When the sun shines, a new kind of hosting begins – one that’s more laidback and carefree, the perfect approach on those hot, hazy days when minimal movement is required. For those who love to host, this presents a particular challenge – how to entertain family and friends al fresco, while maintaining the languorous attitude that a truly hot summer’s day brings. The answer is quite simply to embrace it, with a garden set-up designed to make get-togethers as easy-going as possible. Follow our lead with this guide to our simple outdoor entertaining ideas.  

A paved garden patio with outdoor lounge furniture.

1. Create an Al Fresco Dining Area

Enjoying a casual lunch or dinner outdoors is one of the summer season’s greatest joys, and so, when it comes to outdoor entertaining ideas, an al fresco dining area is naturally at the top of our list. For this more practical of areas, placement is everything – try to keep your dining set up as close to your kitchen as possible to limit your time spent going back-and-forth between the two. On really hot days, respite from the sun’s rays will be required, so try to seek a shady spot if you can, or pop up a parasol if you’re short on leafy canopies.

If your garden is spacious, select a large rectangular dining table and surround it with plenty of comfortable chairs. For those looking for small outdoor entertaining ideas, a charming bistro set will do just as well – pair your chosen pieces with outdoor cushions and a vase of blooms for a simple-yet-inviting set up.

2. Spring for Comfortable Seating

Seats with supportive cushions will be particularly welcome during those long lunches that inevitably lead into dinner, so make comfort your priority when furnishing your outdoor space. If you’re opting for a lounge area over dining, look for garden sofas and armchairs that are as welcoming as their interior alternatives. In this instance, consider setting up the space as you would a sitting room indoors. Group your sofas and armchairs together – either in an L-shape or a circle – to create a sociable set up, and ensure there’s plenty of room for everyone to sit (stools and floor cushions can act as spare seats if your guests outnumber the chairs). Add surfaces for people to place their drinks, such as side tables and coffee tables, and decorate with showerproof soft furnishings for a final flourish.

A al fresco dining set up with white plates and patterned glassware
A large rectangular indoor/outdoor dining table set up outside with patterned tableware and comfortable dining chairs.

3. Make the Occasion Feel Special

Even the most casual of get-togethers can be elevated with the right accessories. If you’re entertaining family and friends and want to add a special touch to the occasion, look to tableware and decorations for elegant additions. If you’re hosting lunch or dinner, set the table with your best crockery and glassware, and add a centrepiece of faux blooms and candles for an elevated finishing touch (for tips on how to tablescape, discover our guide here). For those hosting drinks in a lounge area, look to outdoor entertaining serveware – an ice bucket for bottles, a tray for drinks and a jug for easy refills will be welcome additions, for both hosts and guests.

4. Set Up an Outdoor Bar

If you’re planning a large outdoor party, why not consider setting up a DIY bar? This will not only save you trips to the kitchen, but will allow guests to help themselves whenever they please. Your bar doesn’t need to be especially fancy to be effective ­– a simple table with the right tools will do the trick. Begin by selecting the drinks you wish to serve, and choose your glassware accordingly (our guide to selecting wine glasses is on hand for any assistance). Add an ice bucket (or two), cocktail shakers (if required), plus bottle openers and napkins for inevitable spillages. If you’re serving cocktails, you could even print out recipe cards for your guests to follow. Don’t forget to slice up fruit and herbs for garnishing.

A red tray, patterned glassware, white ice bucket and a bottle of champagne are photographed at a poolside edge during sunset.
A selection of candle holders arranged alongside a poolside edge at sunset.

5. Add Ambience with Low Lighting

As the sun begins to set on a day spent soaking up its rays, you don’t have to retreat indoors – instead, turn to lighting for assistance. With interiors, the right lamps can dramatically alter the ambience of a space – and indeed, an occasion – and al fresco areas are no different. Set wireless LED lamps on side tables, coffee tables and dining tables for an inviting glow that guests can rearrange as required, and filter in a few candles for added drama (the ultimate ambience-enhancers for any event). Hurricane lamps with large pillar candles (either real or LED) are also great for bringing light to both tabletops or patios.

To help you set up the ultimate outdoor entertaining space, we’ve curated an edit of our favourite garden furniture, hosting essentials and showerproof accessories. Click the button below to get started.