Learn how to create the perfect outdoor party tablescape with just a few easy tips!
Summer is approaching. Outdoor gatherings, capped off by a dining experience at dusk, can be the ultimate way to enjoy an evening … but it’s also the way to make a statement to your guests about who you are and how you project your taste and preferences. Check out Tips for Hosting an Outdoor Friendsgiving for the upcoming months, too!
When you entertain indoors, much of the décor is fixed. Your settings and service have to adhere to how the room is set up to start with.
When you entertain outdoors, the world is your oyster! You can choose the “right” spot, the theme and décor, the furniture, and dinnerware … let your creativity flow.
Choosing Your Setting
There will be many suggestions on how to choose the settings for your outdoor table(s). To glean ideas but realize that you have complete control once you step outdoors. Consider the following:
Location and Permanence
The set-up spot determines flexibility. A permanent table set up on your patio, the garden, or a place next to outdoor heaters will take on some of the characters of the surrounding area.
If, instead, you are setting up a fresh table somewhere close to the house or under a big tree (say), you have far more leeway – you can move from a picnic setting to formal ones.
Your settings will be dictated by the occasion. Is it a casual dinner with family, a free-for-all neighborhood party, or something in between?
How formal is the occasion and what are you trying to accomplish?
The other parts of outdoor table setting are going to follow, such as:
What’s your theme?
- Furniture, Dinnerware and Table Décor
- Lighting Options
Some specific ideas are discussed below.
Setting a Theme for your Outdoor Party Tablescape
Many people choose settings that blend in with the look of the spot you place your outdoor table. Some ideas could be:
- Patio table – which often has the wrought iron or heavy, sturdy metal look.
- Rustic setting – could have it anywhere from the patio to the garden.
- Picnic table looks – ideal if you were to set up in the shade of a tree a bit away from the house, or in the middle of a green stretch – the look can be arboreal or homely depending on the wooden top or the bright tablecloth.
- Formal – this could mean more refined tableware, cutlery, and/or surroundings.
- Party setting – this is usually light-hearted.
- Special – if you have a party on a beach, you should theme accordingly
Choosing Your Furniture
One of the best things about furniture for outdoor use is that you can choose rustic settings:
Using mismatched or older chairs would be a bad idea indoors, but can work fine outdoors – chairs in various shapes and styles can look very rustic.
The table, as mentioned above, can be chosen from a spectrum of options.
Choosing Your Dinnerware
While picnics can use disposable dinnerware, we assume that you will invite guests to a sit-down dinner. The choice of dinnerware does not need to be elaborate unless the occasion is ultra-formal like a wedding.
Choose standard dinnerware, reducing the number of utensils to the essentials – to enable your guests to partake of soup, salad, main course(s), and dessert.
Do keep extra napkins and cutlery, expecting a few accidents.
Choosing Your Table Décor
Table décor can be equally creative outdoors. Here are some ideas:
- Find vases, matched or not, and fill them with freshly cut flowers and/or aromatic herbs.
- Find items from your garage that you would not use otherwise, from baskets to sleeves, and repurpose them for use outdoors – they will look great, especially in a rustic setting.
- Tablecloths, if appropriate, can be used to set the mood – from picnic tables to starched white for more formal dining.
Oftentimes, especially for rustic settings, you may be better off not using a tablecloth – instead, keep the tabletop as is and use throwback place settings and personalized placeholders that make the experience both outdoorsy and personalized.
Lighting and Ambiance
Lighting is a wild card. Choose from various options, from hanging lights, surrounding lamps (including heat lamps if they make sense), and various table lighting. Some options include:
- Hanging bulbs, which can be bright but are more often attuned to impart a starlight effect – consider fairy or string lights
- Heat or tiki lamps around the area, imparting a rustic theme
- Normal table lighting with brighter lamps on the table
- Decorative lanterns or candles (lamps) on the table for a more romantic or softer ambiance
The lighting can be functional, as always, but why? Outdoor dining is about imparting a different feeling, so choose a mood that sets your experience apart from a ho-hum dinner inside.
Outdoor Party Tablescape
When you set an outdoor table and, depending on the occasion and the amount of effort you want to put in, there is a wide range of moods and styles that you can adopt when choosing your settings, décor, dinnerware, and lighting.
Take advantage of the empty canvass you are presented outdoor and make it a vehicle for expressing your own feelings. It’s the right way to go!
Ready to plan your next outdoor party? Check out these ideas!
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Jennifer is the recipe developer and food photographer behind Wanderlust and Wellness since 2016. She creates easy, approachable gluten-free recipes for the everyday home cook; because cooking gluten-free doesn’t mean food has to be complicated or tasteless.