Hosting Thanksgiving Outdoors: Tips for a Flawless Celebration

The lack of “real” fall color may be a drag in California, but our great year-round weather more than makes up for it. Especially at Thanksgiving, when many others across the country are digging the snow off their front walk so people won’t slip when arriving for dinner while we’re donning flip-flops and sunglasses while setting the outdoor table.

Yes…the outdoor table. What better way to showcase our love for the traditions and togetherness of Thanksgiving than by enjoying it outdoors. If you’re planning on hosting the holiday out in the California sunshine this year, here are a few tips to follow.

Prepare Ahead Of Time

That means ordering any tables and chairs, linens, and dishware in plenty of time so you don’t have to call around to find what you need. And don’t forget to order your turkey early, too, especially if you need a specially ordered bird, like something kosher. And, it means securing a housecleaner, not just to tidy up your house before the big day, but also to get your kitchen back in shape after. The last thing you’re going to want to do is scour the ovens and sink once everyone leaves.

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Make It Comfortable
Whether you’re renting chairs or using your own, remember to keep comfort in mind. Hard chairs might literally be a pain, especially for older family members. “Thick, comfortable cushions on the chairs will encourage guests to linger at the table,” said Real Simple.

Perfect Your Backyard

If you’re planning to host Thanksgiving outside this year, your yard is probably already in pretty good shape. But those finishing touches can make a big difference. A few strings of LED lights can bring a romantic touch to your outdoor space. You probably don’t want to plant at this time of year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fresh blooms. Some potted flowers in strategic spots in the yard may be all you need to create a stunning backdrop.

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Think About Renting A Tent

You’ll undoubtedly be watching the weather closely in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, but even if there is no sign of rain coming up, you may still want to be prepared. That way, if a surprise storm does pop up (or, a fall heatwave because: California), you can get the tent up so your guests won’t have to run for cover. Your favorite party rental spot may have a limited number of available tents, so it’s best to reserve one early.

It’s also good to have a Plan B if you notice that the weather is looking iffy for Thanksgiving week. If you need to relocate your brood indoors in a pinch, you don’t want to have to pick up and move furniture and shove toys in a closet to accommodate a table and chairs.

Rent Heaters, Too

Even if the weather calls for sun and even if you think you can get away with not having heaters when the sun goes down…get them anyway. A separate seating area surrounding a firepit where people can gather and chat after dinner, and a few throws scattered through the yard for those who want to snuggle up, will also be appreciated. 

Glam It Up

There’s no reason your Thanksgiving table has to be sedate. Don’t be afraid to add some sparkle. “Bring some glamour to your Turkey Day table with a shimmery tablecloth in your favorite autumnal hue,” said Elle Décor. This glittery bronze version is from Mrs. Freund & Co, and it definitely sets a luxurious tone set against the beautiful greenery of the yard.

Keep The Bugs Away

You probably don’t want to light Tiki torches or use anything with citronella because people may not be able to tolerate the smell—and, it can interfere with the food you’ve worked so hard on. Sage, mint, and rosemary are just a few of the herbs that have shown promise in keeping bugs away naturally. Fresh pot plantings scattered around your outdoor area can not only help you keep the pests away, but look great at the same time.

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Consider The Kids

Are your guests bringing their kids to your Thanksgiving dinner? The mere fact that it’s being held outdoors may give them some great built-in opportunities to keep busy, stay engaged, and have fun. But it doesn’t hurt to stock up on some kid’s games, activities, and crafts..

Start with a few cups of crayons and a coloring paper table runner like this one from Anthropologie. Some pre-baked cupcakes (and maybe pre-frosted depending on how young they are) and a variety of decorations = a great time customizing deserts…as long as they don’t spoil their dinner by sneaking a bite (or five). These tabletop turkeys make a cute craft for kids, and, if you pre-cut the cups, all they need is a bit of glue to put them together.

Chafing Dishes Are Your Friend

Whether you’re serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner or something with a new twist, you still want to make sure your hot food stays hot. You may not want your buffet table looking like a banquet hall, but chafing dishes are still you No. 1 option for maintaining food temperature. Introducing some of your own dishware and serving pieces, along with some candlesticks and festive decor, can give the table a personal touch.