Welcome to Your Garden Party
By Chelsea Harrison
In 2020, outdoor spaces were having a moment … mainly because we were tired of being indoors. We built fire pits, hung decorative lighting, and bought heaters and outdoor movie projectors to enjoy with our families or pandemic pods. Fast forward to 2022 and things are looking up and it’s time to think about your summer party plans.
If you are looking for an opportunity to share those chic outdoor spaces with your friends and family consider hosting an outdoor party for your next celebration. The pandemic changed us in many ways, including how we gather. Party trends we are seeing this year are a mix of lingering pandemic habits, while other trends show that we are ready to party hearty this summer (think creative themes, flashy décor, and mobile bars). Whether you’re going for a simple, special, or spectacular vibe, these tips will help you pull off a stress-free, on-trend backyard party this summer.
Get This Party Started
Hosting outdoor parties can certainly be more casual and less fuss than hosting indoors, but it does take some planning. Once you decide on the size and style of your party, consider some of these trends in your party prep to take your outdoor space to the next level.
Trend: Fresh themes
Choosing a unique theme can be a memorable part of your guest’s experience, as well as your party prep efforts. What are you and your family’s interests? Is there a type of cuisine you’ve always wanted to try but just haven’t gotten to yet? Customize your party planning to your interests so that hosting is a fun experience, not a chore. Here are some slightly off-beat ideas to get you started: taco bar, Oktoberfest, clam bake, classic movie night, glow-in-the-dark party, bohemian nights, outdoor library, or wonderland garden party.
Trend: Fun, Photogenic Décor
The outdoor party décor trend we love right now is whimsical, eye-catching decorations such as celebratory yard signs, balloon arches, and photo backdrops.
What better way to show your guests where the party is than to literally spell it out in the front yard? Companies like Party Up My Yard found their stride during the pandemic when friends and family wanted to surprise their loved ones with huge, personalized yard signs celebrating their birthday or achievement.
Jill Tocco, owner of Party Up My Yard, says, “In the beginning of the pandemic, yard cards were in lieu of a party and people felt bad that they couldn’t celebrate. But now they’re definitely incorporating our signs into their parties. I find that customers want the signs in the front yard to set the stage and theme for the party.” These fanciful “yard cards” also come with an eco-friendly bonus; Tocco stores and reuses all parts of the sign, and then recycles the plastic when the signs are no longer usable.
If you’re going for spectacular decor, consider whimsical additions like balloon arches and photo backdrops. Tangled, an Annapolis-based business, offers “balloons & backdrops for brazen bashes” (check out their Instagram for endless balloon eye candy @tangledballoons_lola). Pair your balloon installation with a custom message in 3-foot lighted marquee letters from Alpha-Lit Annapolis, and you’ll have a stunning visual centerpiece that only gets better after the sun sets.
If you’re going for a simpler or DIY vibe (or budget), Pinterest offers lots of inspiration for creating photo backdrops, and you can always check out craft or party supply stores for options that need a little bit of assembly. Also visit consignment or charity shops for secondhand décor that just may fit perfectly with your theme.
Trend: Design Your Yard for Entertaining
Stephanie Stowell, hard goods manager at Homestead Gardens in Severna Park, has noticed that people are not only designing their patios to accommodate guests, but their gardens, as well. “We notice the trend of backyard parties in the way people garden. A lot more people are planting mosquito repelling plants, people are interested in fruiting trees and shrubs and herbs,” Stowell notes, adding that being able to serve the homegrown fruit at the party or let guests pick their own berries adds a fun element.
Some patio picks that have been trending at Homestead are fire tables, deep-seated patio furniture (couches, loungers, cushioned chairs as opposed to traditional outdoor dining seating), and freestanding umbrellas, which allow more room to gather underneath without the center pole.
Overall, Stowell has noticed a renewed sense of satisfaction in hosting outdoor parties: “I think there’s a lot of pride people have now, everyone has been upgrading their space in the last few years. There’s a lot of individuality that people didn’t have time to do before. And now people are saying, ‘Come over and share it with me because it makes me happy, and I want to share it with you.’”
