By Diana Elizabeth Steffen
‘Tis the entertaining season! Depending on the size of your party this fall/winter season, you may find yourself needing to use the backyard living space as the entertaining area! If you live in a location where the winters are mild, like those of us in hotter areas of the country such as Phoenix, you may be hosting outdoors this season – but even the weather can change, and the desert can get cold. I have found it is always best to be prepared to make sure you provide comfort to your guests.
Here are my six tips for outdoor entertaining when I throw a party in the cooler months such as an ornament party, or birthday party (since my birthday is in the fall).
1 - Notify guests if the party will be partially outdoors, or entirely outdoors
I always tell guests where the party will be located – in my backyard or inside – in addition to the dress attire for the occasion. I will make a note to guests in my Paperless Post invitation, “If weather permits, we will be outdoors. Please dress warm!” I don’t want guests to catch a cold from attending my party, and this gives them time to prepare to dress warm when picking their outfit.
If you change your mind and move the party indoors or entirely outdoors, send an update to guests through the invitation platform a few days before the party.
2 - Place an umbrella over a fire pit table to keep warmth in
This was a tip I was taught from Paddy O’s exterior design guide Jill when I was shopping for outdoor furniture. The umbrella creates a ceiling that keeps the heat in, instead of it escaping into the great outdoors. However, you can’t do this with a wood burning pit because it will smoke out your guests. Note: The umbrella’s clearance should be very high above the flames of the fire. Try positioning Paddy O’s cantilever umbrella over a gas fire pit table. You will be amazed at the amount of warmth it keeps in!
3 - Strategically position gas or electric space heaters
If the idea of owning a space heater doesn’t make sense for long-term storage, consider finding a rental company who will drop off and pick up the space heaters.
Because we entertain constantly through the mild winters, we ended up buying a plug-in space heater that looks like a lamp. It is very pretty and I wish I had one more! It isn’t as powerful as a gas lamp, but in Phoenix it works just enough and keeps our guests warm and comfortable outside.
Standing Heater Lamp From West Elm
Set up different heating areas throughout your party so all the guests aren’t congregated in one area, huddling for warmth.
4 - Host a party under a covered patio or a tree
Just as an umbrella over a fire pit table keeps the warmth in, so too will a covered patio or a tree with a large canopy (assuming the tree still has its leaves during this season). Consider an electric, outdoor floor heater in a covered patio space to keep the area warm. There are also patio heaters that mount to the ceiling, which are similar to what you see at restaurants. If you don’t have a covered patio, but still want your party outdoors, you can rent a tent. Whichever type of cover you choose, always remember to have enough clearance above the flames if you have a fire going.
5 - Serve warm food and drinks
What do you want to drink when it’s cold outdoors? Something hot! I set up a hot water dispenser with teas, instant coffees and hot chocolate mix for guests. You can find a variety of hot water dispensers online. Setting up a drink bar allows guests to help themselves.
Serve hot meals and hot drinks to keep guests comfortable if it’s cold outside.
6 - Provide blankets for additional warmth
Bring those indoor blankets outside just in case guests start to feel extra cold! Quilts and comforters add a coziness to any outdoor setting.
It is possible to host a comfortable party outdoors this fall and winter whenever the weather permits – just think about the accommodations a restaurant with a patio provides for its guests to make them comfortable!
Enjoy one another’s company this holiday season. Cheers!
Diana Elizabeth Steffen is a Phoenix-based photographer and blogger at dianaelizabethblog.com where she shares her home and garden projects with camera in hand!