Everything you need for outdoor entertaining and hospitality this year

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In this post: ‘Tis the season for outdoor gatherings and backyard barbecues. Here’s everything you need for outdoor entertaining and hospitality this year!


As we start to visit family and friends again after a year of much home-time, backyard get-togethers and barbecues are a perfect way to begin to flex our hospitality and entertaining muscles. Here’s everything you need for outdoor entertaining and hospitality this year.

everything you need for outdoor entertaining and hospitality text overlay with various images of outdoor party setups

First, a little clarification on entertaining and hospitality

So, if you’ve read my book, Home Made Lovely, you know that I believe there’s a big difference between hospitality and entertaining. 

While the words hospitality and entertaining are often interchanged when discussing hosting people in our homes [like I’m doing in this post], they’re really not the same thing at all…

In Martha Stewart’s book Entertaining, she says, “Entertaining, like cooking, is a little selfish, because it really involves pleasing yourself, with a guest list that will coalesce into your idea of harmony, with a menu orchestrated to your home and taste and budget, with decorations subject to your own eye. Given these considerations, it has to be pleasureful.” Martha’s idea of having people over is all me, mine, look at me! 

Most of what is considered hospitality now is, in fact, entertaining, and not hospitality at all. 

The difference between entertaining and hospitality is this: entertaining is all about the host and their home and “look at me,” while hospitality is about obedience to God and serving and loving on our neighbors.

So if that’s what I believe, why am I using entertaining and hospitality in the same way? 

Because when someone does a search online for hospitality, it usually results in all sorts of results for hotels and that type of hospitality. Whereas entertaining yields search results that are more similar to what I meancreating a lovely environment and loving on our friends, family, and neighbors. Does that make sense? 

Okay, on with the goodies you need to host well! 

Everything you need for outdoor entertaining and hospitality this year

Questions like how do you entertain outside, how do you set up a backyard party, and what do I need for an outdoor party are pretty common right now in North America.

We’re all starting to come out of our long winter sort of hibernation, and we’re also rounding a bend (hopefully a permanent one) on this whole pandemic stay at home 24/7 thing, so it makes sense that we’re all looking forward to hosting and outdoor gatherings this summer more than ever! 

01. Food, of course!

But make it easy on yourself and keep it simple. Think:

  • pot luck
  • BBQ
  • salads
  • finger foods, like charcuterie boards
  • even take out or delivery will work in a pinch! 

Pot luck and things like charcuterie boards are not only simple to put together, but they make it easier for people with food sensitivities to eat too because of the built-in variety. 

Related: 3 Summer BBQ Hosting Tips – How to Throw an Outdoor Party

02. Pretty outdoor dishes

Of course, you’ll need dishes that are durable enough for the outdoors. You know, should someone drop a plate or cup on the concrete pool deck, or knock a dish off the buffet table. 

Personally, I decluttered a lot of my old outdoor dishes this past year because

  1. we weren’t using them
  2. they were bright colors that I no longer wanted to include in my decor, even outside

This year I hope to collect some newer, more neutral dishes for our outdoor gatherings. 

03. If it’s sunny, an umbrella or two

If it’s a warm sunny day when you have people over, you want to ensure there is enough shade for everyone. It’s no fun to go to an outdoor gathering and sweat through your outfit with no relief in sight. 

04. Bring the indoors out, so to speak

Whether you have outdoor decor or if you decide to bring your indoor decor outside just for the party, you can create a cozy, welcoming atmosphere at your part with

  • rugs
  • throw pillows
  • accent decor pieces like candles, lanterns, and objets d’art

05. Stock a bar cart

Whether you have an actual bar cart or not, set up a bar somewhere outside. If your party is a mix of ages, keep it within in eyesight or maybe even consider hiring someone to tend bar for you. And don’t forget the bottle openers and corkscrews! 

Be sure to stock a separate drink area or table with nonalcoholic bevvies for those that don’t want to or aren’t old enough to partake.

All of this also helps to prevent people from unnecessarily going in and out of the house. 

Make sure to include: 

  • soda/pop both for mixing and just for drinking
  • sparkling water
  • regular water 
  • ice (and ice buckets and scoops)
  • wine, beer, and spirits of choice

Related: 3 Summery Ways to Style a Bar Cart

06. Plants and flowers

Of course, if you have a large well-landscaped yard you can feel free to skip this step. But if you have more of a suburban yard, then potted plants and vases of fresh flowers can really add a beautiful touch to your outdoor gathering. 

07. Music 

Every good party needs some tunes, right? You could choose smooth jazz, swing, rock, whatever you and your guests will like. Just remember to keep the volume to an acceptable level based on where you live and how close your neighbors are. 

08. Mood lighting

Every space can do with a little mood lighting, and layers of lighting are even better. For outside consider: 

  • patio lights/lanterns,
  • string lights
  • candles
  • lanterns

09. Bug Deterrent

No one likes to be pestered and swatting at mosquitos or flies while they’re also trying to balance a wine glass and a plate. So help your guests out by keeping those bugs at bay. Try

  • an electronic bug zapper
  • candles with citronella
  • citronella coil
  • essential oils like peppermint and citronella

10. Napkins

Between walking around and literally bumping into people, windy mishaps, and just plain people being people, napkins will be needed. Grab the cute printed paper ones, use your linen stash or just plain old paper towels depending on the type of party. 

11. Seating

Even if it’s meant to be a standing event around a pool, for example, make sure to have little conversation areas set up (in the shade if it’s a hot, sunny day) so your guests can sit down for a few minutes to cool off and have a little chat. 

outdoor dinner table event

12. Extras

You could provide extra items for your guests like sunscreen, bug spray, pool towels, hair ties, etc. These things aren’t necessary but sometimes do get forgotten.

If you have the space you could put out games like bocce ball or lawn darts. 

That’s pretty much everything you need for outdoor entertaining and hospitality this year. Do you think I’ve forgotten anything? 

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