How to Throw a Rocking Outdoor Party

July 26, 2018

The Secret Sauce for the Perfect Outdoor Party

Have you ever been to a poopy outdoor party? Or maybe it was just mediocre and unmemorable. You know the sort of thing: the food was crummy; people drank too much; the music was too loud; it was just plain boring. And so on.

Who wants that? Not at your place for sure.

If you're hosting an outdoor party this summer, the secret sauce of success is as simple as this: Make a plan

It needn't be a flashy or expensive event (though it can be if you want). It just needs to be carefully thought out. If you're not sure how to plan an outdoor party, let's look at some of the essentials.

Where to Start with Outdoor Party Planning

There are a few basic items you need to decide at the outset for your outdoor party. These include the intended date -- which you should check against your calendar for potential clashes -- the time and duration.

Then, there's the question of a theme or party type -- and the budget to pay for it. Will it be a semi-formal affair, with sit-down dining, thoroughly laid-back SoCal-style, a dance party, a games party, a piñata event, and so on.

A lot will depend on whether it's intended as a celebration or just a get-together with friends and family.

Once you know this, you can draw up your guest list. Take account of the size of your venue, whether it's your own back yard or, perhaps, a park setting. And will guests be allowed to bring their children?

But before sending out your invitations, you should decide if guests will be asked to bring anything, such as potluck food, booze, music or even outdoor furniture

Depending on the type of outdoor party, you can send your invitations by mail, email, text or phone -- but stress the importance of guests RSVP-ing you, so you can keep track of numbers. If people don’t RSVP, phone them to check.

This might be a good time to let people know what type of clothing to wear. What's the vibe? Formal? Casual? Swimsuits? Fancy dress?

Food and Drink

The most important considerations when drawing up your outdoor party food and drink menu are:

  • Home prepared, catered or potluck? Hot or cold?
  • Sit-down or buffet. And how and where the food will be served.
  • Appetizers and snacks and/or a main meal? Partygoers tend to prefer snack-types of food.
  • Utensils and plates. If disposable, can you make them recyclable?
  • Special dietary requirements for any guests.
  • Storage of food until it's served -- and disposal of leftovers.
  • BYOB (bring your own booze) or host-provided drinks?
  • Plenty of sodas and other non-alcoholic drinks -- plus more ice that you think you'll ever need (you'll need it!)

Other Considerations

Don’t think that's all there is to it. There are lots more ingredients to outdoor party success. The sooner you think them through, the better your preps will be. Here's a sampling of the items to consider:

  • If your party is at home, make sure your outdoor area is well-presented. Outdoor furniture should be clean and, if you have a pool, have it cleaned the day before the event.
  • Think about the weather. Okay, a rain storm is highly unlikely in Southern California at this time of year (though it's not unheard of). More importantly, make sure there's plenty of shade for your guests, ideally dotted around the yard. If it's likely to be really hot, should you provide outdoor fans or misters -- or maybe just small, hand-held fans?
  • Lighting. If the event will run into the evening, have plenty of lighting. Colored lights and lanterns definitely add to the pizazz.
  • Fend off the mosquitoes. Light citronella candles and torches and provide bug wipes for your guests.
  • Seating and furniture. Make sure there are enough comfortable seats, plus perhaps some cushions and garden rugs.
  • Music. Your guest list should dictate the type of music. Unless your main guests are going to be teens, oldie music is always popular. Think about how the music will be played -- boombox, DJ or something in between?
  • Don’t forget about safety, especially if you have a barbecue and/or a swimming pool. Make sure you have a fully stocked first aid kit on hand.

And when the whole thing is over, have a stack of garbage bags and a plan for how you're going to clean up -- and who will do it!

How to Budget for an Outdoor Party

Parties can be expensive events, so it’s important that you set a budget at the outset and stick to it.

A good way to calculate your budget is to multiply the number of guests by an amount you think is reasonable for each of them in terms of food and drink. Then add in any incidentals for items and people you may have to hire.

This will give you a ball-park figure for your likely cost. But, to be on the safe side, add an extra 20% to cover overruns and unexpected expenses.

If you're on a tight budget, identify ways you can cut costs. For example, make it a potluck event, keep the food simple -- hamburgers are always popular, ask guests to bring drinks, borrow furniture and decorations from friends and neighbors, organize some simple but cheap games like charades or a dollar-store piñata, encourage musician friends to bring their instruments, or set up an outdoor movie show.


Two final points:

Whatever the type of outdoor party you're planning, make sure you're properly insured. At home, your homeowners insurance provides liability coverage for any accidents that might happen but, with a large number of people on your property, the coverage limits might not be adequate.

To be certain you're properly protected, speak to your insurance agent. Here in Southern California, Aldrich Taylor Insurance has the experts and experience to advise you and arrange any additional coverage you might need.

Finally, here's one of the best tips of all: If you want to know how to throw an outdoor party that people will remember for all the best reasons, think back to the ones you've enjoyed and the ones you didn't. That'll tell you all you need to know about making it a success!