Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Your Guide to Outdoor Entertaining

Top tips for taking your party outside



Photo by Aaron Snow

 


Entertaining outdoors in the 405 is a breezy, sunny joy … if done properly. In our beloved, weather-fickle Oklahoma, it also can just as easily be an overheated, windblown, buggy nightmare, or a frigid test of your guests’ mettle, no matter what month of the year. While we prefer the former, we’ve inadvertently unleashed the latter upon ourselves and our family and friends a few times. Never again, though!
 

“We’ve done really large events, like the opening of the Devon Tower and Open Streets OKC, which was for 40,000 people,” says Brian Ferrell, founder and president of 110 events. “We’ve also done smaller events like Starlight Supper for DOKC.” With bona fides established, he says, “Holding any event outdoors means you have to have a Plan A, B and C. And sometimes you go straight to Plan D or E.”

Ferrell is one cool, unflappable cat with a bit of a Cheshire smile, and his preternatural calm is a trait he says comes naturally to him. That certainly makes his career choice seem logical. His expertise and tactics, although largely earned by executing huge, complicated events, can be applied just as easily to your Fourth of July bash. “The best way to stay cool under pressure is to have a plan, and to communicate that plan with the people involved in making your event happen. That way, when something changes, you can go into execution mode instead of crisis mode.”

His best preliminary advice is to literally walk through your space from the perspective of your guests. Is your front door well lit and, more importantly, unlocked? Will your guests be in your yard? Have you turned off the sprinklers and sprayed for mosquitoes?

“Think about all the logistical details. The wind is something people don’t always factor in, and it can make or break your event,” he says. “Disposable plates and cutlery are great, unless they’re blowing all over your yard. It may behoove you to rent dishes instead, and you may want to invest in stemless wine glasses, which are much less likely to tip over.”
A low vase filled with pebbles and succulents makes for a pretty, wind-resistant centerpiece. Adding sandbags under the table may be necessary, and for linens, there is a fantastic new innovation: spandex table coverings – effectively Spanx for your table!     

 

For the last four years, the crew at Downtown OKC Inc. has hosted 400 or so of their closest friends at the outdoor gala Starlight Supper. It’s inspired by outdoor farm-to-table and slow-food trends, and guests are seated and served family style in early April of each year.

“Outdoor dining events are so different from events held indoors,” says Staci Sanger, DOKC marketing manager. “Guests walk in, grab their seats and then they are up and moving. They trade seats, sit in [one] spot for the entrée and mingle around. Starlight Supper, in particular, feels much more like a family event. We learned not to even try to assign seats.”

Another tip from these pros: “Salad will blow away if it’s windy. Long garlands of flowers are a great centerpiece choice,” says DOKC Marketing Assistant Riley Cole. “We now use heavy metal chargers and tuck the napkins under them. We’ve completely ditched candles because it’s impossible to keep them lit, and we’ve contemplated going stemless for our wine glasses but have opted against it so far because stemmed glasses are more elegant.”

Rich colors add visual interest (left) to a cheerful al fresco dining setup designed by 110 events president Brian Ferrell


Recently the group attended a conference on placemaking, and learned about the power of 10, Sanger says. “For someplace, or for an event or even a dinner in your backyard, to become a place, meaning someplace people will want to linger, there need to be 10 layers, 10 touches. You know when people have reached that point because things happen: shoes come off, there’s lots of laughing and showing of affection and people will be on social media and taking lots of pictures.”

The power of 10 is simple. Think of it this way: Three courses plus wine and a small takeaway gift gets you to five. Add a great cup of coffee, scrumptious dessert, great music, comfortable seating, beautiful flowers and maybe another ambiance element like a portable fire pit or a little uplighting and you’ve dialed it up to an 11.

Kindt Steven Myers, whose events business Kindt Events handles more than 50 events each year, agrees. “You can get a DIY kit for lighting that comes with six uplights and gels for about $100. Special lighting really creates ambiance for your event, especially if you’re outdoors, in a backyard or by a pool.”

 

In the summer, Myers encourages his staff to focus on keeping guests cool, and his tricks of the trade easily translate to the at-home host or hostess. “Cooling towels are wonderful and refreshing for an outdoor or poolside event. You can buy multi-packs of small white towels – choose white because they look freshest and cleanest on first use. Fold them in half and roll them tightly, then submerge them in a chest filled with ice water with a little bit of mint essential oil in it. It’s an upscale touch that’s easy to do.”

He suggests cooling your house down early, like six or seven hours early, and incorporating lots of fresh fruit into your menu. “Twenty people will really affect the temperature of a room,” he says. “Start cooling your home early in the day and cool it to the point of being uncomfortably cold. You’ll be glad, and your guests will be glad.”

