8 Tips for Creating a Memorable Outdoor Holiday Dinner

Yes, you can celebrate outside. Here's how to stay cozy even when there's a nip in the air.

Taking your holiday celebration outside offers a whole new world of possibilities for festive fun. And yes, some challenges, too. Read on for a few easy ways to ensure that your outdoor Christmas dinner (or any other holiday meal) is as safe, comfortable, and celebratory as possible.

01 of 08

Serve a Warm Cocktail

A hot drink on a cold night is one of the greatest joys of the cooler months, and there are plenty of festive recipes to help you create the mood for your holiday feast.

Try swapping out pre-dinner champagne or cocktails for spicy mulled wine, hot buttered rum, or a hot toddy.

02 of 08

Grill Your Mains

Forgoing the oven and opting to grill the main course allows you to be outside socializing with your guests while you cook instead of fussing over the hot oven inside the house. You can grill any of these meats (weather permitting):

For vegetarians, throw on some super-savory and satisfying miso mushroom kabobs.

03 of 08

Skip the Soup Course

While soup is an oft-beloved and warming way to start a holiday feast, it's not the easiest to do in an outdoor setting. Not only is soup messy and hard to transport bowl-by-bowl from the kitchen, but it's also challenging (and dangerous) to pass a large vat of steaming liquid around the table.

Swap the soup course for another warm appetizer, like crispy bacon-wrapped dates, loaded polenta bites, or gooey baked brie with cranberry compote and pecans, served with crusty bread.

04 of 08

Prep as Much as You Can in Advance

Planning ahead is always the key to successful hosting, but it becomes especially important when your guests can't keep you company in the kitchen while you finish the cooking. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time to minimize "day of" tasks (and use a dinner party checklist if you need help staying on task).

For example, make dressings and sauces, clean and chop veggies, and assemble casseroles, then store them tightly wrapped in the fridge (minus any crispy toppings). They'll be ready to pop in the oven a few hours before the meal. That way, you can spend more time celebrating with loved ones.

05 of 08

Buy or Rent Space Heaters

The number one issue hosts of outdoor feasts will face this holiday season is keeping diners warm. Staying cozy is the key to a successful evening where people can relax (rather than rush) through a chilly meal, so it's worth investing a little time and money to get the right tools.

You can rent tall space heaters from an event company or buy a few top-rated space heaters if you plan on hosting a few outdoor events. Depending on your level of investment and the amount of space you have, another fantastic option is a portable outdoor fire pit. Guests can sit around the fire for a pre-dinner cocktail or post-meal coffee and dessert. S'mores, anyone?

06 of 08

Use Real Linens and Table Settings

While it might be a little more to clean up, using your normal tablecloth, napkins, silverware, and plates will make it feel more like a special meal. If you don't feel comfortable handling dirty dishes, invest in high-quality disposables.

07 of 08

Add Lighting

Good lighting changes the ambiance of an outdoor dinner and makes it feel like a special occasion. Hang outdoor string lights around the perimeter of your space or crisscrossed across the table. Use large candles as centerpieces (keeping them well out of the way of children and anything flammable, of course).

08 of 08

Offer Blankets and Pillows

Creating a cozy outdoor space is easier than you think. Drape a shawl or light blanket over the back of each chair to ensure that your guests can stay comfortable throughout the evening.

Setting this up ahead of time will prevent your guests from bothering you with additional requests if they start to get chilly. Providing pillows or extra cushioning to make the outdoor furniture even more comfortable will encourage guests to linger around the table post-meal.

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