It’s time to start thinking about backyard dinner party ideas! After two years of COVID-19, I have some great tips to safely get together with the friends you’ve been missing.
A year of quarantine
I’m sharing some outdoor party ideas that helped us get through the tough days of quarantine. This past year has been extremely unconventional, to say the least. Last fall, after quarantining for several months, we really missed spending time with our friends. Zoom happy hours were fun, but we missed being face-to-face. After a lot of thought and consideration of social distancing and safety, I planned some outdoor get-togethers with a small group of our friends. These parties were such a hit, they will continue on even after COVID-19 is long gone.
For now, I know COVID numbers are significantly down overall, but some areas still have numbers that make people uncomfortable to be around others. If you’re tired of being cooped up from this long cold winter, I’ve got some outdoor party ideas to help you plan a small get-together and still stay safe.
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Small tables for the win
If you’re trying to social distance, my outdoor party tip number one is to set up individual tables for each couple or family. I had some small tables of various sizes and used our dining room chairs for our first party. My husband complained about how uncomfortable the chairs were, so I ended up buying some inexpensive bistro tables and chairs online. The bistro table and chair set I ordered is the perfect size for two to four people and won’t break the bank.
When we had a really small group, we moved our patio furniture off the deck and set it up in the driveway. Our deck is too small to keep a safe distance from each other, plus the deck furniture is super comfy! Our backyard is really small because our driveway is behind our house. This made it super easy to just move the deck furniture to the driveway. We also had some parties in our front yard because it’s really spacious.
Setting the tables and outdoor decorations
Setting the tables so your guests feel at home and have all of the essentials to stay safe is next on the list of outdoor party ideas. For our first party, I used various tablecloths I had laying around the house. However, I wanted everything to match so I bought some super cute tablecloths. They wash up beautifully after food and drinks have been dropped or spilled on them.
Table decorations varied based on things I already had on hand. I happened to have some large mouth mason jars and some leftover fairy lights from a craft project. I filled the mason jars with the lights and sometimes put a ribbon or rope around the lip of the jar. These were so adorable and helped add some light as the sun went down. I also draped Christmas lights where I could for additional ambient lighting.
Hidden in one of our closets I found small votive candles and small jars. I lit candles on the table for one of our parties. Since indoor dining was closed at all of our restaurants at the time, the small candles made me feel like I was at a restaurant.
My dining room farmhouse table usually has fresh flowers on it, so I pulled some from the vase and made tiny flower arrangements for each table. During one party I needed a few extra flowers, so I picked some wild flowers on one of my daily walks with Wrango.
Plastic silverware and plastic dining ware were placed on each table with extra napkins. I also placed hand sanitizer, hand wipes, individual condiments, and salt and pepper on each table. My goal was to avoid going in the house as much as possible.
What to do if someone has to go inside
If someone did go inside to use the restroom, I had a bowl with paper towels individually rolled up to dry hands on. I didn’t want everyone sharing the same towel. I also had hand sanitizer and Lysol spray by the door. One of our friends who works in a hospital said, “I feel safer here than at the hospital.” We all got a good laugh from his comment.
I always set up a trash can outside to make it easy for clean-up. The trash can was far enough away from the tables to keep our distance.
Food and drink ideas FOR YOUR BACKYARD DINNER PARTY
Food and drinks are something I had to give a lot of thought to since we were social distancing. I always tried to serve items that were individualized so we weren’t sharing dishes and could sit at our own tables.
Sometimes we would order dinner out, which was easy because each person had their own individual meal already packaged. When I would cook, I would cook things that could easily be set on each table.
My favorite food to make for our outdoor parties is the oven cheeseburger recipe from the blog Fantabulosity.com. These burgers are perfect because they end up individually wrapped in foil and can stay heated in the oven until it’s time to serve them. And…they are so delicious!!! Some side dishes I served included individual packs of chips, mac ‘n cheese, and baked beans in bowls for each table. As I mentioned before, each table had their own condiments so we didn’t have to share.
At one of our parties, we celebrated a friend’s birthday. I set up a dessert table with individual desserts. I didn’t want a cake that we would share and unfortunately, no candles. However, the individualized bundt cakes were a huge hit!
For a “wine night” with some of my girlfriends, I served individualized pre-packaged appetizers and desserts. Single-size charcuterie packs, individualized desserts, and single-serve hummus and pretzels were set on each table. We did have one location for the wine, but we took turns pouring our drinks.
Sometimes our guests would bring their own drinks. Even if they brought drinks, I had a table or cooler off to the side with drink options and paper cups.
Entertainment for your outdoor parties
I’ve saved the best for last, because I’m all about the outdoor party entertainment. For the most part, we would usually watch movies or baseball games. It was so fun because I know my husband was missing watching baseball games with his friends. I would run the coaxial cable from an outlet inside the house through the window (yes, I did that!!) and hooked it to our projector. This allowed us to watch TV on an outdoor movie screen. During this time, many people were always walking outside. Anyone that would walk by would comment on how awesome our set up was.
We have a portable fire pit and would get that rolling for some warmth when we had cooler nights. It was also great for ambient lighting. I would make individual packets for s’mores and place sticks on each table. Again, I went the extra mile to make sure we were all able to have what we needed and keep a safe distance.
Another fun idea is to have a bean bag toss game, otherwise known as corn hole. The platforms the bags are tossed into can most definitely be set up more than six feet apart.
The entertainment ideas are very low key compared to pre-COVID get-togethers, but the most important part of the night was just enjoying eachother’s company. We missed spending time with our friends and just loved having the chance to catch up face-to-face.
As I mentioned before, these fun outdoor party ideas can be incorporated even after COVID is behind us. For now, I’m already planning our next outdoor party because I plan to keep a safe distance from friends until the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ) gives the green light to resume as normal.