Fresh, whole fruit makes a pretty centerpiece display and can double as dessert. “Soak fresh fruit in a sinkful of water with just a tiny drop of dish soap in it and a few alkaline drops, which you can get at Whole Foods. It will keep the fruit looking fresh and keep pests away from it. Just a 10-minute soak will do it. Alkaline helps balance the body, and diseases can’t grow in an alkaline environment.”

Kindt Steven Myers (left) is a staunch proponent of incorporating fresh fruit into menus for outdoor summer events – including punch or other beverages prepared in advance to give hosts one less thing to do. |  (right) Fresh, cool dishes like this melon salad with feta cheese and basil, and chilled smoked salmon from Guilford Gardens and Kam’s Kookery are perfect for warm-weather fetes.


Since pot roast and potatoes appeal to almost nobody when it’s 90 degrees, Myers says to focus on fresh. Melon salads made sophisticated with a sprinkling of feta, drizzle of good olive oil, dash of Himalayan salt and a chiffonade of basil feel hearty and satisfying but are also refreshing.

“Smoked salmon is great, chilled and served with capers and crema. Serving your meal on platters is smart,” he says. “Always include some dollar rolls when you do, so guests can make a little sandwich if they’d like.  Be sure to have plenty of water. Plenty. And lighten up your cocktails by making a classic spritzer, or in the case of sangria, by replacing the fruit liqueur with a fruit juice. Batch your cocktails and do everything in advance so you can enjoy your guests. Dolley Madison said if you are able to greet your guests at the door, you’ve done it right.”

That’s the skinny on food, but what about décor?

 

Le Fleuriste’s Master Florist George Catechis jokes that the most challenging thing about having an outdoor event in Oklahoma is “that the event is outside. Just kidding. Oklahoma weather is so unpredictable that you can try to have a plan for event day, but just know it may not work. The weather constantly changes, so you have to be prepared with a back-up to your back-up plan. We’ve had plenty of events get delayed due to floods and tornadoes, but we always make it happen.”

When planning your tablescape, be clever but also be realistic. “Heat and flowers don’t really mix, so succulents and air plants are great options – and smart, since they can take the direct sun,” Catechis says. “If you really want to use colorful flowers, make sure you put the arrangement outside right before your party starts to avoid as much wilting as possible. Once you put the centerpieces outside, you will have two to six hours before they aren’t looking so fresh. The hotter the day or the more direct the sun, the shorter your time window will be. For best results, keep your flowers out of the sun and make sure there is plenty of water in your container to keep the blooms hydrated.”

Consider building décor around a nature theme: This Guilford Gardens setup has leaves for placemats, blades of grass as napkin rings and river rocks as guests’ place cards.


He also encourages you to think outside the vase, as there are endless possibilities when you entertain outside. “Team Fleuriste is definitely into hanging objects anywhere we can, and I mean from anywhere! We’ll use the patio, trees, pergola and anything else we can to create a ‘wow.’ Think unconventionally. Adding touches like glass that glistens in the sun or LED candles will enhance the look of your party. Don’t forget to look around your yard and find things from nature that you can use to accent your décor.

“Vines from your garden can become a napkin ring, branches from your backyard are the perfect centerpiece base, and you can even create a placement out of leaves,” he says. “If you have a tree stump or two, they are great to use for additional seating or side tables. Oversized planters are also great ice buckets for your drinks! Don’t limit yourself … trust yourself to experiment and have fun.”



 

► 3 Ways to Keep It Chill

Serve cold things. Nobody wants to sit outside in July and eat a hot plate of lasagna. So cool it, and serve things at room temp or lower. Gazpacho, savory salads, chilled shrimp, cold sliced tenderloin and plenty of fresh fruits make for a make-ahead, low-stress, crowd-pleasing menu.

Taste-test the margaritas. It’s OK, you’re still a responsible adult. Nobody is saying you should swim to the door to greet your guests, but a great way to mitigate pre-event adrenaline, or to make the transition from organizer to socializer easier, is to enjoy a little wine or a small cocktail while you’re getting dressed.

Let things unfold as the universe chooses for them to. Within reason. Have a rain plan, or a snow plan, think about the wind and its effects on your centerpiece choices … and once you’ve done that, take a tip from Elsa and let it go.


► Tip, Tip Hooray

Maximize your fun by doing things you can only do outside. Set up a few yard games such as corn toss or croquet.

If you have a fire pit, do a sophisticated s’more for dessert. Do a coconut-peanut butter-Sriracha s’more by swirling a little (or a lot) of Sriracha into some all-natural, chunky peanut butter. Sandwich a dollop of the spiced-up mix, a toasted marshmallow and a sprinkle of sweet coconut flakes between plain graham crackers for an upscale version of campfire comfort food.  

