Expert Tips for Entertaining Outdoors

Assistant Home Editor Todd Childs shares his ideas for creating entertaining outdoor spaces.


Hi, I'm Todd Childs, assistant homes editor at Southern Living. One of the best parts of summer is the chance to do some outdoor entertaining. Give your dining room the summer off. Invite some friends over and take the fun outside. It's easier than you think to create the perfect setting for an evening under the stars. Here are a few tips and things to remember. Late evening sun can still be pretty harsh, and nothing ruins a good time like squinting. Retractable canvas panels, suspended on cables, are a great alternative to a permanent shelter, and can be pulled back when not needed. Lighting is always key. For parties spread over a large area strands of lights create a nice glow for stand and snack gatherings. But just remember with lots of bulbs it's important to use low wattage or connect to a dimmer. [MUSIC] Another really cool way to add sophistication to an outdoor event is with a chandelier. [MUSIC] Electric fixtures outfitted with a plug can be easily moved and require no special wiring. Suspended from a tree branch or porch ceiling, they offer an unexpected touch that will be talked about by everybody on the drive home. [MUSIC] An easy alternative to an electric fixture is a candle burning chandelier. Without the consideration of proximity to an outlet, their versatility is great. And lets face it, candles are always romantic. Also consider that with a hanging fixture there will be more valuable table top real estate for food and flowers [MUSIC] Outdoor fireplaces are another great idea and not just for winter. Remember you're setting a mood, not a thermostat. So, bank pillar candles in the fireplace and replace the fire screen. The soft glow will draw your guests like moths to a flame. [MUSIC] Maximize the garage. All work and no play makes your garage a dull space. For a seated event, move cars to the street and convert your garage into a dining room. Panels of fabric planking each bay are nice way to soften the space and add a little elegance. But take it a step further and add some potted plants, a bit of art and maybe a piece of serving furniture. These few simple steps will go a long way towards some very impressed guests. [MUSIC] For more tips for outstanding outdoor entertaining, pick up a copy of Southern Living magazine, and visit

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