Entertaining Essentials That Are A Must For Your Outdoor Space

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If you have a spacious backyard and want to show off your incredible BBQ grilling skills, an outdoor party might be the ideal event to host. However, things can quickly go south if you don't plan ahead. So, be sure to gather a few entertaining essentials to ensure your guests have everything they need and your party is a resounding success. But it isn't as simple as setting a table or getting items you see on everyone's social media (charcuterie boards and abstract statues, anyone?). You need to be proactive and consider the type of party you're throwing, the season, and the age of your guests.

For instance, portable cooling fans are a must if you're hosting a party in the middle of summer, otherwise you risk sweaty guests keen on escaping the heat and moving the fun indoors, despite the pergola covers blocking the worst of the sun's glare. Similarly, throw blankets are vital for events during fall and winter. Outdoor games are a plus when hosting a birthday party for your kids to keep them from getting bored. In case you're planning a party soon and aren't sure if you have everything you (and your guests) will need, here are a few must-have entertaining essentials for your outdoor space.

Set up a BBQ grill

An outdoor gathering is incomplete without a BBQ setup. After all, roasted vegetables, grilled sausage, and marinated steaks are the primary reasons your guests RSVP. Bonus points if you have (or get) a portable grill since it's easier to set up, clean, and maintain whenever you host.

You must choose the right type of grill. A gas grill is ideal for amateurs (given their similarity to gas stoves) and hosts wanting to cook various items quickly. In comparison, a charcoal grill is better if you care more about the smoky flavors and ease of use than speed. Charcoal grills are also more budget-friendly than gas ones. To illustrate, an 18-inch portable charcoal grill will cost about $60, whereas a propane gas grill with wheels will cost about $130 on Amazon.

Once the grill situation is sorted, ensure you have enough propane gas or charcoal (smoking chips work, too) to keep the BBQ going. Keep tools like a spatula, grill basket, tongs, and skewers handy, and try out this pool noodle hack for safer grilling. Don't forget to keep sand and fire extinguishers close to avoid unwarranted accidents.

Get (or build) a fire pit for events in the evening

A fire pit is the mainstay for any outdoor gathering once the sun goes down. They make for statement pieces in your backyard and help ward off the evening chill. Moreover, they cultivate a warm and cozy atmosphere, putting everyone at ease and providing a place for guests to hang out. It also protects against bugs and offers light once dusk sets in. The best part, though? These pits are perfect for grilling s'mores, so ensure you have a fire pit for evening events.

If you have one already, clean your outdoor fire pit to make it look its best before the guests arrive. Or spring for a stone, metal, or brick fire pit, depending on your needs and budget. Don't forget to consider the pit's fuel requirement. The major types are propane, wood-burning, natural gas, and gel fire pits. If you need a portable pit that doesn't burn a hole in your pocket, check out this $80 Cogesu 22-inch foldable wood burning fire pit on Amazon. If you're concerned about the pit's safety, consider buying this $26 heat-resistant Sempoda fire pit mat from Amazon. However, if none of these options seems appealing, create a DIY fire pit in your yard with stone, bricks, or rocks. You'll also need a shovel, rubber mallet, level, fire pit ring, concrete glue, tamper, and stone pack.

Buy citronella coils and candles to repel mosquitoes

Besides being irritating, mosquito bites can lead to diseases like dengue and malaria. Since you don't want your guests irritated (or contracting diseases), use citronella coils, candles, or plants to keep mosquitoes away. Citronella's strong, acidic fragrance masks human smells and confounds and repels these pesky flies, making it harder for them to trust their nose and attack.

The cherry on top? Citronella coils and candles are budget-friendly and won't disrupt your party budget. For instance, a 6-ounce tin of Coleman's citronella candle with a crackle wick will cost about $4 on Amazon. You'll have to shell out about the same amount for a four-pack of PIC citronella mosquito coils. That being said, don't just depend on one or the other if your backyard is a favorite hunting ground. Use citronella candles and coils in tandem to keep the blood-suckers away. 

