In Oklahoma, the arrival of cooler weather is sometimes enough of an event on its own to warrant celebration after a long, hot summer.
However, the advent of fall and first chill of winter also make great times to celebrate other events, and holiday parties both small and large can often benefit from an alfresco venue.
Whether it’s an open house, cocktail hour, dinner party or family gathering, taking it outside can be a logistical practicality if indoor space is an issue, but it can also offer a crispness to the atmosphere — figuratively and literally.
September temperatures in Oklahoma can still easily be as high as 85 degrees during the hottest part of the day, and drop to the low 60s at night, or on especially cool days. You can expect about a 10-degree drop in both high and low points in each successive month, until December. Depending on your guest list and their comfort levels, fall and even early winter can be fantastic months for outdoor entertaining.
As the president and creative director for Kindt Events, Kindt Steven Myers has organized a variety of events through the seasons, and he insists that cooler weather does not have to mean keeping your revelry indoors.
“The sky’s the limit, as far as what you can do outdoors, with the right budget,” he says. “You can climate control, you can tent — we just take into consideration the type of event; a strolling cocktail party is different and has different needs than a formal, sit-down dinner.”
Some things to consider, when entertaining in the open air, and some Oklahoma-specific advice, to boot:
The Weather. Always have a Plan B in case of acts of God, and in Oklahoma, always remember the wind. (As if you could forget it.) Try to organize your get-together in a spot with windbreaks; in the autumn months, the wind in Oklahoma typically comes from the south or southeast, changing to alternate north and south winds in winter. If you can’t creatively anchor tablecloths, go without. It can be tempting to go disposable when entertaining outdoors, but the weight of actual tableware can be helpful in keeping things where they belong. It also adds gravitas to your setting which, when paired with a natural environment, makes for a unique and luxurious ambience.
The Guests. The number one priority of a host is the guests. Plan on your company having a range of comfort levels with varying temperatures, and try to provide areas with differing amounts of exposure, if possible. An area with a fire pit, if you have access, would be good for those who tend to be chilled easily, and seating in more open air could be a boon to those who don’t mind, or even enjoy, a breeze. Depending on how far into the cool season your party is, you may want citronella candles as part of your lighting scheme. Nothing ruins a party like mosquitos. A common drawback for outdoor entertaining can be losing that casual ease that homes provide for extended interaction; taking some of your cushier seating out with you, or renting from an event coordinator, can provide living area-comfort for conversation.
“We like to utilize mixed-use seating,” Myers says. “We bring in couch lounges and soft seating, along with more standard chairs.”
The Food. If you opt for having your event catered, there’s really nothing that can’t be served outside just as well as inside. Match your meal or hors d’oeuvres to your setting, and go as casual or formal as you’d like. One outdoor caveat: You’re not in a climate-controlled space. Careful attention should be paid to the temperatures of both the food you serve and the outdoor air. Be sure everything that needs to be hot is kept hot, and that your situation for chilled food is kept, well … chill.
“An easy solution for managing refreshment is to have food inside and the bar outside,” Myers says. “It allows for easier food temperature maintenance and also keeps guests moving, which livens the party up.”
Moving a gathering outdoors takes advantage of the actual atmosphere to help create one. No matter how indoorsy someone is, if the mood, meal and assemblage are right, an outdoor party can be more than just a marking of your individual event, it can be a celebration of nature itself, and a reminder of how sweet the air outside can be.