“As soon as you choose to celebrate something outside, it automatically puts a relaxed feeling on it. Guests look forward to it, they get to be outside, and it’s always a good day.”

Now that the warm weather has arrived, everybody wants to be outside all the time, and what says summer more than an outdoor party? We chatted recently with Amanda Cowley, event planning maven from Amanda Cowley Sweet Events and she gave us some insight on what it takes to plan the perfect outdoor event.

Amanda has been involved in various facets of the event business for over 10 years now, and launched her event planning business in the summer of 2013. She has planned all kinds of events so far, including weddings, proposals and her very first event, an outdoor movie party.

Planning the perfect outdoor bash takes careful consideration of several different elements and Amanda helped guide us through the most important of them.

Venue

Whether it is your own backyard or a place you are renting out to host the ultimate event, the venue can really help set the tone for the entire party. Amanda notes, “we knew going into our outdoor movie event that we wanted it to feel very rustic, charming, casual and relaxed, but we needed enough space to accommodate the number of guests we knew were going to attend, and we wanted to take advantage of the fact that it was right in the middle of peach season…as soon as we saw the barn, the orchard and the way the light was going to land at the end of the night, we just knew that was going to be the perfect spot. So location, I would say, is number one. Once you find your location, you’ll be surprised at how all the other details just start to fall into place.”

Weather

Rain has a way of throwing a wrench into outdoor events, so the main thing is to have a backup plan. Amanda relates, “whether it means you rent a popup tent and have it ready to be assembled really quickly if you need it, or you choose a location that has both indoor and outdoor options, because you would hate for the weather to sneak up on you and ruin everything you’ve planned.”

Décor

Decorations don’t have to cost a ton of money, as a lot of great décor can be handmade. Check out Pinterest for some decoration inspiration, you’ll find an endless amount of things to try. Amanda says, “I love when you can bring in handmade details. It’s an expensive option, and they can be made ahead of time with friends and family, and then you can really tailor them to suit the theme or design of the whole event. Handcrafting details really adds a personal touch to whatever you are doing.” She notes that lighting is also an extremely important part of every outdoor event. “Any kind of lights you can bring in to create some sort of canopy is good, lighting can add so much to an event, especially at nighttime. You want to have some mood lighting, and you want to have some ambiance. It’s kind of a nice, inexpensive touch too.” Make sure to light walkways, as well as areas that may be hilly or bumpy, so you don’t have guests tripping or falling.

Food and Drink

When it comes to food and drink, simple is usually best, you don’t want to be slaving away in the kitchen instead of mingling with your guests, so keep as much outside as you can. Make things beforehand, and like Amanda suggests, do food on the BBQ. At least you’ll be outside. Incorporating your guests in the process, can also make for fun times. Amanda notes that, “things like lighting a fire and doing smores late night, can really make food a part of your event. Like at the movie event, we had a popcorn machine and had guests making popcorn. Nobody stood there and was on popcorn patrol, it was all part of the fun.” She also says that if you are able to set up a self serve bar and let people mix their own drinks, which saves you even more time.

Games

What’s an outdoor party without a little game action? It gives everyone the chance to get up and mingle and get a little competitive. Amanda shares that she loves simple games that are easy to make or cheap to buy, such as bocce ball, ladder ball or corn hole, because, “activities like that aren’t going to require people to sit down and think and stress, they are fun, easy games that everyone can take turns playing.”

Images for this article were taken by Nataschia Wielink (nataschiawielink.com), at an event planned by Amanda Cowley of Amanda Cowley Sweet Events (amandacowley.com). The venue for the event was Cherry Avenue Farms (cherryavenuefarms.org)