For a foolproof event, place a few citronella plants in your backyard and make a homemade mosquito repellant with this citrusy essential oil. Simply get a spray bottle, combine distilled water and witch hazel (vodka and rubbing alcohol work, too, if you're not sensitive to these bases) in a 1:1 ratio, and add 30 to 40 drops of citronella essential oil. Shake the bottle well and invite your guests to spritz it on their skin. Topical application will keep mosquitoes from gorging on your guest's blood.

Add plenty of comfortable seating options

Seating options are a must to create a welcoming atmosphere, but just any chair or seat won't do. The furniture must be comfortable, or your guests will be forced to remain standing (or flee the party early). Similarly, it's crucial to have adequate seating options for the guests you're expecting. It's always best to have one or two extra chairs in case you need them later.

However, just setting out the required furniture won't be enough; their setup is equally important. For example, if you're expecting 10 adult guests and five kids, it's best to set up a section for dining, another for adults to catch up, and a nearby section for children to enjoy themselves. Remember, the organization and sections will depend on the number of guests you're expecting and the space you have. If you're planning a cozy, romantic date with your partner, an intimate dining section will work wonders.

But, don't be stressed about the seating options if you don't have dedicated lawn or patio furniture. You can confidently use indoor furniture. An eclectic mix of relaxing sofas, thick cushions, playful hammocks, and foldable chairs all work as long as you organize and group them strategically. Just ensure they can withstand the natural elements without getting permanently damaged. Also, don't leave out the furniture for long to avoid turning the grass brown.

Put up a patio umbrella to keep the sun and rain out

To ensure the sun doesn't scorch your guests or the clouds don't rain on your parade (literally), put up a patio umbrella. But, it isn't as simple as picking an umbrella at random and letting it take care of the elements. You must consciously choose an umbrella that'll stand tall as a sentry and keep out the elements.

Pick an umbrella with a sturdy frame and UV- and water-resistant canopy. It should also be easy to fold and open, as well as fit your area requirements. For instance, if you intend to place it over the dining space, ensure the canopy is large enough (not too big or small) to cover the table. You can even experiment and deviate from the traditional circle-shaped canopies. Go for colorful rectangular or octagonal canopies that suit your tastes and the yard's aesthetics. Don't forget to get multiple umbrellas if your backyard is large, the sun is especially brutal, or there's a rain forecast.

Since the umbrellas won't be cheap, it's best to account for them early on. For example, Jearey's 9 feet outdoor patio umbrella will cost about $60 on Amazon. Pick a solar-powered LED-lighted patio umbrella for $90 to spice things up and illuminate the night. However, if this exceeds your budget, you can take a DIY approach. Get a patio umbrella and a cordless, battery-operated 28-LED light ring for $19 and simply clip it on.

Set the table with acrylic drinking glasses and compostable tableware

While you might want to set the table with your fancy tableware and gorgeous drinking glasses, resist the temptation, especially if you have kids attending the gathering. Your expensive china (or glass) won't survive an accidental meeting with the floor. Plus, if you don't have enough sets for all the guests, you'll have to spring for a bigger set and needlessly spend money. This doesn't mean you should downgrade to cheap paper tableware or plastic glasses, though. Since you don't want to increase plastic waste in the oceans or landfills, strike a balance between the two and go with compostable tableware. They can be put into the compost bin, and you won't have to deal with a ton of dishes after the guests leave. Win-win! As for the glasses, go with acrylic drinking glasses. They're sturdy, durable, reusable, and look better than plastic.

For the plates, we like Ecovita's 9-inch 150-plate pack. Since it's made of bagasse and bamboo paper, it's 100% compostable. It's budget-friendly, too, and will only cost $38 on Amazon. In a similar vein, Bioocean's compostable 150-count cutlery set costs about $20. As for the glasses, consider Zeayea's BPA-free 14-ounce 6-glass acrylic set. They can be hand-washed or stacked in the dishwasher and cost around $18.

Bring out the drink dispensers

Drinks and parties go hand in hand. But it can be incredibly tiring to replenish the water jugs, juices, and sangria every few minutes. So, why not bring out drink dispensers and let the guests keep themselves hydrated? They'll benefit from the freedom, and you can sit and engage in conversations without interruption. However, choosing the right dispenser is crucial for a friction-free experience.

Begin by estimating the amount of drinks you'd need to store in the dispenser for your guests. For instance, a 1-gallon dispenser is ideal for 16 8-ounce servings. So, if you're hosting only five guests, a one-gallon dispenser would probably be sufficient for the gathering, but it would be too small if you have 15 or more guests over. Once you're sorted on the capacity front, check the dispenser's quality. Ideally, the container should be made from durable materials like glass, stainless steel, or BPA-free plastic. Cheap quality dispensers would be susceptible to scratches and won't last long. Check the spigot's quality, too, as you don't want it to break or get jammed easily. 

Finally, go for dispensers that can be easily taken apart and cleaned. Moreover, they shouldn't weigh a ton when empty, or it'll be challenging to bring them outside when full. We like Accguan's 2-pack, 1-gallon glass drink dispenser. It has a black iron frame, stainless steel faucet, and costs nearly $30 on Amazon. Don't forget to note the drink's names on the card.

Roll out your cooler cart

Ice buckets used to be an integral part of outdoor gatherings, but they've since been replaced by portable cooler carts. They've been gaining traction primarily because they make storing and dispensing bottled and canned drinks easier, especially if you have a lot of guests over. Moreover, these carts are insulated, ensuring the ice doesn't melt under the sun's unrelenting glare. To ascertain you get the most out of your cooler cart, choose one after considering a few important factors.

Check the cart's weight capacity. This will determine the amount of bottles, cans, and ice the cart can hold. Next, find out how long it can keep the drinks cool. The longer the duration, the better. If a cart can keep drinks chilled for up to 36 hours, you can stock the bottles and cans the day before the event and have one less thing to worry about. Regular and locking casters are important to move or keep the cart steady. You also want to check the number and diameter of the wheels, as it'll impact the cart's rolling. Additionally, check if they'll be compatible with the rough flooring of your yard. The cart should be made of durable materials like stainless steel. Plus, it'll be incredibly convenient if it's outfitted with a bottle opener and cap catcher and is easy to clean and maintain. Keeping these factors in mind, you can get Sealamb's 80-quart rolling cooler cart for under $100 from Amazon.

Assemble a stunning outdoor bar cart

An outdoor bar is incredibly convenient. However, designing and building an outdoor bar is not only time-consuming, but also expensive, especially if you involve professionals. But don't give up on your bar idea; get a bar trolley instead. A bar with wheels is convenient and will have ample space for your bar essentials, like drink bottles, glassware, ice buckets, straw holders, and cocktail mixers.

Jummico's portable bar cart for under $55 from Amazon is a great option. But if you don't want to spend money on a cart for just one day of entertainment, repurpose your old TV stand or office cart. If it looks worse for the wear, give it a fresh coat of paint. Once you have gathered the cart and supplies, it's time to assemble a fabulous outdoor bar cart. Put tall bottles and the ice bucket on the top shelf. You can even add a slender flower vase to add a touch of color and freshness. Line the front of the shelf with straw holders, cheeky signs, and bartending equipment. Add glassware and extra bottles on the bottom shelf. Ta-da!

Light up your backyard

Lighting is vital when a party starts (or doesn't stop) after the sun goes down to illuminate the space and avoid tripping accidents. Since there's a lack of ceiling in the backyard (unless you have a contemporary patio with the bells and whistles), traditional lighting fixtures aren't a convenient option. This is where string and fairy lights come in. You can drape these around the patio umbrella, pergola (if you have one), deck, nearby tree or bush, and other tall fixtures. These lights don't just illuminate the space; they'll also add a touch of whimsy and create a warm environment. Flameless candles are good for the table. Solar-powered lanterns and path lights are a great option if your yard is large and you'd rather light up the walkways for your guests.

