Late summer and early fall are both excellent times to spend with family and friends in the cooling Northern Colorado climate. From watching the Broncos play on Sundays to celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and national and religious holidays, there are lots of great reasons to get together at this time of year.
At JJ Fencing and Deck in Loveland, we spend our work week as local deck installation specialists meeting with, planning, and building exquisite outdoor spaces that help empower people to come together outdoors, so we reckon we know a thing or two about how to make the most of that time.
In today’s blog, we will provide in detail some crucial, but sometimes overlooked aspects of taking your outdoor gathering game to the next level. Read on to learn more about how you can become the go-to family member or friend for all of this year’s outdoor events.
If you’re simply looking for help with a new deck installation from a local expert, then contact us online to schedule a free estimate, or give us a call directly to talk to one of our friendly, helpful team members.
Know Your Audience
We all know that the single most important element in having a good time is the people who you have it with. We all have friends or family members who we get along so well with that it doesn’t matter what we’re up to — we’re going to have fun. However, the longer the guest list gets, the more complicated and nuanced hosting an event becomes.
More people means more details. Who has food allergies? Who will bring what sides so you don’t end up with 17 bags of tortilla chips for your one store-bought tub of guacamole? Will your grill cook enough food for everyone all at once, or is this going to be a “wave-attack” strategy from the hero at the fire?
Making sure that you know your guests, know their needs and are organized enough ahead of time to have a plan for success are all key ingredients in the recipe for a perfect outdoor gathering at your home.
Plan Food According To Needs
Depending on how old you are, you may remember a time as a child when the backyard BBQ offerings consisted of all-beef hotdogs, hamburgers, and Aunt Ginny’s famous potato salad. Now, this kind of a one-size-fits-all midwestern approach to a backyard gathering is a surefire way to put out your own fire.
Whether we are talking about glutton intolerance, vegetarianism, food objections for ethical reasons, or any other kind of food restrictions, you are bound to need to accommodate somebody if there are going to be more than three people getting together. While some people consider this an inconvenience, make sure to remember that when you offer to host, you’re offering to do what it takes for your guests to enjoy that hospitality.
Planning for food allergies, restrictions, and sensitivities ahead of time allows you to add guest-friendly sides and snacks to your list of items that other people will contribute to the event. It also all but guarantees that you won’t encounter the unsavory situation of someone having a bad reaction to something they accidentally eat.
Additionally, make sure to take into account the age ranges of any kids who are attending. Turkey dogs, hamburgers, and other simple, fast foods are typically great options for children who don’t have specific dietary restrictions.
Always Offer a Non-Alcoholic Beverage Other Than Water
An often-overlooked piece on the chessboard that is the plan for an outdoor gathering is providing alcohol-free options other than water. Typically in Loveland and the rest of Northern Colorado, coolers full of beer abound, and it’s not that uncommon to find some craft cocktails by the batch on the drink and food table.
However, what about the pregnant mother? What about the father who is going to drive his family home after a short stay? What about the people who don’t want to drink alcohol for any kind of reason? After all, these folks are still guests at the proverbial table.
A cursory Google search for “mocktails” will lead you down a delectable rabbit hole of non-alcoholic drink options that will not only provide for a safe option for those responsible to drive, but it will also cater to a non-drinkers who are oftentimes marginalized by their options at outdoor social events and gatherings.
At the very least, make sure that you provide a couple of different flavors of sparkling water.
Let The Music Set The Tone
Music is a fundamental element for any outdoor gathering. Period. However, the music requires forethought, consideration, and ideally, minimal management during the event itself.
Make sure that you consider whether or not the music you want to play is appropriate for everyone present (primarily kids and that one neighbor who seems to hate everything you play anyway). But even more importantly, since the music is an auxiliary piece to the overall event, make sure that it has the right feeling.
Want a chill backyard grill session with a few friends? Jam bands and classic rock hits from summer’s past may do the trick. Looking for a source of energy at your all-night backyard bash? Try a blend of electronic music and current hip hop hits. Are you planning a family gathering to celebrate your niece’s 4th birthday party? Well, you know your family better than we do, but maybe stray from the heavy metal and gangsta’ rap.
Create a Playlist
The best way to make sure that the music for your outdoor event is good-to-go is by creating a playlist. For any playlist, make sure that you curate it with songs and artists that fit the mood you are going for. Even more important is that you let the music help to build, and bring down, the event.
Start off the first 30 minutes or an hour with more low-key music. During this time, your guests will be arriving, greeting each other, and catching up with superficial anecdotes about work, the weather, and the kids. Think of this as the “lounge” portion of the evening before the party gets started.
Over the next hour or so, elevate the energy and feel a little bit. During this time of your outdoor party, people will start to become more comfortable and settle into their environment.
Next, take it to 11. By roughly two hours into your event, things will be going full-swing. Empower people to dance, sway, or sing-along off-key with fun, high-energy music that people can get behind.
Finally, for the final hour or so that you are planning on having people around, bring the music on the playlist back down a bit. This will subtly signal to your guests that the evening is winding down, that the host needs some help with picking up a few random cups, cans, and plates, and that people should begin considering where they are headed to next.
Plan An Activity Or Two
Remember how when you were a kid, the parties you went to always had something fun to do, like a scavenger hunt or a game of duck-duck-goose. That’s because structured group activities are fun. Okay, so duck-duck-goose likely doesn’t stand up well with a group of people your age, but you might be surprised how much a clever scavenger hunt, a tie-dye painting station, or an organized bracket of party games might go for your gathering.
Don’t Forget The Kiddos
Even more than adults, kids love a structured event designed for them to either create or destroy something. From pinatas to arts and crafts to a good old game of hide and go seek, the parents of kids at your party will be the only ones more grateful than their children.
Don’t Neglect Your Decorations
While it’s easy to get in over your head with planning and deploying decorations for your BBQ, family gathering, or sporting event, a little can still go a long way. Lighting wrapped around your brand new deck, a couple of carefully placed streamers, and themed napkins, table covers, and plates can really help to provide the right feel for your event.
Getting creative with your food and drink can be a good way to go for those who already have mastered party decorations. For water or cocktail containers, you can cheaply purchase glass jars or metal jugs that can be draped, painted, or at the very least show off the vibrant colors of your cool, refreshing concoctions.
Here’s one final pro tip about decorations: not everyone on your guest list needs to bring a drink or a side. A couple of those people would be willing to bring decorations or show up a little early to help with the setup. It’s a great way to get the labor-intensive elements of your party handled without stressing yourself out before your guests even arrive.
Elevate Your Space
Our final recommendation for making the very most of your outdoor gathering this year is this — elevate your space and every event you host with a new deck from the deck installation experts at JJ Deck & Fencing in Loveland.
The crisp lines and colorful accent of a new deck enriches your space in a way that can really give your outdoor gathering an energetic, yet also more comfortable feel.
As a slightly elevated (or highly elevated in the case of a second-story deck) area to gather, your new deck installation can serve as a literal platform for conversation, laughter, and fellowship. Or, you can use it as the dais of direct and indirect heat application — the cook’s platform.
Either way, a new deck at your home will be appreciated by all and can actually be used as a reason to get the whole crew together.
Don’t need a new deck installed because you already have one? Well, if your older deck needs sanding and staining to bring it up to outdoor gathering season snuff, we can help with that, too.
Call JJ Fencing & Deck For a Free Estimate
For all your deck installation and deck staining needs in Loveland and the surrounding area, give the team at JJ Fencing & Deck a call. With over 15 years of local industry experience, we’re a trusted name in Loveland’s fencing, deck building, and deck staining community. Contact us today for a free estimate.