The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Hosting
In a season of festivities and attending parties, how are you going to make yours stand out this year? Learn how to host the flawless backyard event from professional party planner, Kendra Herr and leave your guests hoping for an invitation to the next.
Kendra is a gifted interior designer, wedding and event coordinator, host, wife, and mother of four. On top of it all, she fills her limited free time designing, creating floral arrangements, and hosting friends and family.
Kendra and her family moved into their current home 16 years ago and have since worked on creating a comfortable space for family and friends to gather. Here are her tips on hosting winter events both on a whim or months in the making.
Hospitality vs. Entertaining
A key distinction that Kendra makes when hosting is the difference between hospitality and entertaining. “Because I really enjoy aesthetics, party planning, and making it really pretty, it can sometimes be hard to recognize that isn’t what hospitality is.”
So what is hospitality? Kendra describes it as, ”having a warm and inviting space that we can welcome people into at any time...Entertaining can sometimes take away from hospitality when you get too focused on presentation versus the experience when people are there.”
It’s common to feel pressure to have a perfect home, but having teenagers has helped Kendra realize the importance of a cozy, hospitable home. Her teenage kids and their friends will often “show up unannounced and that has been helpful to realize the break between entertaining and hospitality,” she says. “Hospitality is welcoming people into your home at any time and not having a show - there’s a time and place for it.”
Know Your Guests
Before anything else, consider your guests when you begin planning your event. As Kendra puts it, “people want to feel normal when they come over.” This means creating an event with your guests’ comfort and interests in mind. If you’re hosting a bridal shower, use the color scheme of her bridesmaid dresses. If you’re hosting families, have games prepared for the kids.
Be creative and flexible. Kendra and her family have adjusted the layout of their house over the years to accommodate their continual flow of guests. She went on to say that “figuring out what your home can do to serve you” and “thinking outside the box” can help you create a welcoming space.
If you are having a backyard party, Kendra suggests arranging the main attractions in a triangle. “You’re supposed to design a kitchen in a triangle, the sink, fridge, and stove. It’s kind of like our yard where we have the screened-in porch, our fire pit, and barn and then people can congregate in the midst of all of it.”
Food is a great way to get people excited and something that, if it’s delicious, will be remembered. Recently Kendra hosted her dinner club. “We did barbeque beefed-up style. We did a gourmet burger bar adding homemade burgers, and french fries.” You can match food according to the season, but don’t let it restrict your creativity.
Tips from Kendra: Let your teenagers prepare food on the Outpost Grill (under supervision). When her son has friends over, it provides a fun way for them to cook for themselves and keeps clean up to a minimum. "Instead of grilling, he'll throw on some hotdogs. It makes it easy and lets the kids feel like they can play a part."
Drinks are an easy seasonal touch, especially if you keep it simple with your menu. “In the fall you can do hot cider, and you can make hot chocolate for Christmas.” Check out our over-the-fire hot cocoa and chai recipes for chilly night drink inspiration.
When it comes to decorating, Kendra has learned from years of wedding coordination that if you have a low budget or don’t have enough decorations, the solution is to turn the attention elsewhere. “If you can’t make the whole room exactly what you want, make your table amazing. So in my home, I focus on that. I don’t love to cook, but I can make a pretty table.”
For the table settings, go natural. For Kendra’s recent barn party she went outside and gathered dried hydrangeas, acorns, and other natural elements from her backyard. “It doesn’t have to be expensive to be thoughtful.”
She also mentioned that having a selection of essentials on hand is helpful. “I have a ton of gold candlesticks, and I’ll use them at almost every event. There are some staples that are worth collecting and then you can fill in with other natural things.”
Tips from Kendra: Elevate your tablescape by investing in cloth napkins. “For me, that is a game-changer for setting my table, and it’s just laundry.”
“If you want to host in the winter, definitely have a fire. If you are dressed appropriately, have a fire going, and a hot drink in hand, people don’t mind.” Kendra recommends providing blankets around the fire and cushions for metal chairs.
Tips from Kendra: Store your cushions inside so they're warm when you're ready to use them, and hang your blankets on hooks inside so they can air out and are always accessible.
Hosting on a Whim
Having things on hand is always helpful. “If we’re in a season where we’re doing lots of fires, I try to always have hotdogs and s’mores things (and some different s’mores things than the norm) too. I keep them in cute jars and then it’s already done. You can take it out on a tray and voilà - it looks nice and inviting.”
Another thing to keep in mind is seating. “I bought stacking backless stools that we use around the table for games and puzzles but they can go outside - log stumps are also really cute.”
A final touch you can add to any of your gatherings is light and a nice ambiance. “We have string lights above our fire pit and a speaker that we always bring down while we’re around the fire.”
Now you can prepare for the next time you host whether it’s on a whim or an event you’ve been planning for months. Use these tips from Kendra Herr and prepare a space in your home where you can entertain and create an environment of hospitality. We look forward to seeing the events you host around the fire. Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram and share it with us on the Breeo Facebook Group. Happy hosting!