Keep a few things in mind while buying lights for your backyard. For starters, ensure the lights are water- and shatter-proof. They should also be able to withstand strong winds and light rain. Consider the light's durability and maintenance needs, too. LEDs are quite durable, efficient, and require minimal maintenance. Finally, calculate your yard's square footage to determine the length of string lights you need and the strain it'll put on your party budget. For instance, if you buy GPatio's 120-feet outdoor string lights, it'll cost you about $38 on Amazon. In comparison, 30 feet of the same string lights can be bought for under $18.

Ignite patio heaters to manage chilly lights

Whoever said you had to confine outdoor entertaining to the summers and spring wasn't familiar with patio heaters. These heating devices will keep your guests toasty and ensure they have a good time, despite the chill in the air. The best part is these heaters spread the heat around the area, so your guests won't have to congregate around the heater (unlike fire pits that make huddling close to the raging fire compulsory). Moreover, patio heaters (except wall-mounted ones) can be easily moved around and don't give off smoke or soot.

But before you set off to buy (or hire) a patio heater, it's vital to understand the many types. Free-standing patio heaters resemble umbrellas and are ideal for outdoor events, especially if you need multiple to radiate heat around the space and warm your guests. A Simple Deluxe standing outdoor patio heater on Amazon will cost just over $100. Alternatively, tabletop models are a better option if you need illumination around the dining table and have the space to place it on top. An East Oak tabletop outdoor patio heater will cost around $120. You also need to familiarize yourself with the heating source for these devices. Patio heaters usually draw energy from propane, natural gas, and electricity. Since the type of energy source affects the infrastructure needed and the associated costs, order a heater after considering these things. For instance, an electrical heater needs a nearby outlet.

Order a few mesh food covers

Food is the biggest draw at any outdoor gathering. So, you prepare (or order) a range of delicacies to wow your guests and satiate their hunger. However, displaying them uncovered will attract flies and bugs who'll sit on the food to sample it before your family and friends have had a chance. While shooing them away might often work, you don't want to give them the opportunity to contaminate the food and spread disease-causing germs. Enter mesh food covers. Not only will these transparent covers prevent the pesky bugs from coming in contact with the food, but they'll prevent dust and dirt from getting in too. Better yet, they're easy to open (the collapsible ones), maintain, and store.

While you can opt for elastic or fabric food covers, they aren't a superior choice. Elastic covers seldom stay in place, and fabric ones make it difficult to see the contents beneath. Fine mesh covers beat both these cons. Plus, being budget-friendly and reusable, they won't burn a hole in your pocket. Indeed, you can order a set of four 17-inch mesh food covers for under $7 from Amazon. The covers are available in a range of colors and styles, like pyramids, circles, squares, and rectangles, so you won't have to stick to old, boring designs. You can even reuse mesh produce bags to display whole fruits.

Keep the party going with an outdoor Bluetooth speaker

Music is necessary to breathe life into your outdoor party and set a festive mood. A lively playlist might even get your guests grooving! However, your indoor music system can only do so much. So, get a portable outdoor Bluetooth speaker to keep the tunes playing. But before you get a speaker, ensure it checks a few basic boxes.

The most important thing to check is the speaker's sound quality. A speaker with a frequency range of 20 Hertz to 20,000 Hertz, a sound system of 2.0 to 2.1, output power usage of 15 to 20 Watts, and low impedance (the lower, the better) should work for your outdoor event. Next, check the Bluetooth version. Try getting a speaker with the latest version (5.4 is the latest, but anything above 5 works), as this affects the speaker's sound quality and range. 

Another important thing to check is the speaker's IP (ingress protection) rating to understand if it can withstand dust and water (in case of accidents). A speaker with an IP67 or IP68 rating is a solid option. The speaker should have a good battery life and be relatively easy to charge (wireless charging). Determine if the device can be connected to another speaker. If checking all these boxes seems challenging and you don't have a lot of time to spare, you can get JBL's Flip 5 waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker for under $130 from Amazon.