The only thing that beats gathering the people you love for a good bash is the chance to have said bash outdoors. Ah, summer ... fresh-air parties are one of the things that the Marinalife team loves best about summer! You can do a number of things to ensure that any outside soiree is as hassle-free as possible, be it an intimate gathering or a full-on hootenanny. And you'll find plenty of ways to take the party to the next level by playing up your outdoor setting.
To corral our favorite al fresco tips in one place, we turned to our friend Jen Kindig, shindig-thrower extraordinaire and one of the most big-hearted and fun-loving people we know. Each summer, at her family's captivating home on the coast of Maine, she hosts a series of pitch-perfect get-togethers that celebrate friends, family and the glorious outdoors.
Here are tips that we've picked up from our hostess with the mostess:
- If it's a nighttime event, we've got three words for you: candles, candles, candles. There can't be too many. Protect them from the wind with glass hurricane shields or rattan or Moroccan-style lanterns, or improvise by setting votives at the bottoms of glass flower vases. Heck, we even saw an empty water bottle with its top and bottom cut off used as an impromptu candle shield one windy night at an old farmhouse in Cuba. Bamboo Tiki torches and string lights are another great way to create a party vibe. Whatever you do, don't skimp. Candles set the mood and provide just enough light for folks to find their way around and candlelight makes everyone look good.
- Make it pretty while making clean-up a breeze. For tableware, opt for melanine or bamboo plates (pair them with disposable bamboo cutlery) that are sturdy, look great and won't fracture into shards if they're dropped on a rock. Melanine washes off like a dream, and the latest disposable bamboo plates to hit the market are biodegradable and eco-friendly. Your everyday metal silverware will hold up well to dining in the great outdoors and won't require the additional purchase of plastic utensils. Consider investing in a cheap set of metal cutlery for outdoor parties only (Ikea or Amazon) stash them away between events, et voila! They're ready for even the most spontaneous celebration. Same goes for plastic tumblers and goblets there are loads on the market that are durable, fun and dishwasher safe.
- For décor inspiration, look to what surrounds you. We have friends with country houses who make stunning bouquets out of meadow grasses and leafy branches clipped from their own backyards. In Maine, Jen often incorporates elements from the beach and sea to bring her party tables to life painted seashells and heart-shaped rocks are charming reminders to revel in the beauty of the here and now.
- It's okay to ditch traditional tables. While conventional picnic or outdoor tables with chairs provide terrific options for jocular feasts, don't hesitate to embrace a more picnic-style vibe if that's what you're after. Jen got her husband Brad and his friends to construct a series of super-low-slung tables from regular plywood and 2-by 4s from the hardware store. They break apart easily and can be stashed in the shed, and she can repaint the tops as needed. For seating, she pulls out a dazzling array of pillows, including a set of old burlap coffee sacks that she transformed into the comfiest cushions. This approach to communal dining sets a festive yet wonderfully relaxed tone that puts everyone at ease.
Some of our favorite sources for al fresco fiesta supplies:
Global-chic tableware, linens and furniture at can't-beat prices.
Candle lanterns and hurricane lamps that are cute, affordable and can endure some wear and tear, plus a fun assortment of melamine tableware.
One of our guilty pleasures. Give us any excuse, and we'll shop at Terrain. Go to the website for the strings of outdoor globe lights and fetching old-school enamelware. Stay for the stylish outdoor throw pillows, rugs and more.
Find unique handmade or vintage items and supplies to give your party a special flair.