10 Tips for Hosting an Elegant Poolside Dinner Party

June 22, 2021
10 Tips for Hosting an Elegant Poolside Dinner Party

Story Highlights

Along with providing hours of relaxation, exercise, and fun, pools also create a great setting for dinner parties. There is something about dining poolside that truly elevates an evening. If your outdoor living space includes a pool and you have yet to host a poolside dinner party, we recommend that you make it your next hosting event.

In this article, we provide 10 tips for hosting an elegant poolside dinner party. For inspiration, we also walk you through the details of our poolside dinner party photoshoot.

Tip 1

Establish a Theme

Even if it's simple and vague, establishing a theme gives your party direction. It will make the party easier to plan and may also increase your guests' enjoyment. A theme will help you to narrow down décor, set a menu, and establish attire.

For the pictured setup, we decided on creating a classic white party. For this travertine pool deck, the white and light cream décor are a perfect pairing. Additionally, in the heat of summer, a white party is always a great choice because it forces everyone to wear cooling white attire.

Tip 2

Selecting the Table

As with any dinner party, it's essential to establish a seating arrangement. Depending on the size of your guest list, you might need to decide if you will be dining at one table or multiple tables. It's important that you don't let your outdoor furniture be a limiting factor. For your party, don't hesitate to bring your indoor furniture outside; it's a stunning look!

Also, as we did for our party setup, renting furniture is always an option. Even though it was just for a photoshoot, we thought this table rental was more than worth it!

Tip 3

Setting the Table

With so many backyard gatherings, a fancy table setting is not typically necessary. If you're doing a casual cookout, a simple "grab-a-plate" setup is all you need. For an elegant dinner party though, it's important to step up your game to "wow" your guests. When planning your table setup, it's also important to be mindful of your outdoor setting and the challenges it can pose.

Don't Skip on Flowers & Greenery

With an outdoor party, it's important to embrace and incorporate the unique setting. One of the best ways to do this is bouquets of flowers and greenery that will bring your tables to life. To truly tie everything together, when possible, it's best to use your own landscape to create the bouquets. Be sure to check out our article about common landscape plants that create beautiful bouquets. If your landscape is new or doesn't currently have anything in bloom, consult with a local florist about options.

For our party setup, we sourced loose flowers and greenery from Strawberry Fields Flowers and Finds to create various bouquets throughout the space. Additionally, to incorporate the surroundings, we used grass plumes from the nearby fields to add a touch of green to our plate settings.

Keep it Simple & Weighted Down

Very often the difference between fancy and elegant is simplicity. If you're truly aiming to create an elegant dinner party, try to keep your setup relatively simple. Keeping things simple is also essential because you never know what Mother Nature is going to do.

Also, make sure that your table settings are weighted down or have enough weight to withstand a summer breeze or burst of wind.

For our party, we chose heavy glasses and formal silverware that we knew would stay in place. Additionally, to hold our napkins down, we used cleaned river stones that also added a natural element to the table setting.

Tip 4

Add Special & Personalized Touches...

Sometimes it's the little things that make an event truly special. Take time to plan and execute one or two personalized touches for your guests.

Our boxes were empty for the photoshoot, but we were all still tempted to rip into them in hopes our stager left a surprise.

Thank You Gifts

Goody-Bags are not just for kids at birthday parties and celebrities at award shows! At your elegant party, be sure to give your guests a little something special to show how much you appreciate their attendance.

If a lot of pictures will be taken at your event, consider giving your guests a frame to use for their favorite photo. Or, if you're not planning a fancy dessert, the gift could be a small box of chocolates or bite-sized confectioneries for after dinner.

If there's a local business that you like to spread the word about, a thank you gift is an absolutely wonderful way to show your support.

We have no idea who Maria is, but I am sure she would have enjoyed this party if it had been real.

Place "Cards"

Assigned seating was awful when we were kids, but it's often wonderful as an adult. There's no stress of choosing between friends or concern for offending anyone with your choice. Though someone might still get upset, most guests will likely be grateful for assign seats. Additionally, controlling the seating arrangement can help you to avoid unwanted drama.

The best way to assign seats for a dinner party is with place cards. When done creatively, this is often an item that many guests will take as a memento of the evening. For our party setup, we cleaned river stones and carefully applied the guests' names. Along with acting as the place card, the stones added a natural element to the table and provided weight for holding down the napkins! #Winning

Tip 5

Highlight the Entrance to Guide your Guests

If you've been spending all of your time setting up for an outdoor party, there's a good chance you don't want people going inside of your house. This being an elegant dinner party, you also need to do a little better than the classic "The Party is Around Back" sign. To avoid guests coming to the front door, have a plan to highlight your entrance and guide your guests to the party.

For our party setup, we lined the walkway and entrance with a mix of lanterns and candles. The metal and wood of the lanterns added texture to the décor while the candles established an elegant ambiance from the moment of arrival.

Tip 6

Set a Light Menu

For an elegant poolside dinner party, it's important to keep the meal light. You certainly do not want starving guests, but a large or heavy meal will leave your guests uncomfortable, especially in a hot setting. Consider lighter proteins (fish, chicken, or pork), vegetable-heavy sides, and smaller portions. For guests with larger appetites, be sure to have some tapas or charcuterie to further fill up on.

For our photoshoot party, we didn't depict a full meal, but we did highlight some simple tapas of hard cheeses, olives, and figs.

Tip 7

Perfect Wine Pairings

Once you've set the dinner menu, it's time to turn your focus towards drinks. If you'll be offering wine, your pairing should both fit the meal as well as the summer setting. To keep things simple, limit your wine offerings to two (three at the absolute most). For warm-weather, summer parties, it's best to stick with white and rose' wines; it also never hurts to have a sparkling option as well.

If you need help with your wine pairings, don't be afraid to ask a professional. If, like Outdoor Dreams, you are a supporter of local Virginia wineries, use the opportunity to showcase your favorites.

For our "white" party, we chose this delicious white 2020 Pét-Nat from Early Mountain Vineyards. Pét-nat is an abbreviation for “pétillant naturel”—a French term that roughly translates to “naturally sparkling.” Crafted from white and red grapes alike, pét-nat is made by taking unfinished (in other words, still-fermenting) wine, bottling and capping it, and allowing it to complete fermentation in the bottle (that’s where the bubbles come from).

Tip 8

Add a Cocktail Station

For guests that prefer cocktails, consider setting up a station dedicated to the craft. Select cocktails/punches could be premade or guests could be allowed to make them to order.

For our party setup, we chose to limit options by...

Selecting Signature Cocktails

Because it's expensive (and likely impossible) to stock a bar with everything your guests could want, consider selecting a signature cocktail or two for your event. This will limit your investment and allow you to enhance the evening with cocktails that pair perfectly with the setting and meal. Also, trying a new cocktail is fun and could really enhance your guests' evening.

For our photoshoot party, we featured 3 delicious cocktails, including:

Hiring a Professional

When offering cocktails, consider hiring someone to man the bar. There are professional companies that specialize in private events and many local bartenders might also jump at the opportunity. A professional can help with selecting the best signature cocktails as well as ensuring the integrity of the cocktails during the party. Additionally, a professional can help to control alcohol consumption during the party.

For our party, we partnered with Beth Dixon of Salt & Acid to create our signature cocktails. Beth has been in the restaurant industry for over 19 years, working at many of Richmond's finest restaurants including Can Can, Pasture, Perch, and L'Opossum. She also currently serves as President for the Richmond, VA chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. Her company Salt & Acid provides professional bartending services for private events, special occasions, and beverage consulting.

Tip 9

Prepare for Swimmers

Even if your party plans do not include the pool, it's best to prepare for swimmers, just in case. If your guest list includes "personalities" and your party includes alcoholic beverages, there is always the possibility that someone might get wet. Additionally, "personalities" aside, guests might want to dangle their legs or stick their feet in the pool to keep cool on a warm evening.

With this in mind, it's good to always have a few towels throughout the space (and maybe a couple of extras stored out of sight). Even if they go unused, the towels will act as an element of décor that adds to the spirit of a poolside party.

Tip 10

Keep the Party going after Sunset

Even on long summer days, a good dinner party will likely outlast the sun. Additionally, in the hot summer months, it's quite common to start outdoor dinner parties later in the evening to avoid the heat. With this in mind, it's essential to have a plan for lighting the space after the sun goes down.

Enchanted meals truly depend upon the magic of lighting. Along with low voltage lighting systems, your dinner party setup should include a mix of additional lighting sources. Varying the intensity and source of illumination will add depth and drama to your party setting.

For our party setup, we lit the space with a combination of...

For our party, we illuminated the dining and main lounge area with bistro lights hung from the cabana corners.

String & Bistro Lights

String and bistro lights are a wonderful addition to any outdoor party. The glow emitted by these lights provides ample illumination and creates a wonderful ambiance. You can hang them on pergolas, trees, roofs, or even from temporary posts. If you are hosting a party that extends beyond sunset, these lights are truly a "must."

In our setup, we included candles on every table throughout the space and we lined the entryway with illuminated lanterns.

Lanterns & Candles

If you're looking to create ambiance and set the proper mood for your elegant dinner party, lanterns and candles are another absolute must. Candles add an unbeatable glow which lanterns help to enhance and expand.

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