We may be able to move back indoors for meals with friends but many of us will still prefer an outdoor setting this summer. After all, lots of us have been working flat out on our gardens over the last few months and are keen to show off the fruits (and flowers!) of our labour. If you’re meeting outdoors, you can have more guests as well (see the Government website for up to date restrictions on numbers of people who can meet).
If you’re feeling anything like us, you may think that you’ve completely forgotten how to host any kind of social event – so we’ve put together a list of our top tips for hosting an outdoor meal to help you sail through the occasion with aplomb.
Keep it simple
We’re all so over-excited at actually being able to invite friends over for a meal that the temptation might be to go completely over the top! While everyone appreciates a little effort, you don’t want to be so tied up in the catering that you don’t get a chance to sit down and talk to your friends.
Plan a simple menu that you know how to prepare, and do as much of it as possible beforehand. Stick to one hot dish such as a quiche or pastries which can be pre-made and heated up at the last minute, and serve it with cold salads. These latter can be put out on the table beforehand, just keep them covered up against insects. Barbecues are a good way of being able to cook and chat at the same time!
Create some atmosphere
Even if you’re hosting a lunch rather than a dinner, candles and lights outside always help create a magical atmosphere – and using insect repellent candles can be practical as well as attractive! Hang outdoor solar-powered lights from trees, place storm lanterns on low walls or on windowsills or in trees.
If your event is taking place in the evening, then hanging lanterns around the perimeter of your garden helps to add depth and creates a really pretty environment as the sun sets. If you have small children or pets running around, then an LED battery-operated ‘candle’ gives the same effect and you don’t have to keep getting up to re-light it!
Make people comfortable
If you’re planning to stay outside no matter what, then your guests may well appreciate some throws and blankets. It may be summer, but just sitting down and not moving around can be chilling! Add cushions for seats and possibly a parasol against sun (or drizzle!) if you have room.
Make life easy
If you’re using disposable plates, cups and cutlery then consider eco-friendly, compostable versions – when the meal is over you can just sweep the whole lot into the compost bin! If you’re buying in some reusable picnic plates specially, check they’re the kind that will go in the dishwasher.
Set up a ‘bar’
If you have a hostess trolley or small table, then stock it with drinks and glasses and set it up in a corner out of the way. Then all the clutter is off the table and guests can get up and help themselves without having to ask. You could also add a bottle of sanitiser so that guests can help themselves before they touch any bottles.
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