Britt Collins, COO of Bay Ridge Lawn & Landscape, says that customers are looking for larger areas to gather and are adding on to the hardscaping of their properties for entertaining purposes. “We have noticed that the desire for outdoor entertaining space has become more popular. We have also seen the size of patios increase, which is a new trend. We believe this is in response to people spending more time at home, and outdoors in their yards, so they are looking to create a haven to relax and recharge.”
He also notes that incorporating natural stones into the landscape as stairs and boulder walls is becoming more popular, which lends an “impressive natural beauty” to back yard spaces year-round.
So if you’re planning to go all out with some spectacular soirees this summer, be sure to contact your landscape design company now to discuss some of these entertaining upgrades, as companies will only get busier as the days get warmer.
Trend: Variety of Seating
Sure, you can break out the trusty folding chairs and card tables for your guests, but for a special touch to your outdoor jam, get creative with the trend of alternate seating. Don’t think, how many chairs do I need, think, what else can I drag out here for people to sit on?
Maybe you pull out your beanbag collection and set them up on an outdoor mat over by the vegetable garden. Maybe those colorful beach blankets could make a great board game space for the kids. What if those giant pool inflatables can double as a funky seating area over by the bar cart? Offer some traditional seating areas for those who may have mobility issues, but otherwise, offering unique seating options and a variety of nooks can give guests multiple spaces to connect and relax.
Trend: Firepits: Still Hot
Firepits are for style and marshmallows, not just when you need to keep warm. There is something both primal and comforting about gathering around a fire, and especially if your party wanes into the evening hours, a firepit stokes an intimate ambiance like nothing else.
We admit–the firepit trend has been around for a while now, but it is not going anywhere, especially with the more recent release of smokeless versions such as the Solo Stove. Collins, of Bay Ridge Lawn & Landscape, says, “We have noticed an increase in requests for ‘smokeless’ firepits (Breeo, Solo stove), which improve the experience and enjoyment of sitting around the fire outdoors.”
For a simpler party plan, freestanding fire pits can be purchased at your local hardware store. Ace Hardware has models available ranging from $179-269. These popular items tend to sell out early in the season, so shop now if you’re keen.
Trend: Mobile Bars
Stocking your own bar for a party is not only pricey, it’s also a hassle trying to figure out what all your guests prefer. For a spectacular, stress-free option, that will keep everyone happy, hire a mobile bar!
Vintage Views is a Maryland mobile bar company, with six different rental options including two camper bars, a vintage horse trailer bar, and several portable pop-up bars. Bar packages range include your very own bartender, mixers, disposable glassware, ice and grazing boards with artisan cheeses, cured meats, nuts, crackers and fresh fruit.
As Brooke Mihoces, owner of Vintage Views, says, “It’s like having your favorite cocktail bar right in your backyard. When we do parties, guests tend to try every drink once and we love that. That’s what we are there for, it should be an experience!”With happy hour handled, you can relax and mingle with your guests instead of mixing drinks and refilling coolers.
Trend: No- or Low-Alcohol Drinks
According to CNBC, “sales of non-alcoholic beverages rose 33.2 percent in the past year, with $331 million in total sales. Non-alcoholic beer and cider sales grew by 31 percent, but more notably sales of non-alcoholic spirits grew 113.4 percent.” Perhaps this trend is inspired by the fitness regimens some people picked up during the pandemic, but no- and low-alcohol drinks are a health-conscious trend we can get behind.
Providing a special low- or non-alcoholic beverage (Kool-Aid does not count as a mocktail!) is a considerate thing to do for guests who may not want or be able to imbibe.
There are tons of recipes online but if you’d rather create your own, for a simple mix, I like to combine fruit juice with carbonation (soda water, ginger beer, citrus soda, etc.), about 75/25 either way, depending how sweet you want it. Then get creative with some mocktail flair- whatever you have on hand (or in the garden)- mint leaves, pomegranate arils, slices of citrus, bitters, cinnamon sticks–the possibilities are endless!
