Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you can't have an excellent celebration outdoors. It's true that summer and spring are better seasons for outdoor gatherings, but with the right preparation and the right attitude, you can put together a great outdoor party in winter.
Start Planning Early
One of your best strategies is going to be planning early. Early planning has a number of advantages, both for you and your other guests. You'll be able to have more time to buy the things you need and prepare your home environment for the party.
You’ll have plenty of time to make reservations if necessary. And you'll give your guests ample time to plan their schedules around your event. On top of that, you’ll have a bit more time to anticipate inclement weather.
Ideally, you’ll begin the planning process well in advance. If that's not possible, give yourself at least a week.
Have a Plan for Warmth
Obviously, your biggest challenge in throwing an outdoor winter party is going to be the cold weather. If your guests are shivering, they're going to have a miserable experience and what else is around them. That's why it's important to warm up your guests, even when you're outside.
Outdoor fire pits are an inexpensive way to keep your guests warm even during the harshest winters. Fire pits also have aesthetic appeal, offering the warm flickering light of flames and the soft crackle of burning wood. As an added bonus, you can use your fire pit to cook food. This is especially valuable if you're going to be roasting meat or making s'mores.
Alternatively, you could invest in a patio heater. These freestanding heat sources are perfect if you love the idea of your guests standing together and chatting with each other.
Other sources of heat
There are other sources of heat you can employ as well. Firing up the grill isn’t a bad idea if you’re cooking something for your guests; it will radiate at least some heat to the surrounding area. And outdoor space heaters can work as well.
Invest in Better Lighting
One of the best ways to make your party stand out and become more memorable for your guests is to upgrade your lighting. Outdoor lighting is useful for helping your guests see where they’re going (especially at night, when tripping and falling hazards are going to be dangerous). It’s also a way to beautify your outdoor area without spending much money.
Offer Hot Foods and Beverages
There are many hot foods and beverages worth serving, and all of them have the capacity to make your guests feel warmer. Fresh meats and vegetables from the grill are always good choices, and consider serving something spicy as well. For beverages, hot chocolate and tea are always great options; your biggest problem will be keeping them hot for long periods of time.
Set the Right Guest List
Choose your guest list carefully. You want enough people to sustain fun interactions, but not so many that people feel crowded. You’ll also want to consider interpersonal dynamics; for example, you might not want to invite friends who are currently feuding.
Provide Instructions in the Invitations
Issue invitations to your guests, whether you mail them out in old-fashioned style or send those invites digitally. Make sure you provide specific instructions to your guests; tell them where to go when they arrive, give them the address, and let them know if they need to bring anything. The more specific you are, the better.
Prepare a Few Icebreakers
It always helps to have a few icebreakers in mind, especially if you’re going to have lots of guests who don’t already know each other. Simple games, such as guessing games or “two truths and a lie” can encourage your guests to interact with each other in a low-stakes environment – and help them get to know each other. That said, icebreakers shouldn’t dominate the evening, so be prepared to move past them eventually.
Be Ready to Move Inside
Anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time in a region with cold weather knows that the weather can transform unexpectedly and viciously. If the winds pick up or it starts to hail, the party will need to adapt. Be ready to move inside if you want to keep the party going; make sure you have plenty of space for coats and shoes and ample room for people to move around.
Much of your success depends on your creativity and your ability to adapt. There’s almost unlimited potential for an outdoor winter party, but you also need to be prepared to change your plan if there’s a sudden blizzard. Do as much preparation in advance as you can, but expect the unexpected.