How To Enjoy The Outside While You Dine

What if you were just having a few friends over for dinner and you wanted everything to look beautiful, but effortless. You want your friends to feel special, but not fussed over.


I’m sharing a dinner party set up that I shot several weeks ago, when it was still bearable to be hosting outside. Truth be told it’s been hot and rainy lately so our outdoors will be mostly spent in the pool for the next few months. Here come some photos and TIPS…so I hope you read on and see!

I’m thrilled to be joining some talented friends in our Holiday Entertaining series today, hosted by my friend Lory from Designthusiasm! If you’re coming over from Annie’s over at Zevy Joy, welcome to my life in Florida!


Even though it’s hot as blazes here during the summer we feel so fortunate to have several outdoor areas at our Miami home to entertain and relax. Our pea gravel “patio” is an area that we recently gave a makeover (find that tutorial HERE) and it’s SOMETIMES breezy enough to be out here at night under the trees. I’m super thrilled to have a new addition to this area that I’ll be sharing in my next post and I hope that you join me then!

How To Enjoy The Outside While You Dine

Here are some of my tried and true tips to make it easier to enjoy dining al fresco and take the pressure off for fun!


planner with tulips and gold tray


Good food and drink and great company deserve a lovely setting that makes them feel special. Probably my number one tip is to make a list and write everything down that you’ll need to bring outside. I’m an old fashioned girl and keep a notebook full of ideas to refer to and I find that so helpful to use for organizing.

Speaking of organizing, I have a collection of trays and since our pea gravel patio is pretty far from the house I use trays to carry everything out there that I’ll need.

david austin roses chinoiserie pot


COMFORTABLE SEATINGMake sure to have comfortable chairs for seating. While this might sound obvious, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to dinner at a restaurant or a gathering and just can’t sit on those hard plastic or metal chairs for hours at a time! I keep a small supply of thick chair pads in the garden storage shed to pull out when I know it will help people linger.

outside al fresco elegant table setting shabbyfufublog

Again, something that seems obvious but we all have different tolerances for sun and heat and in the summer you have those hotter rays to contend with. We are all set here back in a thicket of trees, but if you don’t have a shady spot then an umbrella or shade canopy should do the trick.

white ruffled placemats goa flatware

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Set up in advance, as early as possible. How I do this is to check my list in my organizing book in the comfort of the indoors and then gather what I’ll need. For this TABLESCAPE I used some ruffled placemats, a mix of antique pink rose dinner plates, white linen and lace napkins, elegant modern gold and white flatware and beautiful pink coupes. I put all of these onto a couple of serving trays and enlisted the help of my husband to cart them out to the table. Later on in the afternoon I brought out a supply of candles and my floral centerpiece that was on the dining room table. It really makes entertaining a breeze (pun intended;-) to do these things early so you have less to think about later on!

french lace napkin limoges pink plates


It’s hard to predict the weather and as someone who’s done more that their share of outdoor antique and art shows I know to keep an eye on the sky. If even the slightest sprinkle might be forecast I have been known to cover up the table or just the trays that I bring out with supplies. To avoid wind issues it’s best not to bother with a tablecloth in real life and placemats dress it up and anchor the settings. If it were windy on this day I would have used some simple napkin rings.

david austin roses centerpiece


  • If you are looking for evening ambiance, bring out candles and hang some twinkle lights in the trees. Candles in lanterns or jars work well outdoors and citronella helps to keep pesky mosquitos at bay.
  • Bring your indoor furniture outside for fun and perhaps more formality! We often bring our comfy dining chairs out here…weather permitting.
  • Set up your food inside if it’s a particularly hot day, as I showed you HERE to prevent spoilage.
  • Stock a BEAUTIFUL BAR CART with essentials and roll it out, keeping your drinks that guests can refill in a separate area
  • Keep your food simple and light and let the decor be the summer star. Many of us don’t care to eat heavy when it’s hot, so crudités and light appetizers make for superb summer fare.

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