Simple summer outdoor dinner

by Donna Benton

When the evenings warm up and flowers start to bloom, we all start to think about entertaining outside. Whether it’s a romantic backyard dinner date, a family meal or a dinner party with your friends, take it to the great outdoors. In the garden, at the farm or under that big oak tree in the yard, you can throw a fabulous outdoor get-together with the things you already have around the house.

When it comes to dining alfresco, don’t be confined to picnic tables and plastic tablecloths. Throw convention to the wind and use that dining room table. Dress it up with a white tablecloth and your good china. Think of it as a picnic with a bowtie.

Complement your formal elements with something natural and organic like potted herbs, a galvanized bucket of wildflowers or a twig of greenery at each place setting. Use a concrete pot or a wooden crate for your centerpiece to create a comfortable garden theme with a touch of sophistication.

Don’t forget the lighting.

Set the mood with candles or a string of market lights draped in a tree. Wire a flea market chandelier with a plug and an extension cord and hang it from a limb over your table to create a dining room with no walls.

Prepare your meal tableside on the grill or serve fresh farm-to-table fare straight from the garden or the local farmers’ market. A great way to involve your guests is to have everyone bring their own special plate. It’s fun to share the stories of heirloom dishes and memorable meals, and it makes for a beautiful, eclectic and personalized table setting.

You don’t have to be an entertainment maven to throw a simple summer outdoor dinner party. Just the right combination of fresh, fun and fancy, and your friends will be begging you to make your outdoor party a regular event.


Donna Benton is a maker of customr home furnishings and specializes in classic painted finishes for antique and vintage furniture. You can see her work at