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How to
Host Thanksgiving Outdoors

How to Host Thanksgiving Outdoors

In many regions, Thanksgiving calls for a cozy, indoor affair. But for those with mild fall weather, it is possible to host this harvest celebration al fresco. (We're looking at you, California and Florida.) To guests, a party just seems freer, happier and more memorable outdoors. And with some imagination, and the right amount of planning, it can seem that way to the hosts as well. So fire up the grill to roast veggies, sweets potatoes and even the turkey. Here are some tricks of the trade on how to host Thanksgiving outdoors.

Consider the location. Planning an outdoor party for a large group begins with choosing a sheltered site big and pretty enough to become a centerpiece in its own right. Select the location based on the best your locale offers naturally - a well-kept lawn, a handsome stone terrace, a courtyard paved with bricks or raked gravel.

Set the table. Position your table between a pair of trees, under a pergola heavy with vines or near a rooftop garden framed by climbing ivy and a cityscape backdrop. And keep your tablescape simple: With the outdoor location as the main attraction, you can keep your centerpieces understated. Display small floral arrangements in autumnal colors, or choose potted mini succulents that guests can take home at meal's end.

Think outside of the box. Choose dinnerware that make for easy cleanup work. Give the garden wagon a clean sweep and pack it full of dinnerware, silverware and wineglasses to cut down on return trips to the kitchen. Consider creating a special occasion set of from mismatched flea market finds. If you're hosting children, make some mason jars into drinking glasses and fill baskets with melamine plates and bowls.

Don't forget lighting. Enchanted meals depend upon the magic of lighting - the intimate glow of votive candles interspersed with flowers on a festive table, fairy lights twinkling in the tree branches, a line of hurricane lamps casting gentle light from the perimeter. White globe lights also lend a sparkle. Varying the intensity and source of illumination add depth and drama to your party site, reinforcing a feeling of enclosure around a core of festivity.

Keep the seating-chart flexible. Big parties may call for multiple seating arrangements so guests can comfortably sit down and enjoy dinner. All-weather wicker furniture provides the versatility you need ­– choose from several seating options and table sizes to create a setup that's the right size for your space and guest list. Make your guests more comfortable with outdoor cushions and throw blankets, just in case a cool breeze passes through.