(BPT) - Patio season has arrived, and opportunities for outdoor social gatherings will abound in the coming months. Birthdays, graduations, showers, holidays and any other reasons to enjoy warm weather will call for unique outdoor party solutions that differ from indoor events. Here are a few ideas to make al fresco entertaining a snap.
Enjoying seasonal fruits is one of summer's most delicious pleasures, so incorporate fresh fruits into every aspect of your gathering. Go beyond the traditional fruit plates and garnishes, and sweeten regular water with fresh fruits for an invigorating beverage that is perfect for the patio.
Many people associate summer gatherings with grilling, but that doesn't mean your menu options need to be limited to the typical hamburgers and hot dogs found at most cookouts. Explore the hundreds of recipes for more health-conscious grilled cuisine, including salmon, shrimp, veggie burgers and chicken. Don't just reserve the grill for entrees, either. For an appetizer, try grilling slices of ciabatta or pita bread and topping with chopped tomatoes, basil and olive oil to create an easy bruschetta. Season and toss sliced, cooked potatoes on the grill to make your own steak fries, and use your blender to create a number of dipping sauces and homemade condiments. Roasting vegetable skewers makes for a light but flavorful side, and you can even use rosemary sprigs as the skewers for extra zest. The grill is a versatile tool for summer entertaining, so use it to its full potential this season!
Outdoor dinner parties are typically less formal events, but some instances still call for place settings and arranged seating. To create a fun, light atmosphere that is still organized and thoughtful, use colorful place mats and napkins to offset a white or neutral tablecloth. There's no need to break out the fine china, either. Opt for bamboo or melamine plates and bowls instead, which are available in a wide array of colors and designs. Bamboo serving utensils can create a beach-like feel, and reusable, recyclable plastic silverware is an affordable alternative to disposable cutlery. Have fun with table decorations and fill glass bowls and vases with flowers, colorful stones and floating candles for an attractive, summery table setting in no time. Add pretty citronella candles for decoration that will also keep your table bug-free.
Many summer soirees carry on past sunset, so lighting your patio area is important. With hundreds of options available for any outdoor area and budget, you can create whatever atmosphere you prefer. Solar lamps are a smart, energy-efficient way to light the walking and seating areas, while Chinese lanterns hanging in the trees create a fun, party feel. Garden lights lining the driveway and walkways will direct attendees to and from the gathering areas safely, and an enclosed bonfire pit or portable fireplace is a great way to gather people for post-dinner revelry. The right mood will encourage guests to stay past dark and allow everyone to enjoy a warm summer evening.
Follow these few simple tips to create the perfect outdoor gathering, and you'll be in the swing of summer entertaining in no time.