This Outdoor Winter Party Idea Will Make Guests Forget All About The Cold

Freezing temps? No problem.

outdoor winter parties

The holidays may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean the parties have to stop — in fact, this dreary time of year is all the more reason to invite over a few friends and indulge in some weekend cheer. That said, a pandemic remains very much among us; so, if you are interested in hosting a soirée and know that you can do it safely, it’s still probably best to have it outside. Yes, temperatures are frigid in a lot of the country, making that a tricky proposition. But take it from the experts TZR spoke to: With the right outdoor winter party ideas and tricks, you can turn what would be an uncomfortable evening in the cold into a cozy night to remember.

In fact, winter fêtes out in the elements can be as elegant and fun as any fancy dinner or elegant cocktail party. The key? Focus on comfort and embrace rusticity.

According to frequent hosts and entertaining professionals, the most important thing is to keep guests warm — and you can do so in a variety of ways. Additionally, don’t have any less fun with the activities and decor than you normally would. The great outdoors provides opportunities that the inside of a house just doesn’t, so lean into bonfires, DIY, and nature in general.

Don’t allow your fear of the cold to let you skip out on hosting the outdoor winter party of your dreams this year. With the expert-approved tips ahead, you can throw one you and your guests will actually enjoy — and also never forget.

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Embrace The Bonfire Theme

As Alexandra Davin, co-founder of online interior design and decorating courses called Clairrow, notes, there’s always the classic idea of an outdoor bonfire. “Serve food options that can incorporate the fire as part of the experience. Try skewered kababs or hot dogs, campfire nachos in a cast-iron skillet, or a s’mores bar for dessert.” The bonfire can also serve as a kind of activity for your guests, she continues, while they use it to keep warm.

Create An Indoor-Outdoor Situation

Those outdoor dining options that have popped up because of the pandemic? Alexandra recommends taking inspiration from them with your own version, whether it be with a tent, a gazebo, or otherwise.

“Set up bistro tables with tablecloths and candles, enhance the vibe with florals up the walls and across the ceiling, and add portable heaters to create an indoor/outdoor oasis,” she explains. “A similar idea are the portable igloos; I’ve seen them for sale on Amazon. Purchase an igloo tent and set it up with soft seating and string lights, so your guests can have a great spot to hang out when they need a break from the outdoor chill.”

Serve Hot Food & Drinks

Sylvia Fountaine, chef and CEO and founder of Feasting at Home, says keeping the food “easy to eat, hot, and interactive” is the key to a good outdoor winter party menu. “The last thing you want is to have your guests trying to balance a plate or using cutlery with their mittens, so stick to handheld foods,” she explains.

Her suggestion? Serve hot mugs of soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. “Simply place a griddle on your barbecue and fry up some hot sandwiches and pour each guest a hot mug of soup from a thermos,” says Fountaine. “This will also keep their hands warm and can be eaten without taking off mittens.” This option is also highly customizable, so you can make the meal as gourmet or classic as you want. “Some favorite options for my guests include aged cheddar with green apple slices, or brie with cranberry compote and thyme.” And for the thermos? “Stick to smooth, dippable soups like fire roasted tomato or butternut squash puree so guests can dunk their grilled cheese.”

Then, for dessert: “Obviously mulled wine or spiced apple cider! Again, you can make this ahead of time and pour it for guests throughout the evening, or better yet have a table set up for hot drinks that guests can pour from thermoses themselves,” says the Feasting at Home CEO. “Booze is optional but highly recommended for late nights around a cozy outdoor fire pit.”

Incorporate Warmth In Many Ways

When it’s cold outside, you want to ensure your guests have plenty of ways to keep warm. According to Sheva Knopfler, co-founder of Lights.com, that should definitely include heaters and outdoor-friendly throw blankets. Catherine Davin, co-founder of Clairrow, agrees — she says she recently attended a super-cozy event that she described as “wonderful” thanks to blankets on the back of every chair and propane heaters in the center of many gathering areas.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to get creative with this as well. “I shamelessly love when there are rubber flip-flop baskets at a wedding when the dancing begins, because my heels are always killing me by that point of the night,” says Alexandra. “Take that same idea into your winter party theme, and set up big baskets of mittens, scarves, and socks for your guests to use, and then take home as party favors.” Michiel Perry of Black Southern Belle shares a similar idea, but suggests taking it a step further. “When hosting an outdoor party in cooler weather, make the attire a part of the festivities by providing matching scarves, hats, and gloves for each guest that coordinate with the party theme or colors.”

And don’t forget to make sure your atmosphere is as cozy as the temperatures — though always keeping safety in mind. “To keep a warm atmosphere without dangerous flames, try flameless lanterns and outdoor candles,” says Knopfler. “Flameless decor gives your guests the illusion of a warm, candlelit atmosphere without risking fire.”

Take A Rustic (& Functional) Approach To Decorating

It may be cold outside, but Catherine still “absolutely” recommends decorating. “I’d go for a more rustic, après-ski approach,” she tells TZR. “Add strings of party lights, cozy fur throws, and candelabras with real candles.” Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse or conservatory, “transform it into a party space for the evening, and incorporate the plants and natural elements into your decorating,” she continues.

According to Perry, it’s important to make sure your decor isn’t just cute, but functional as well. “I think using items for decor that also double for warmth is a great option,” she says. So, instead of chair covers? Use blankets. Setting up an outdoor tent? Decorate a wall with hats, gloves, and scarves for guests. “Decor for a winter party is all about adding function and embracing the beauty of winter while staying warm,” she continues.

Get Guests Involved

With low temperatures, it can be all too easy for guests to get cold, check out, and go home. So, make it a point to plan activities that will keep them involved. Perry reiterates the idea of using a bonfire as an activity, and recommends cooking food as a group “such as making s’mores or decorating cookies” to make it more of a fun event.

However, it doesn’t have to stop at the food — think outside the box when it comes to adding some fun to the day. “Decorate winter wreaths, craft a hot cocktail with a bartender, or have a garden-inspired photo area near the fire pit or hot cocoa station to keep guests involved but also warm!” says Perry.