Go au naturel – with your décor, that is. Work with what’s on hand. River stones and a Sharpie make for clever place cards. Muddle some mint, straight from your herb patch, into ice-cold water for a bracing refresher. Give each guest a tiny tomato plant in a diminutive terra cotta pot to take home and enjoy.

Think inside-out. “A huge trend right now is bringing traditional indoor furnishings outside,” Ferrell says. Center a beautiful Oriental rug under a tree and hang a chandelier from a branch. Bring your antique buffet out for some fresh air and enjoy the energy that juxtaposition will bring. Whimsy is a beautiful thing.”



 

► As Brenna Sees It

The See family has lived in Heritage Hills since 2014, after a seven-month restoration of the property made it a showcase – in fact, it will be a featured home on the upcoming Heritage Hills Home Tour in September. Brenna See loves to entertain outdoors and uses every inch of her home to make her guests feel welcome.

“We truly enjoy entertaining outdoors at any opportunity,” See says. “We’ve hosted wedding showers, baby showers, birthday parties and – of course – dinners with family and friends. It’s always been my priority to make our home inviting and welcoming for our guests. One thing I love about our backyard is its unique layout. Our outdoor space allows us the flexibility of entertaining friends and family in settings that can handle large or small groups of people.”

Brenna and Ross See with friends Penelope, Leighton and Brett Price in the Sees’ well-equipped backyard.


Her enthusiasm is contagious. “Nothing says summer like dining al fresco! Our favorite time is when we can fill up our table with friends while watching our kids swim in the pool and play in the yard.”

For her, making sure her home and yard are at their very best is one key to being a great hostess. “My husband Ross and I both thoroughly enjoy working in the yard. I think we both come by this naturally, as both of our mothers do, as well. I have to say that they, too, deserve some of the credit. There is something special about making your home look beautiful together. Even our little ones help with the veggie garden.”

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

Sublime Summer Road Trips

Any or all of this foursome of fun road-trip recommendations should be ideal for making some great memories.

The Ways to Wellness

Experts describe the elements our overall well-being, and offer tips on keeping all those aspects in a healthy balance.

The You Re-Do

Cosmetic procedures can help patients look more like their ideal selves, but there are things you should know beforehand.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2019

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Start your Sunday morning by perfecting your practice during our outdoor yoga class. Enjoy the beauty of yoga outdoors in the glow of the Ferris Wheel lights! This class welcomes all levels, from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

MILLER IN MAY HOME TOUR HIGHLIGHTS CHARACTER AND CHARM The 20th anniversary of Miller's beloved home tour Miller Neighborhood's most popular event is back for 2019… and...

Cost: $10 - $30

Where:
Miller Neighborhood
NW 10th to NW 16th, N Villa to N May
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Miller Neighborhood Association
Telephone: 405.642.5982
Contact Name: Elizabeth Beard

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

OKC's premier chamber orchestra, the Oklahoma Virtuosi, presents their season finale concert.  Concert will include: St. Paul's Suite Op.29 No.2 by Gustav Holst,...

Cost: Free

Where:
21C Hotel
900 W. Main St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Website »

More information

As the first anniversary of her sixth album Conversation With A Ghost approaches in June, Italian-born and Austin-based singer-songwriter Giulia Millanta possesses a...

Cost: $15-$20

Where:
The Blue Door
2805 N. McKinley Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: The Blue Door
Telephone: (405) 524-0738
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Piedmont Airlines will be hosting a Information Session for ramp agent jobs at Embassy Suites in OKC. Please plan to spend up to 3 hours with us, as we will have you fill out applications, listen...

Cost: Free

Where:
Embassy Suites
1815 South Meridian Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
View map »


Sponsor: Piedmont Airlines
Telephone: 704-359-2477
Contact Name: Nick Calo
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

More than 90 visual artists will line the streets of the Historic Paseo Arts District, selling original artwork in a wide variety of media, from painting and photography to wood and jewelry, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Paseo Arts District
3022 Paseo
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Paseo Arts Association
Telephone: 405-525-2688
Contact Name: Paige Powell
Website »

More information

Enjoy all your favorite activities at the Orr Family Farm for a special price! Admission is only $8 per person on this day only.

Where:
Orr Family Farm
14400 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Telephone: 405.509.9312
Contact Name: Lauren Daughety

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass this Memorial Day Weekend! Get a full day of fun at Andy Alligator’s Fun Park and Water Park for only $29.99. A Dual Park Pass includes Unlimited Rides &...

Cost: Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass!

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Place
Norman, OK  73072
View map »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags