Everyone loves a cozy evening gathered around the fireplace with friends. And outdoor parties in cooler weather can deliver the same charm. Want to keep the party outside, but aren’t sure how to do it? These fall and winter party ideas can help you create an enchanting event worth bundling up for.
Prepare your guests
You can’t spring an outdoor party on your guests at the last minute. Being a good host means thinking through your guests’ needs in advance, which in this case means allowing them time to plan and dress accordingly. Make sure that you clearly mention in your invitation that the event is outdoors. One way: Give your gathering a fun theme like “An Evening Under the Stars” or “Classic Cocktails in the Cold” so that it’s hard to miss. Plus, you’ll want to advise your guests how to dress for the occasion (layers, thick socks, etc). Lastly, include a short list of any items you might want them to bring, such as a flashlight, camp stool, or extra blankets.
Choose your setting
If you have outdoor space at home like a patio, terrace or backyard, planning will be easier because you won’t have to travel far with your party food, glassware, and accessories. If you don’t, mingling in a cul-de-sac or setting up at a nearby park with picnic tables or open barbecue grills works too—it’ll just require a bit more planning on your part.
Once you’ve chosen your location, dress the place up with string lights, or lanterns with candles. Festive napkins and a few small flower arrangements can also help create a special atmosphere.
Consider useful party favors
If you can swing it, provide a pair of gloves or a blanket for each guest. Another idea: Gift your guests a thermal mug, which can be labeled and used during the party to keep mulled wine or a coffee drink warm without being too hot to hold. It’ll also serve as a fun party favor for guests to remember the night.
Set up a food station
Create a home base for all the food and drinks you’ll be serving. Stand flatware up in utensil canisters and set out napkins in a dispenser that will keep them from blowing away. Place items such as condiments in squeezable bottles on a turntable so guests can access them from any angle.
Plan an outdoor-friendly menu
Once you have your location, you’ll want to create a menu that will be easy for your guests to enjoy. A few smart ideas that are warm, tasty, and outdoor-party approved:
- Prepare DIY s’mores kits for each guest complete with marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate squares—or special ingredients like grated coconut, caramel chunks, and crispy bacon.
- Warm soups are perfect for an outdoor fall dinner—even better if they’re pureed because they can be enjoyed without a spoon. All you need to do is cook up a big batch, then set it out in a stock pot with a lid, ladle, and bowls.
- Muffin tin party appetizers are easy to serve and eat if your guests will be standing as they mingle on a patio. Or line up individually-packaged options (small bags of popcorn with various toppings; easy-to-grab parmesan straws) on baking trays so that guests can choose what they wish.
- Cocktails made-in-advance and transported in a leakproof cocktail shaker are proof you don’t have to dial down the fun even if you’re taking things outside.
- Pizza cooked on the grill is always a hit—especially when it’s cut into handy pieces so everyone can dig in easily. Of course, the perfect grilled burger is a welcome option, too.
- Festive holiday cookies are a slam dunk, mess-free crowd pleaser for dessert. Or invite guests to DIY their sweets by grilling fruit skewers that they can drizzle with chocolate sauce.
- A hot chocolate bar kitted out with sprinkle shakers and homemade marshmallows is another yummy possibility that can serve as the perfect nightcap.
Make it fun
Lean into the perks of an outdoor soiree and take advantage of fun things you wouldn’t do inside. Stay warm by lighting up a fire pit in your backyard, or snag a location near an outdoor fire pit at a park or beach. If you’re getting together before dark, consider setting up an activity for your guests like a beanbag toss or croquet. And if the reason for coming together is a holiday, a $20-or-less gift exchange can be an entertaining way for everyone to leave with a small memento from your event.
Outdoor parties after summer is over can be extra special simply because they’re not as common. Your guests will appreciate doing something a little different than they’re used to, and everyone will understand there can be an element of uncertainty or surprise, which is part of the fun. Plus, nothing tastes as good as a perfect cup of tea right after coming in from the cold.