Janette Ewen, who co-hosts W Network’s Inside the Box with Ty Pennington, is known for her creative, budget-friendly approach to decorating and entertaining. The self-confessed “hostess with the mostest” shares her own unique tips for hosting a fun, festive and affordable outdoor affair.
Her number one tip when planning a party? “Keep it super-simple,” she says. “Creative but simple.”
When dining outdoors, Ewen says it’s important to set up your grilling and eating stations close to indoor entry points, for easy access to food and supplies. As pretty as it might be to eat under a gazebo on the other side of the yard, the logistics of cooking and serving that far away from your kitchen will end up being more hassle than it’s worth, says Ewen.
For drinks, Ewen recommends picking up low-cost metal buckets from the hardware store, filling them with ice and setting up drink stations throughout your backyard or patio. Stock them with a mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Ewen likes to include retro sodas from a store like the Pop Shoppe.
Assign small tasks to friends so you can keep you your focus on your guests. These don’t have to be big jobs, Ewen says, but it doesn’t hurt to have somebody in charge of making sure the washroom is stocked with toilet paper, for example.
Always have a rain plan. And if you have to bring the party inside, try to change the atmosphere of your space: instead of having people sitting around on couches, throw some pillows on the ground, move some furniture around – create a “destination feel,” so that your guests don’t feel so cheated by the weather.
Have lots of fun games planned, which come in especially handy if the weather does go sour. And have cheap prizes on hand for winners: you’d be surprised how a small trophy can kick-start a friendly competition, says Ewen.
Remember the items your guests might have forgotten. Ewen likes to have faux pashminas on hand. “I’ll buy a ton, put them in a basket and, if it gets cold, offer them to people to wrap around,” she says. She also recommends putting together a few care buckets filled with things like bug spray, sunscreen and lip balm.
Keep everything outside well lit. There are tons of great, affordable solar and LED lights available on the market. Ewen recommends sticking them along pathways and in planters situated in high-traffic areas, both for safety and for ambience.
If you don’t want to invest in outdoor dishware, go to a second-hand store and pick up some old vintage cups and plates. You can mix and match them for a look that’s eclectic, says Ewen.
Rather than using vinyl tablecloths, which can look drab, Ewen suggests picking up a roll of brown packing paper from an office supply store to cover your tables, creating a neutral background. Then sprinkle them with coloured confetti and decorate them with fresh flowers. For a traditional summer look, hit up your local fabric store and pick up a yard or two of fabric in a fun checkered or houndstooth print.
If you have one large table doing double-duty, stack your plates and wrap fork-and-knife sets in colourful napkins, which you can place in a bucket or basket. This will keep table space free for your guests to sit and mingle.
And finally, says Ewen, “I think the biggest thing to remember is to be a hostess who expects to have a good time.”