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Entertaining Outside During Autumn and Winter

Entertaining Outside During Autumn and Winter

September.  The start of the Autumn season.  The expectation of cold and wet, although we hope for cold and crisp. But September can give us beautiful weather - the elusive Indian Summer.


Gwilym’s birthday fall the middle of September, and we always try to have a gathering of friends and family for him.  And being part of big family, that usually takes place outside.  I don’t believe that the autumn and winter needs to be seasons for abandoning entertaining outside, just think to Bonfire Night where we gather quite happily for hours at a time.  And so this blog post is just some of my top tips on how to make the most out of entertaining outside with friends and family.


Fire to keep warm when entertaining outside

Fire pit burning is  great ay when entertaining outside for guests to keep warm

One of the biggest motivators to moving inside is when people get cold.  Having a fire pit, or small bonfire if you’re rural, is a great way of making people feel warmer. Psychologically, we all feel warmer when we see a fire, even if we’re not too close to it.


Keep a stash of throws, ponchos and blankets

 Throws and cushions on a sofa are great for keeping guests warm whilst entertaining outdoors

A great hack we used when we ran a glamping site was to cut holes in the middle of super inexpensive fleece throws, the sort that you can pick up for a couple of quid.  These very easily turn into ponchos for those that are chilly.  Perfect to pop on over the top of jumpers, as they’re all one size. 

Cushions stop the cold from seeping in when sitting down, and these can be as simple as folded up towels, seat cushions or folded blankets. 

And then a basket of mis-match blankets and throws can be used for wrapping around shoulders and legs.  Charity shops and car boot sales can be a great source of sea pads, throws and blankets, which can then be stored in the garage specifically for this purpose.  After all, you don’t want to be washing the smell of smoke each time you decide you’d like to entertain outside. Air them the day after on a washing line, with a press of Febreeze, and they’ll be good to go again.


Candles and fairy lights to help see in the dark

Candles lit are a great way for guests to see, and to create ambience when entertaining outside

The light disappears quickly during the autumn, so bedeck the area where you’re entertaining outside with fairy lights, solar lights and candles.  A few candles in lanterns placed on tables nearby, or fairy lights clustered in nearby trees will help guests be able to see faces and their drinks. Pull out your Christmas lights for this  -there’s no need buy special garden ones.  They’re usually exactly the same, just packaged differently. Just make sure that any battery powered ones are either suitable for leaving outside, or that you bring them in when you’ve finished entertaining outside so that they don’t ruin.


Easy food when entertaining outside

Roasting marshmallows over a fire is a perfect entertaining outside activity

Go back to basics with baked potatoes wrapped in tin foil sitting in the embers, tins of baked beans heating on the fire griddle, and hotdog sausages being cooked on skewers.  Onions can be cooked in a cast iron griddle, or a tin foil tray.  Get a basket and pop in some butter, brown and red sauce and some American mustard.  This makes it so much easier to take in and out of the house by yourself. Have a bowl or two of toppings for the baked potatoes including grated cheese.  And don’t bother with salads.  People will need food warm them up.  And you don’t want lots of food left over.

Add in some marshmallows on skewers, with chocolate melted in a camping saucepan, or cast iron bowl, and this could either be shared or tipped into individual disposable cups for personal portions.

If it’s warm and you’re having issues with flies, food nets do a great job.  They’re inexpensive and you can get them in a variety of sizes to cover just one or several bows.

The other bonus with this style of entertaining outside is that this negates the need for tables.  Sitting around the bonfire allows for casual eating off your lap.


Keep work to a minimum when entertaining outside by using disposable cutlery and crockery

Keep work to a minimum when entertaining outside by using disposable plates, mugs and cutlery

Entertaining outside for a big crowd takes a lot of work, so make life a little easier for yourself by using disposable serving ware.  You can get sustainable options (like those we use in the pumpkin patch cafe) that are made from recyclable products, or use sustainable materials.  These are now readily available and no longer break the bank. 

Don’t forget the napkins too! Eating like we live in the stone ages is messy :-) 

Having bins/recycling buckets close by encourages guests to put their rubbish in afterwards.  Or makes it easier for you to clean up, rather than dragging everything back into the kitchen to deal with. 

I put the cutlery into a terracotta/ceramic flower pot, as that keeps them altogether for people to help themselves.  I’ve also found that you don’t get so many dirty, which saves them for next time.


Keep drinks together on a table close by

Drinks easily accessible means guests can help themselves when entertaining outside

The beauty of entertaining outside during autumn and winter is that there’s little warmth in the air, so you don’t need to worry about drinks getting warm.  Keep a selection of drinks on a table on their own, a little away from the fire, but with some fairy lights (so people can see what they’re pouring!) along with some disposable glasses, and guests can help themselves.  I don’t recommend putting candles in this area, as alcohol is flammable, and we don’t want to spoil the evening with an unintentional fire!


Seating problems when entertaining outside

Seating can be a pain when entertaining outside, so don't be afraid to think outside the box

Seating can always be a headache if you’re entertaining outside.  But don’t feel that you have to use chairs.  We’ve used straw bales, lumps of wood, large bean bags, coffee tables and even pallets stacked before now.  If it’s got a flat surface, and you can perch a bum, it’s great.  Just place a cushion or blanket/throw on top and people will naturally sit on it.


Add atmosphere with some chilled music

Add atmosphere when entertaining outside with acoustic music.  Nobody to play?  Use Spotify on your phone instead

Memorable and relaxing evenings is just perfect when accompanied by music. If you’ve got a guest coming who plays acoustic guitar - perfect :-)  Don’t be afraid to ask, a performer never refuses the opportunity to entertain outside!

But if not, don’t panic.  Just pop Spotify on your phone (it’s a free app) place on a table close by, and play as background music. If you’ve got neighbours, don’t forget to keep the music down, or better yet, invite them along too so they can’t complain!


Sparklers for effect

Mini sparklers are a real treat when entertaining outside.  Everybody loves them!

Even if it’s not bonfire night, entertaining outside are the perfect excuse to crack open a tube of these cool mini sparklers.  We’ve usually got a tube of these tucked away, ready to bring out for a special twist to an evening.  And although these work inside without setting off the fire alarms, they’re perfect for using at dusk/when dark.  Look for tubes of mini sparklers though, rather than the larger firework ones.


Have a wet weather contingency plan

How will you go about entertaining outside if the weather turns out wet?  Watching rain from under cover

Entertaining outside in the UK is always going to be a gamble on the weather.  But having a contingency plan is a good idea.  Do you have enough umbrellas or parasols to cover people?  Do you have a tarpaulin, or canvas that you could drape over the top?  And what about a garage or shelter that you could use?  Having accessories in baskets rather than laid out on tables makes it easy for each person to quickly grab something and move it under cover, if needed.  And then you just need to cross fingers and hope it’s only a shower and you can move back outside quickly!

Entertaining Outside

...is certainly not without its challenges, but can provide a really different and memorable experience. Tell me below if there's any other tips you would suggest, or which of these you might try.


Enjoy this article?  Read more from our autumn inspiration collection here 

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  • Annabelle Summerfield
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