In celebration of the warm weather and patio season, we headed outside to do a little al fresco dining. And given that al fresco dining is one of our favorite summertime activities, we gathered a group of gals for drinks and catching up, followed by dinner, then more drinks and chatting. Although a bundle of fun was had, we also learned a thing or two about making al fresco dining ventures a success.
The event planning experts at 12th Table shared a wealth of knowledge with us, and because of the selfless people we are, we’re sharing this knowledge with you. Follow their eight pieces of advice below on mastering summer entertaining and al fresco dining.
Here’s what you need to know from Sarah Novelli, of 12th Table:
Design for reality.
“As simple as it sounds, one of the biggest mistakes people make when designing an outdoor gathering is not designing for the outdoors. Different environments call for different solutions, and what works inside won’t always work outside,” explains Sarah. “For the most seamless, enjoyable night, know your elements and plan accordingly.”
Learn to love “hefty.”
“So many beautiful details are light and delicate, but these kinds of design elements don’t tend to have a long lifespan in the outdoors. Forgo bud vases for a selection of potted plants or cacti. Both bring color and warmth to the table, but your heftier plants won’t topple or turn in the breeze,” says Sarah. “If you want to do place cards, consider less traditional elements (like smooth stones or slate) instead of traditional paper that could easily fly away.”
Find courage close to home.
“The kitchen is home base. Easy access to this space allows you to be a little more complex in your menu and design; you can keep your meals warm in the oven and drinks chilled in the fridge,” explains Sarah. “You can dart back in at moment’s notice when you need a fresh bag of ice. The further afield you go, the more prepared you need to be. Scale back, simplify and rely on the atmosphere.”
Use thoughtful lighting.
“If you want to laugh late into the night with rosé in hand — and who wouldn’t? — be sure to be thoughtful about lighting prior to the evening,” offers Sarah. “If using string lights, try to hang them the night before to test their brightness level and power sufficiency — especially if you’re in a more remote space. If using candlelight, choose holders like lanterns or glass hurricanes that block the wind.”
Choose unconventional seating.
“The outdoors are always open to a more relaxed atmosphere. Have fun with your design,” shares Sarah. “Use mismatched chairs or lounge pieces. Create a space around the dining table that is more welcoming where people will want to sit for hours.”
Plan for the cold.
“Even some summer nights can bring a chill. Set up a bonfire or have a rattan basket handy with throw blankets. Anticipating your guests needs and comforts is the most thoughtful way to host,” shares Sarah.
Set the mood.
“Music always adds to a space in the best way. Pre-plan a playlist your guests will enjoy and that will help influence the environment you want,” suggests Sarah. “If you’re setting up somewhere away from WiFi, download the playlist on Spotify prior so you can stream no matter where you are.”
Make use of local experts.
If you prefer to be less in the kitchen and more in the crowd, consider hiring professional help! Source your city’s top floral designers, rental companies, chefs and mixologists, who can make an al fresco experience that much more enjoyable.
Most of all, enjoy the company you invited and make memories to last a lifetime!
- Photography: Leila Grossman of Grannis Photography
- Rentals and styling: 12th Table
- Flowers: Christie Torleton of The Farmer’s Florist
- Location: Acme Feed & Seed
For more entertaining ideas, click here!