Home & Leisure

10 ways to have a chic, safe, outdoor dinner party on the cheap

By David Syrek, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Whether you have a city balcony, deck or backyard, dining outdoors is one of the best ways to enjoy summer. Dinner with your immediate household members is one thing, but if you're planning on having a get-together with a few friends in your trusted social bubble, a little extra planning - and creativity - is in order.

Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines and keep it small, with tables and chairs at least 6 feet apart. Require everyone to wear a mask and have hand sanitizer at the ready. Serving all of the food yourself is also a good idea so that multiple people aren't handling the serving utensils, or go with single-use, biodegradable tableware that doesn't have to be taken back inside your home.

"I think that casual is key; keep it simple," Chicago entertaining expert and author Marc Sievers said about hosting guests in our new normal.

"I love packaging each course in individual takeout containers of different sizes. Then you give each of your guests a gift bag or reusable tote. It's like their own picnic in a bag; they get napkins, single-use utensils and maybe a split size bottle of wine or bubbles," he said. "I think that people feel much more secure eating from their own container versus a large bowl of pasta salad that's being handled by multiple people."

If your guests are spending two or three hours, they will most likely need to use the bathroom, so do a little advance work and set the rules to make everyone more comfortable. "We have a powder room that's available to guests," said Sievers. "There's a little table there that's set up with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, and I ask guests to please wipe down the handles of the sink, toilet and the door."

Luckily, some of the best summer tableware, lighting and outdoor furniture is on sale, making it even easier to create the perfect outdoor space to escape to, whether with your immediate household members or a socially distanced group. Here are a few cheap and chic ways to celebrate the season.


Get creative

Serve dinner courses in chic, leakproof eco-friendly takeout boxes for a creative dinner party solution. $10.12 for a pack of 10,

Go for biodegradable beauty

Marimekko's summery poppy print paper napkins are 100% biodegradable and made with nontoxic, water-based ink. $6 for a pack of 20,


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