Mihoces, who often receives requests for a mocktail option to be provided at the mobile bars, provided this recipe for their Blood Orange Fizz:
Blood Orange Fizz:
- 1 cup blood orange juice (if you can’t squeeze fresh, Whole Foods has a great blood orange juice)
- 1 cup fresh lime juice (about 16 limes)
- 2 bottles ginger beer
- garnish with rosemary sprigs
- (Make it a cocktail by adding vodka or tequila)
Planning to host a kid’s party outdoors this year? The name of the game is to keep them moving and keep them fed. If at any time during your party, you hear one parent mutter to another, “I guess they’ll sleep good tonight,” then you know: mission accomplished.
Trend: Keep ‘em Active
While there are many activity-based venues to hold kid’s parties in the area (trampoline park, kid’s gyms, arcades, etc.) there’s something special about kids being able to welcome friends into their own home environment.
Megan Davis, a mom of three boys, recently hosted a backyard party for her son’s eighth birthday party. She has hosted parties at venues before but decided this year to have a backyard party because “in the time of covid, it makes me more comfortable to be able to control the environment, keep it clean, and keep it outside.”
Davis hired Coach Sarah from Braveheart Run Club to keep the kids active and happy during the party. The party guests kicked, crawled, and ran their way through a ninja training course.
“Coach” Sarah Clark, owner of Braveheart Run Club, says that offering kid’s parties was a natural extension of her kid’s fitness club business. Clark says, “I’ve done lots of different themes, including ninjas, tie-dye, boot camp, birthday Olympics, glow in the dark run parties … I love helping to make the birthday child feel incredibly special. The other side of that coin is providing parents with the ‘gift’ of taking over for an hour while the adults relax, take photos, mingle, or just sit down for a bit.”
EcoAdventures offers kids party packages at their Millersville location, but they will also bring the safari to you! If your guest of honor is an animal lover, EcoAdventures’ Backyard Safari is a great choice for a party the kiddos will never forget. Presentations include interactive animal encounters with “creepy crawlies, gators, snakes, small mammals, turtles, lizards and more—learn about the jaws and claws and cute and cuddlies of the animal world.” EcoAdventures will even provide (for a small additional fee) edible bug snacks, bug lollipops, or goody bags for your guests, which is one less thing you have to worry about.
Rental options like bounce houses and inflatable waterslides are another great way to keep kids active outdoors and are often less expensive than package prices at party venues, with the added bonus that you are not limited in the number of kids that can participate.
Trend: Single Serve Food
Let’s face it: kids are gross (I have four, so I can say that.) In pre-COVID times, whenever we would go to a kid’s party venue, we knew somebody would end up sick within the week. Germs used to fly like confetti at kid’s parties, and we just accepted it.
Now that we are extra conscious of germ-spreading behaviors, single-serve foods is another trend to make your outdoor party even safer. For her ninja kid’s party, Davis pre-loaded her table settings with bottles of Gatorade and snack-sized bags of chips, so the kids could re-fuel as needed without dipping into a dreaded communal snack bowl.
The single-serve grazing trend (aka, “jarcuterie”) can certainly be adapted for kids or teens. Depending on your party theme, you could offer fruit salad, s’mores ingredients, trail mix, or colorful candy in adorable tiny mason jars as a more sustainable approach to individually packaged snacks.
Cupcakes are also a great way to serve a sweet treat and have the birthday boy or girl blow out the candles on their own individual serving. Or if a large, decorated cake is a must, some parents have one cupcake available, specifically for the candle-blowing moment.
It’s Party Time!
From all the party industry pros, parents, and partiers I talked to, one theme emerged over and over: People are just happy to be getting together again. So whether you follow all the tips and trends listed here, or none of them, the point is this: people will love your hosting efforts no matter what, because what we care about most is reconnecting.
Our prediction: Backyard parties in 2022 will be back in full force this year, and perhaps better than ever. Hosting outside gives any party that wholesome sense of fresh air, sunshine, and a little bit of wild abandon.