Dining alfresco is one of my favorite things to do in the summertime: With Mother Nature as a backdrop, food just seems to taste better and conversation is relaxed and flows more smoothly. And although having a meal outside is usually a more casual experience than a dinner party indoors, that doesn’t mean it’s less special. In fact, with the right set-up, it can be downright magical.
Here’s what you need to create an outdoor table with a great vibe for celebrating good food, friends, and family.
Since candles are the ultimate mood-setter, including them on your table is a no-brainer.
Of course, using candles outdoors requires special care: They need to be sturdy, and heavy enough not to tip over easily. They should also have enough protection from the wind that they won’t blow out in breeze. That makes lanterns a great candle option. Use a single lantern if you’re dining as a couple, or group several on the table if you’re hosting a larger group.
For the safest flicker, of course, you can always opt to use flameless candles on your table.
Adding linens elevates the dining table from a basic picnic to certified-event status. And there are so many options for table coverings beyond your basic gingham: You might choose a fiesta-bright tablecloth in a vinyl or a durable indoor-outdoor material, but, weather permitting, you don’t have to: You can also bring out a traditional tablecloth for a more romantic feel. Or layer your old-faithful vinyl outdoor tablecloth with pretty place mats for a more bohemian vibe.
Outside, you can choose any dishes you want–from eco-responsible sugar-cane plates to easy-care melamine dishes (which can have a more refined look than you might imagine), right up to stoneware or your wedding china (not advised if you’re hosting an event with kids and/or rambunctious pets around!).
Your goal is to choose a few pieces that really match the mood you’re trying to set, whether it’s whimsical or completely sophisticated. That might mean a free-wheeling luau look, an exotic abundance of floral style, or clean, bold stoneware.
Nothing kills a laid-back mood faster than being forced to run in and out of the kitchen half-a-dozen times for food or drink refills. Make things easier–and give the table’s set up a little flair–with servingware that fits with the meal and your menu.
You can also serve water and drinks like lemonade in clear drinkware sets that include a serving pitcher. And rather than offering guests mixed drinks, wine and champagne in plastic glasses, serve in style with a worry-free shatterproof glassware collection.
Now all that’s left to add is a few friends, a fun menu, and some tunes. Enjoy!
What do you use to make an outdoor table where guests will linger well past the final course?