To celebrate our return from our French holiday Mr Mayhem and I invited our friends over for a ‘Provence’ themed party last weekend. We were hoping to be able to host an Al fresco dinner on our rooftop and thankfully the weather cooperated beautifully with our plans. It was the perfect summer evening; with a warm breeze, good food and most importantly, great
Besides the weather, there are a few important elements to consider when hosting an outdoor dinner party so today I thought I’d share some of my personal tips with you. From the table setting through to the music and food menu, here’s how to host a fun and low-stress Al Fresco dinner at home:
The Table Setting
Outdoor parties are meant to have a fun, relaxed vibe so don’t worry too much about bringing out your best china and creating an elaborate tablescape for the occasion. Instead, go for a ‘casual chic’ decor, using items you already own wherever you can. Mismatched plates, glasses, and chairs etc. are perfectly fine to use – if anything it will give your party a delightful ‘boho’ appearance ;).
If you’re really worried about uniformity, then simply use a colorful bouquet as the centerpiece to tie all of the colors together, or use a place setting to act as the common thread throughout the table.
If you have a party theme like I did, then simply let it subtly guide your decor choices. Since my theme was ‘Provence’ I went with a simple pink/purple and white color palette. I used white and cream plates and a white tablecloth (which I already owned) and purchased cheap paper napkins from Ikea to add a pop of color.
I wrote each person’s name on a piece of paper and tied it around a bread roll with twine and fresh rosemary to give off a French rustic feel. For the centerpiece, I purchased a bunch of flowers from the market and then put them in a water jug.
Just as with the decor, try to keep the food menu as low maintenance as possible. The last thing you want is having to go between the kitchen and your garden/patio all night long or you won’t get to enjoy your own party.
Opt for food items that can either be prepared in advance or cooked on a bbq near your table. Dishes that can be served at room temperature (i.e. quiches, pasta salads, gourmet sandwiches etc) are also ideal as you won’t have to worry about keeping them warm/cold outside. Including store-bought items is another great way to reduce cooking stress and you could also serve everything buffet-style so that everyone helps themselves.
My al fresco dinner menu consisted of:
- Crostinis topped with store-bought tapenade and pate
- Caramelised Onion tart (made the night before)
- Grilled chicken with ratatouille (I marinated the chicken overnight and made the ratatouille the night before)
- A French cheese platter
- Cherry Clafoutis (made on the day)
We started the evening with a glass of sparking wine before moving on to rose and red wine.
It may sound fancy but it was actually very easy to pull off since I used so many store-bought items and cooked half the meal the night before.
This is probably one of the most important detail to take care off as good lighting will not only help set the mood for your guests but also allow them to see what they’re eating! Candles and lanterns are always a great choice as they create a romantic atmosphere and cast a lovely glow. String lights add a nice festive touch too.
To be honest, we probably didn’t use enough candles for our party as we realized too late that we didn’t have enough to last us all evening. We did have little sparklers left over from NYE though so we decided to light them up at the end of the night as a cute end-of-party touch. Everyone loved it!
It’s always nice to have music playing in the background and it’s another detail that will help you create the right atmosphere for your party.
You could match the playlist to your theme (Spotify is a gold mine of ready-made playlists) but whatever you choose to play, make sure to keep the volume to a reasonable level. Not only so that your guests may hear each other talk but also so that you don’t cause any issues with your neighbors. Ipad speaker docks or small Bluetooth/portable speakers are a good choice as they will provide a good sound and save you from having your indoor speakers on full blast.
If you think your party might get loud anyway then make sure to let your neighbors know about your event beforehand. A simple note under the door could save you an unpleasant knock on the door later in the night.
Keep an eye on your guests throughout the evening to ensure they are comfortable.
Offer blankets or spare jackets on chilly nights or hand held fans and iced water on hot evenings. Let your guests know that you will be dining outdoors so that they can dress accordingly.
Finally, keep mosquitoes away by burning citronella candles and also have insect repellent on hand for your guests.