us a call and we can talk through ideas!
- Oh to be in the patio heater business this year. These are going to be flying off the shelves, so order one now if you’re in the market for one! Wirecutter has great suggestions for outdoor patio heaters at every price point. For something ultra high end, we love the ones from Heatsail. (Check out this article from Real Simple for fire pit and space heater safety tips.)
- No one likes sitting on a cold seat! Keep chairs warm with heated seat cushions (hide unsightly ones with a throw) or sheepskin rugs. Did you know there is heated outdoor furniture too? Check out Galanter & Jones for some beautiful options.
- Have at least one blanket on hand for every guest. We like to place them in a large basket or drape one over every chair. Pendleton, Restoration Hardware and L.L. Bean have fantastic options. Heated blankets are great too, but make sure cords can reach outlets or have plenty of extension cords on hand.
- Offer extra hand warmers and gloves in a decorative basket.
- Further create a cozy ambience with seasonal pillows and seat coverings. We also love to use indoor/outdoor rugs to add texture and warmth.
- As the saying goes, lighting is everything! Hang outdoor string lights and scatter candles and lanterns throughout the space to create a warm glow.
Keep It Entertaining
- Create your own outdoor movie theater or sports bar with a projector or TV. Wirecutter has a great DIY guide or give us a ring if you’d prefer to leave it to the professionals.
- No movie or sporting event? Music is key. Install outdoor speakers connected to your sound system or simply purchase a portable bluetooth speaker like JBL Xtreme 2 or Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2.
- Is it even an outdoor party without s’mores? Keep it classic with Hershey’s milk chocolate and Kraft Jet-Puffed marshmallows or up your game with artisanal chocolate and marshmallows from Nashville-based Olive & Sinclair and Bang Candy Company. Rolla Roaster makes great extendable roasting forks.
Food & Drink
- Premake hot drinks like hot toddy’s, mulled wine, spiced apple cider and hot chocolate in large coffee dispensers to relieve the host of bartending duties. Keep drinks piping hot by serving them in individual insulated mugs like the ones by Yeti or MiiR. These mugs are great for chili or soup, too!
- If serving cold drinks, offer koozies to prevent freezing hands.
- Moving Thanksgiving outside? You don’t have to invest in pricey outdoor furniture to set a gorgeous table. Cover plastic folding tables in matching linens that are oversized and drape to the floor. You can always take them to a local seamstress to have them “tailored” to your table. Renting tables and chairs is always an option as well.
- We are all about reusable table settings for many reasons but if there is ever a time for disposable tableware, it’s 2020. Just because it’s disposable though doesn’t mean it has to be hideous or terrible for the environment! Verterra makes beautiful compostable wooden plates and Sophistiplate has gorgeous disposable paper plates in an array of patterns and colors. We also love the disposable placemats from local maker Hester & Cook (hot tip, laminate them to extend their life!)
- Have a large trash can nearby for trash.
- During the gathering, have extra masks on hand and strategically place hand sanitizer next to anything a guest would touch (serving utensils, bottle of wine, etc.) We also like to leave a baggie of masks on the door handle leading inside for a not-so-subtle reminder to wear a mask before entering the house to use the restroom (make sure to leave disposable hand towels in the guest bath, too!)
- Make sure seating is spread out as much as possible.
- As always, check the CDC website prior to your gathering for the latest safety measures.
Call us at (615) 292-7354 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a complimentary consultation for help creating an outdoor entertaining space for this season and beyond.