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7 Tips for Hosting an Outdoor Thanksgiving

7 Tips for Hosting an Outdoor Thanksgiving

Nov 16 2015

With the holiday season quickly approaching, now is the time to start planning your Thanksgiving get-together. Sitting inside is a cozy tradition, but consider trying something new this year. Instead of squeezing everyone into the dining room and collecting a mass of chairs and tables, host this year's Thanksgiving dinner outdoors in the fresh air. To help you make this idea a reality, here are some tips for moving the event outside:

1. Set up the seating
The seating arrangements are one of the first aspects you should tackle for an outdoor Thanksgiving. You need to make sure there is plenty of room for everyone to sit and enjoy the meal. You have two options for this task: The first is using your own furniture. If you have a large outdoor dining set, then you already have the perfect place to host a meal. However, if you don't have an outdoor dining setup or know you won't have enough seating, you can always rent tables and chairs to sprinkle around the backyard.

2. Add decorations
No holiday is complete without the necessary decorations. Part of the beauty of hosting Thanksgiving outdoors is you'll be able to enjoy the natural colors of the surrounding foliage and use your decor to enhance those features.

First things first: Decide what adornments you're going to use on the table. An autumn-themed tablecloth is always a good place to start, followed by a Thanksgiving dish set, if you have one. A centerpiece that shows off your holiday spirit is another must for your dinner table, as well. Pillar candles surrounded by pumpkins or gourds can create a cheery atmosphere, but try a few different centerpiece designs. Instead of gourds and candles, maybe you'd prefer straw and fall-colored flowers. Play around with the look until you find something you like.

Once the table has been beautified, add a few other decorations around the patio. For instance, vases provide the perfect place to insert festive foliage near the doorways and pathways, and outdoor pergolas can be used to hang small lanterns and weave holiday ribbon around the beams.

3. Prepare food early
Don't feel like you have to cook the whole Thanksgiving meal the day guests arrive. Instead, prepare some foods in advance and either freeze them, or keep them in the refrigerator. This way, you won't be stuck in the kitchen quite so long when your friends and family are over.

It's also a good idea to ask others to bring a side dish. By delegating food dishes to other members of the family, you won't feel as much pressure to have everything ready when they arrive. It will also save you a lot of cleanup on the big day. Just make sure you've created enough room in the fridge to hold all of the food containers. 

4. Stay warm
November is usually a chilly time of year so, to counter the cold-weather blues, start a fire in outdoor fire pits or fireplaces. The extra warmth will help keep guests cozy and provide a nice gathering place after the meal. It would also be beneficial to drape blankets over each chair in case your guests want a little extra warmth during dinner.

5. Keep the kids entertained
Nieces and nephews are a natural part of any family gathering, but trying to keep them all entertained can be a challenge. If you want the kids to be occupied when the meal is over, play a holiday movie like "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" on your outdoor media center. This way, you'll be able to monitor the kids while chatting with your loved ones over a glass of wine. 

6. Have a backup plan
The weather can be really fickle during fall, so just in case the day isn't as clear outside as it needs to be, have a backup plan in place. This means having the dining room clear and chairs available in case you need to move things inside. It's also smart to know where you'll serve the food in the house - can you simply put dishes on the kitchen counter, buffet style, or do you have enough room at the dining table for the food as well?

While you might not have to utilize Plan B, it certainly doesn't hurt to have one ready. You'll be a lot happier you thought ahead if you have to quickly move everything inside because of bad weather.

7. Serve the food
This is the most important part of the day, so know where you're going to put all of the casserole dishes and serving platters. If you have an outdoor BBQ island and a lot of people over, set the food on the island and have guests carry their plates back to the table. This will make the food more accessible to everyone and will help your guests dish out the food faster.

However, if you like the way the table looks fully set with the turkey and side dishes on top, then all you have to do is make sure your table is wide enough to accommodate the food and your dinner guests. After that, simply sit back and enjoy a delicious meal, good company and the kaleidoscope of fall colors around you.

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