Survive the festive season with our guide to outdoor entertaining

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Along with the Christmas/New Year break and the hot Australian summer comes a whole lot of outdoor entertaining opportunities. Here’s our guide to hosting a social gathering in your backyard or on your deck or patio, guaranteeing less stress for you, and lots of fun for your guests.

Plan ahead & write a list (or two)

Whether it’s Christmas Day lunch, a New Year’s Eve party, or just a weekend BBQ for close friends, the key to the success of your event (and keeping the stress levels down) is in the planning. First, check the weather forecast, as this will impact on a lot of things, like the menu and whether you’ll be on the lawn or on the deck.

Next, write a list of things you need to do and get hold of, whether it’s mowing the lawn, borrowing some extra chairs from the neighbours or picking up the cake you’ve got on order. You might even want to put some alerts in your phone for the really crucial things – a reminder to clean the BBQ for example!

Give yourself at least a week to plan the menu and purchase the ingredients, leaving the fresh stuff to the day before or morning of the event. Clearly, for Christmas Day lunch, you need to be extra organised, given it’s a public holiday and only the basics are open (which can be handy if you suddenly discover you’ve run out of butter or coffee, but not so good if you’ve forgotten to buy the crayfish!). The best advice in this case is to order ahead of time and get to the markets or supermarket as early as possible on Christmas Eve to beat the inevitable last minute rush.

Keep it simple

No matter what the occasion, keeping it simple – the coordination, the menu and the decorations — will mean less of your time, money and energy levels are taken up getting prepared and you’re more likely to really enjoy yourself on the day. For example, just because a menu is simple, doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious. Think salads that take advantage of all the great summer veggies on offer and marinated meat or seafood for the BBQ. And for dessert, why not present a selection of summer fruits and local cheeses, rounding off your meal with something that’s not only tasty but healthy.

As far as decorating goes, use things you’ve already got on hand. For a dinner party, create a centrepiece from flowers, herbs and foliage from the garden, or even from the neighbours’ garden (ask first, of course). Dig out those candles from the back of the cupboard and use re-purposed mason jars for holders, or string solar fairy lights through the trees or along the balustrade of your deck or balcony. Whatever the occasion, decorating doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Have a look at the Recycleart website for thousands of ideas about how to recycle and upcycle everyday items into stunning decorations that will have your guests ‘ooohing’ and ‘ahhhing’ at your creativity.

Put comfort before style

This is a really important part of any outdoor event, as the elements have a way of making their presence felt during an Australian summer. It’s either an incredibly powerful sun, a hot dry wind or torrential rain, or perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to get one of those perfect days that are out of the box. But regardless of the weather on the day, you still need to prioritise your guests’ comfort, as this will ensure they relax and stick around from start to finish.

Providing shade is a probably top of the list in terms of comfort factor, even if it’s an evening do, given the sun doesn’t set until around 8.30pm during the peak of summer. Plan where you’ll set up the tables & chairs according to where the sun is at the time of your party; or, if it’s a stand up and mingle event, make sure your guests aren’t going to be sweating over their drinks. Set up a shade tent or marquee in the garden if you have access to one, or, if your party’s on the deck or patio, incorporate a couple of festive umbrellas.

Comfortable seating is next in line in terms of keeping your guests happy, whether it’s a sit down meal or more of a drinks and nibbles kind of party. For the former, add cushions to your outdoor dining chairs so your guests feel comfortable enough to linger over the meal and stay around for dessert. For the latter, get creative with your seating and give your guests a variety of options, such as a rug on the lawn with a few large cushions, or some beanbags and outdoor lounges.

Finally, be pest prepared, particularly if it’s an evening event, when the mossies are out in force. There are some great natural mosquito repellents that can also add to the look of your party, like citronella or lavender scented candles, to name just a couple. Check out The Spruce for a comprehensive list of essential oils that keep mosquitos away, and recipes for making your own blends and scented candles.

Create an ambiance

What makes your outdoor party stand out from the crowd is the ambiance, which is a subtle combination of a number of things, such as lighting, music, decorations, the arrangement of furniture, and the state of your backyard or deck.

Spend a day or two tidying up the garden or cleaning your patio or deck, rearranging pot plants and garden furniture to create a pleasant space for your guests. Plan appropriate music for the occasion, so you’re not blasting hip-hop over the dinner conversation, for example. And position the speakers so the music can be heard but doesn’t overwhelm, unless you actually want to get people up and dancing!

Think about what kind of vibe you want your party to have – do you imagine a relaxed afternoon of chit chat and good food or a more of a late night shindig? And then tailor your ambiance to suit. Don’t go overboard ‘though, as no one wants to feel like they’re being told how to enjoy themselves, and there’s also no need for you to wear yourself or your wallet out with creating the mood. Mostly it’s a matter of keeping your stress to a minimum and being as organised as possible. So, follow a few of our handy hints above and we know you’ll have a great outdoor entertaining season.

Have a very happy & peaceful holiday season from the all the staff at Seymour Building Supplies.

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