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Outdoor area set for a party with lights, furniture and food.
Eager to entertain at home? There’s no better place for a party. Whatever the season or occasion, it’s easy to host an outdoor dinner party. Here’s what you need to know.

 

The key to hosting an outdoor dinner party is planning. Take into consideration seating, lighting and comfort when preparing your house for a party.

First things first, consider the flow of the space. Depending on the size of your outdoor area (from small patio to sprawling lawn), you’ll want to create a welcoming area that has places for guests to sit or stand, with plenty of room to move about.

Also take into consideration proximity to the house and cooking areas – will it make things easier to host the party closer to the kitchen or barbecue area, or would you prefer to keep guests separate from behind-the-scenes action? Are there any guests with mobility issues you’ll need to plan for?

Add a few ingenious touches, such as this D.I.Y. wooden pallet wine bar (created with two wooden pallets and some timber), or table centrepieces made from foliage or scented plants like lavender or thyme. (Tie the plants together with twine for a rustic look.) Flameless LED candles also make a great addition, providing hassle-free atmosphere.

If you keep your guests in mind while planning your party, your event is sure to be a success.

Choose the menu

What – and how – you plan on cooking will have a significant influence on the style of your dinner party. Catering or using your kitchen to prepare are certainly good options, but don’t overlook the fun and festive environment created by cooking outdoors.

Everybody loves a barbecue – it’s a social and informal cooking style that still creates a sense of occasion, plus it produces tasty food! When choosing a barbecue, consider the fuel type you prefer (gas, charcoal or electric), the size of your space and the number of people you’ll be cooking for.

Smokers come in all shapes and sizes, suitable for spaces ranging from small patios to sprawling decks. Low-and-slow style cooking is always a crowd-pleaser, so choice often comes down to size and how you like to cook.

Pizza ovens are also popular. There are a wide variety to choose from, and many styles are compact, portable and versatile, suitable for baking bread and roasting meat and vegetables as well as cooking pizzas. Still, there is something special about a homemade pizza – check out these three mouth-watering recipes.

Set the scene

Make your guests feel welcome by offering a variety of seating, from general outdoor furniture and lounge sets to the outdoor dining setting.

Outdoor seating is an essential part of any outdoor entertaining area, as it impacts the overall feel of the space and how you use it. Things to consider are comfort, durability, style and what fits in the space.

Loungers and outdoor chairs grouped around a small table provide a space for guests to sit and chat, as well as a much-needed area to set glasses and plates of nibbles. Padded seats and armrests provide comfort and support, but – if space is at a premium – a few stylish cushions can have the same effect while taking up less room.

When it comes to an outdoor dining table, there are a lot of options to choose from. Rectangular tables suit most outdoor dining areas, and they can be paired with bench seats (which can tuck completely under the table when not in use) or chairs. A good rule of thumb is to allow about 60cm of table space per person. If you need extra seating, choose minimalist-style chairs over more substantial ones with arms. If you entertain only occasionally, consider investing in stackable chairs that can be tucked into a corner until needed.

Tip: Although matched sets of lounge furniture and dining settings look elegant, you can also let your personality and style shine through by mixing things up – for example, pairing a timber table with black-and-white chairs to create a Hamptons vibe. The main rule of thumb is to ensure there’s a connection between the pieces. Sticking with a dark or light colour palette can help with that.

Add some mood lighting

Atmosphere is everything. The right outdoor lighting sets the mood for entertaining family and friends outdoors. It can create a warm and inviting space that is also functional.

When it comes to lighting, there are a lot of options to choose from. Party lights (like string lights and fairy lights) are perennial favourites. These luminescent and twinkly lights create a magical backdrop that can transform an outdoor space.

Try draping them over archways or arranging them in a cascade over tree branches to create instant ambiance. If you have a small backyard or courtyard, hang them along your fence. If you entertain often, look into semi-permanent fixed party lights – that way there’s no need to pack up after every party!

There are also low voltage or solar-powered options, for socket-free convenience.

Festoon lights are another popular choice. They create a glittering galaxy of light overhead, introducing soft, ambient lighting to your outdoor area. They come in a range of styles and colours, lengths and designs. Festoon lights are also energy efficient and easy to install.

Tip: For a special touch, consider adding light strips, which can create a diffused glow around garden edges or water features.

Create a comfortable space

Whatever the weather, it’s important to keep your guests comfortable.

When the weather heats up, it’s essential to have plenty of shade to protect people from the sun, and there are a variety of easy-to-install shade options to choose from.

Outdoor umbrellas are a flexible, portable solution that come in a wide range of materials, colours and designs. They are perfect for small areas with outdoor settings or chairs and can easily be put up or taken down as required.

Shade sails are ideal for screening off larger areas, like decks and patios. They usually come in square or triangular shapes, pulled taut between several anchor points, and are made of flexible fabric or PVC. Another bonus: shade sails are easy to install and can be tailored to suit the size of your space.

In the cooler months, outdoor heating is key to keeping guests comfortable, providing some welcome warmth to any gathering. There are a variety of outdoor heaters to choose from.

If you’re looking for a more permanent fixture, outdoor firepits and fireplaces are popular heating options that create instant ambience, drawing people together. Select a firepit that suits the space of your outdoor area and choose materials that match your décor.

If you want something portable, outdoor gas heaters are perfect for patio spaces. They come in a range of sizes and are designed to warm up whatever is directly within the vicinity, so they work most effectively if you position them in the centre of your entertaining area.

Don’t overlook the effectiveness of screens, either. If you’re looking to add instant outdoor privacy to your backyard area, screens allow you to shield your backyard without transforming it into a fortress. They’re also great for creating secluded pockets in your garden. Choose from a variety of materials to suit your style, from timber to bamboo to decoratively patterned metal.

Looking for more tips?

Check out our advice on how to set the scene and personalise your party space.

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.