Tips to host an al fresco party at home

PUBLISHED: 12:34 15 June 2016 | UPDATED: 12:34 15 June 2016

A tipi style marquee from Katah Events can give your part instant wow factor © Claire Williams Photography

A tipi style marquee from Katah Events can give your part instant wow factor © Claire Williams Photography

© Claire Williams Photography

Bonnie May has got stacks of great ideas to help you host an al fresco party at home to remember

Dining and entertaining with the outside in mind is a risk whatever the date in this country, so be mindful that plans sometimes need to be switched and divert back to plan ‘B’. This year, with the birthday holding a little more significance than usual, I have decided to scale up and keep plan ‘A’ as plan ‘A’ and bring in outside cover. Yes, it is a little more extravagant, but on this occasion it’s going to be worth it.

Planning for a bigger ‘bash’ at home can be hard work – not only choosing what party route to go down, but also in managing how much to spend. It is easy to get carried away and end up with a bill that could frighten the life out of you.

Build a list and split it into three parts – the ‘have to have’; the ‘nice to have’ and then the ‘cherry on the top’! Then work your way through. The big spend items will be a marquee and the food and drink in most cases, so it is good to put numbers against these first as this will start to shape your budget.

When it comes to looking for a marquee/tent, like everything these days the choices are endless. Gone are the days of just having a white structure. From stretch tents, see,, or exotic styles at, the marquee can really set the scene. Once you have chosen the look that you are going for, they will come out to see you, measure up and cost accordingly; many will also be able to provide furniture if required, and if you can ‘double up’ on this, it saves on delivery and collection costs.

The treats

Next is the food and drink. There are companies who can take the whole burden away for you and conjure up a feast of fabulousness. Alternatively, you may want to keep it simpler but don’t want to embark on doing everything yourself, here a good hog roast always goes down really well. Good supermarkets do an ‘entertaining range’ you can book in advance online and then collect.

For your drinks, many supermarkets offer free glass hire if you buy from them. The service Waitrose offer is very good! Then a big bucket of beers, chilled wines and maybe jugs of a house cocktail will have the party going with a swing. Check out for cocktail recipes.

It is one thing having all this planned, but on the night making sure all your preparations are in place can sometime call for a bit of extra help. I highly recommend bringing in a couple of extra pairs of ‘paid hands’ to keep the place tidy throughout the evening so you actually get the chance to enjoy your party.

Once you are going down the marquee route, you will also need to consider heating, light and sound, and the marquee company can help you with this. I know that on the sunniest of days heating may seem unnecessary, but once that sun goes in, even on a balmy evening it can get chilly. It is an extra cost, but it really isn’t any fun hosting a party if it is too cold.

On the entertainment front, it’s a matter of personal choice. You can keep it nice and simple – have a playlist or maybe bring in a DJ or hire something like IDJ, If a band is more up your street, there are some great ones out there (just don’t forget to let the neighbours know that you might be a little noisier than usual if they don’t feature on the guest list!).

A little gift

It seems the older we get the more difficult we are to buy for. I, on the other hand, think I’m the easiest person to buy for as I always have a mile long list of things spotted whilst out and about. However, for the people who apparently have everything there are still some great places to look for hidden treats.

Feeling arty? Why not start a new collection? Memory blocks by Sid Dickens,, are beautiful. I came across these a couple of years ago and my collection, thanks to very generous family and friends, grows by the year. No two collections will ever be the same, and he only makes a certain amount which he then ‘retires’, so increasing the value.

For the super foodies, is a fab pressie, you can send as a one off gift or have a cheese a month sent out over a period of time; has a tasting club and chocolate subscriptions, a great idea for our friends with a sweet tooth.

If you are looking for gifts with maybe someone a little older in mind, has a range of delicious homemade meals and fresh fruit and vegetables, all delivered direct to the door. Make sure the lucky recipient has fridge and freezer room. It’s a great gift for someone who loves their food but might not have the ability to make everything from scratch all the time.

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