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6 Outdoor Entertaining Musts

May 9, 2024

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We’re ready to have people over in our backyard space now that it’s so nice out in North Carolina, and it reminded me of the elements that I think really create that perfect outdoor setting for guests. Outdoor entertaining, to me, is really about making people feel comfortable and special. Here are a few things that I do to set the tone!

1. Ambiance lighting

Backyard Sources

Nothing says “party’s over” quicker than the setting sun and no alternative lighting! Outdoor lighting says, “there’s no rush” and I can’t think of anything more intimate than a fire or twinkle lights to light the night. These days there’s also so many solar lighting options too–charge by the sun during the day and automatically switch on once it starts getting dark. Technology!

Shop Ambiance Lighting

2. Keep Away the Bugs

One downside of living in North Carolina? The bugs can quickly become the topic of the night if you don’t get things under control, more specifically the pesky mosquitos!!! We get our yard professionally sprayed during the summer months, but there’s so many ways to repel those bugs so they don’t ruin the fun! Bonus points if you can repel them while still maintaining the aesthetic. Our tiki torches actually double as repellant since the oil being burned is citronella oil! Some people don’t like the citronella scent but I think it’s so refreshing in an outdoor space.

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3. Drinks

Drinks are literally the best ice breaker! The moment your guests arrive, offer them a drink to get the night started. Chris and I don’t drink alcohol, but we love beverages! I would say there’s a couple options you can do for drinks. You can get a glass dispenser and make a specialty drink, OR get a big beverage tub and put a bunch of drinks on ice. Bonus points for doubling as a centerpiece.

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4. Music to set the mood

Speaking of ice breakers, I would say the most forgotten aspect to an outdoor gathering (or any gathering per se) is the music! In my opinion, music is actually essential, especially as those first few guests trickling in. With a little portable speaker and a good playlist, it’s the easiest thing to set and forget. Might I recommend this “Dinner on the Terrace” playlist by my talented music curator sister Andrea?! In our last house we had portable speakers built into our patio space and also the dining room. So incredible to have. Unfortunately it was going to cost us about $10,000 to build that into our backyard (no idea why or how), so we’re going to stick with our portable speaker. Still amazing!

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5. Don’t forget the food

Rule number one about hosting outdoors: Unless you’re sitting at a table, no one wants to be using a fork and knife while balancing their plate on their lap. It’s not like it can’t be done, but it’s just something to think about. Don’t serve food that’s too difficult to eat in a casual setting unless you’ve got tabletops for everyone to sit at.

Another great tip for food is to make the food the activity! We’ve made our own personal pizzas in the pizza oven, cooked S’mores over the fire, and love doing a blind taste test!

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I think the best part about hosting outdoors is that you don’t have to overthink it! It can be potluck style, casual, and just a great way to spend time outside with new friends and old friends.

6. Comfort Essentials

One thing that I did for our last get-together — because we were having a pool party — is put out a basket full of towels. It was empty by the end of the night! People often forget their towels, and it’s nice when they don’t have to ask for them. You could have a basket of blankets if the weather is cooler or handheld fans if it’s hot. The key here is to make people feel comfortable!

Our style is often pretty last-minute when it comes to outdoor entertaining — we keep it casual. Don’t overthink it! People don’t need a lot to have a great time, and it’s really the invitation and the vibe of the evening that they’ll remember most.

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What do you think?

  1. Marci McKenna says:

    Love these tips. I live in Georgia. We’ve invested so much into our backyard but at “the witching hour” as I call it when the mosquitos come out in force, it’s barely enjoyable for me – I get bit when no one else does. We’re on our 3rd company with monthly spraying. I’m desperate for a solution! I’ll try the mosquito magnet as mentioned in the comments.

    Also please share the source for the pool floats! Love them!

  2. GG says:

    Great tips! I would add: be considerate to neighbors, who may prefer to sit in their own backyards without listening to the bangin’ playlist you’ve created. Keep the volume low. And if you plan to have a big shindig, giving neighbors notice about the ruckus ahead of time will keep all relations kind and neighborly. Cheers.

    • Chris Loves Julia says:

      Very true!

    • Julie says:

      Yes to this – we have three neighbors with pools and they all like to entertain (we like to entertain too – just no pool) but when the music is soo loud that I can hear it inside of my house, it’s just too loud!

  3. Brooke DiDomenico says:

    Love this! Have you guys heard of the mosquito magnet?! Feels like something you might wanna hide in a corner! ❤️

  4. Rebecca says:

    You always have the best ideas and links! One thing we learned the hard way- leave the glass inside and not around your pool! Broken glass around a pool is dangerous (and expensive to remove once it’s in the water). Pour glass bottled drinks into acrylic barware before heading outside or buy cans to save your (and your kids’) feet!!

  5. Cici Haus says:

    Hi! Just commenting that mosquito spraying is not proven to be very effective but causes a lot of damage to other wildlife, especially bees and butterflies, but also pets, fish and even humans because it gets into the water and even honey. Please reconsider in the future!

  6. JL says:

    Julia, once you have your lighting plan in place, I would love for you to provide details on the various types of lighting (incl. the amount of lumens) used to light each space (kitchen/dining area, house exterior, landscaping, pool). One of the most common mistake we all see with landscape lighting (esp. solar), is that it is not bright enough or there’s not enough units used to sufficiently light each area. One area you have not touched on is cooling. Obviously, the pool will be the primary source for cooling off; but do you plan to utilize another source for cooling the kitchen area (e.g. ceiling fans or portable a/c)?

  7. Maria says:

    I love these tips! I’ve never seen those citronella coils, how cute!

    As an Alabama dweller, I would also highly recommend thermacell lanterns — aesthetic and highly effective.

  8. Lori H says:

    Thanks – Pinning this as important reference material!! I don’t see a link to your sister’s playlist?

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We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

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