Originating from the Italian 'al fresco' meaning 'in the fresh (air)', dining alfresco translates to taking dinner outdoors. And this year, we're looking forward to getting together outside with friends and family more than ever. Whether you're hosting a summer luncheon with 5 of your best gal pals or having a BYOB (that's bring-your-own-blanket) catch up with another household around the fire pit, ensure you've got all the essentials for elegant alfresco dining with our outdoor dining ideas.
Outdoor Entertainment Areas
While it seems straightforward enough to drum up a multitude of outdoor dining ideas, there are some fundamental things to consider before you get carried away with tableware and garden decor. First things first, we're looking at the very root of your alfresco dining experience - the foundations, if you will. Before you decide on anything, you will need to consider 2 things: location and furniture.
If you're in a new home, you might be thinking about the best place for outdoor dining in your garden. Observe your outside space at different times of the day to find sunny spots where you might enjoy alfresco dining. On the other hand, if you have a large garden and your dining table is at the very end of it, you might want to consider relocating your dining space a little closer to the house so that it's not so far to walk with plates and serving dishes. The obvious consideration here is shade and cover. No one can predict how rainy it will be this summer but, as with most seasons in the UK, we are guaranteed at least some rainy weather! So make sure you've got a covered area or parasol for shade and shelter.
Re-style Your Space
If your outdoor dining room is already in a perfect spot, reinvigorate it for 2021 with a splash of paint. You could do this by re-staining a washed-out wooden patio or segmenting a garden dining space with a painted colour block across a fence. Look to Pintrest for garden dining room inspiration or get creative with Farrow & Ball's outdoor paints.
Check Outdoor Dining Tables & Chairs
Now's the time to check that you've got enough chairs for guests as well as sufficient space around the table for safe distancing. It's also worth baring in mind that garden furniture comes in a range of materials. Each material has its own pros and cons when it comes to hardiness and manoeuvrability in outdoor settings. Find out more as well as tips on choosing the best furniture for your space in our Garden Furniture Buyers Guide. Selecting outdoor furniture for both comfort and style is just as important as your alfresco party menu.
Alfresco Dining Table Settings
Once you're happy with the location and furniture in your outdoor dining room, tableware is the next practical item to think about. Make sure you've got enough crockery for your bubble of guests. We'd always recommend having a few extra to hand in case of breakages or if you fancy leaving the washing up til the next day.
Set the Table & Serve Up Style
Firstly, consider dressing your outdoor dining table with a tablecloth. Using a tablecloth adds a splash of colour to a plain patio table. It also creates a beautiful setting for an array of salads, cured meats and fruit juices you might serve up. A tablecloth can be used to reinvigorate outdoor surfaces that may look tired and washed out after one too many summers. Next, think about napkins, cutlery and serveware. Wooden serveware is a great idea for outdoor dining. Not only is it highly on-trend at the moment, but wooden salad servers, platters and boards bring a rustic feel to your alfresco dining set-up to match the natural tones of outdoor living.
Plenty to Drink with Jugs & Tumblers
Should the weather be particularly warm, jugs are ideal for alfresco dining. Your guests will be able to help themselves as they please. Better still, you won't need to keep going to and from the kitchen to refill individual tumblers. Many jugs are sold alongside glass sets in the same design. These can be used together to create a beautiful matching alfresco set-up.
Garden Party Celebrations
Whether it's a belated get-together for birthdays missed last year or a meet-up to commemorate a couple's engagement, transform your patio or garden into an outdoor dining area worthy of a party. And while (for now) your guest list remains small, we're looking for any excuse to crack open the Prosecco and salvage partyware from the back of the cupboard.
Update Your Glassware
You might have champagne flutes and wine glasses that are appropriate for your garden party already. Or maybe your set is missing a glass or 2... Whether you need some additional glasses or just want to refresh your existing pieces, invest in some new barware to make your celebrations extra special. Ice buckets and coolers are also great outdoor dining ideas, keeping your drinks cold without having to keep heading back and forth to the freezer.
Create Ambience with Candles
Candles are great for setting the mood of a summer evening party. Plus, you can select holders to put them in to match your theme. Small tealight holders are inexpensive and can be placed along the centre of your table to create ambience without spending a lot. Larger lantern style candle holders are usually a bit more expensive but can hold larger candles for longer burning time. Plus, they can be placed on walls, tabletops and floors if you wish to enhance the cosiness late into the evening. Just make sure that the surfaces you are placing them on are resistant to heat! If you don't like the idea of an open flame, try draping battery-powered fairy lights across your dining table instead.
Buy Garden Party Decorations
Now when we say 'party decorations', we're not talking your usual confetti, balloons and novelty hats. We're thinking outside the box with hot air balloons. Available in a multitude of colours, sizes and at a range of price points, model hot air balloons are the ultimate garden party accessory and one of our favourite outdoor dining ideas. They are lightweight and can be hung above a dining table from the ceiling of a covered area or patio. These unique decorations will make your garden party celebrations extra special, especially for a kid's birthday party! Just remember to move them inside when the celebrations are over as they will not withstand the rain or wind. Find out more on how to style them here.