7 tips for hosting holiday gatherings outdoors during the winter

Friends having a drink outdoors
Friends having a drink outdoors (Image credit: Shutterstock)

With the cooler temperatures and darker evenings, it might seem impossible to host the best holiday parties in your backyard. But just because the weather is chilly, doesn’t mean the festive fun has to stop!  

Luckily, you can still enjoy outdoor parties in style with these simple tips for holiday hosting during winter. The most important tip is to keep your guests as comfortable as possible with various things such as warm fire pits, patio heaters and cozy lighting. You might also want to throw in some plush throws and blankets to keep them toasty.

So if you want to be the host with the most this winter, here’s how to set up a holiday outdoor party and impress your guests. 

1. Check the weather 

Snow on outdoor furniture

Snow on outdoor furniture (Image credit: Shutterstock)

This might seem obvious, but it’s one of the things we forget to do when planning an outdoor party. “If you’re looking to host guests outdoors for Christmas, you should prepare by checking the weather forecast and planning accordingly,” says Camilla Lesser, interior expert at Essential Living.

“Weather can be unpredictable, so have umbrellas ready for sudden rain and consider setting up tents or canopies to provide shelter in case of unexpected weather changes. Being prepared ensures your guests stay comfortable and dry, regardless of the outdoor conditions.” So before you set a date and send out the invites, it’s best to check the weather forecast first with one of the best weather apps.

2. Create a sheltered space 

White gazebo

White gazebo (Image credit: Amazon)

Depending on the size of your backyard or outdoor space, you could set up a sheltered space to keep your guests dry. Gazebos and outdoor tents are a great way  to provide shelter from the elements, and can block out sudden gusts of wind. In addition, they can also be visually appealing, and be a stylish feature in your backyard. 

If you don’t have enough space to erect a permanent structure, you can invest in pop-up tents or gazebos that are easy to set up and can be stored away after use. Patio gazebos like this Crown Shades 13 X 13-foot Outdoor Pop Up Gazebo ($159, Amazon), are ideal for those chilly evenings. 

3. Keep your guests warm

Firepit in backyard

Firepit in backyard (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you want to keep your guests toasty and comfortable, the best patio heaters or one of the best fire pits can give you that instant warmth. “December is a particularly chilly time of year so consider setting up some outdoor heaters or a fire pit for your guests to huddle around to keep warm.” says Lesser, “Arrange some cosy seating around the heaters or fire pit with cushions and blankets to keep guests comfortable.”

Bear in mind, when setting up fire pits, ensure it’s sturdy on a flat surface and always read the safety instructions that come with it before use. 

4. Arrange a cozy seating area 

Backyard decor

Backyard decor  (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Another way to add warmth and style to your backyard or patio is to create a cozy seating area. By adding plenty of soft cushions, warm blankets and faux fur throws to seats or a bench, these can make your guests feel more comfortable. 

“You can make this extra special by adding festive touches like Christmas-themed pillows or throws,” suggests Lesser. “Add to the festive atmosphere by adding Christmas decorations to the space such as fairy lights, candles, garlands and perhaps even an outdoor Christmas tree, creating a magical outdoor setting for your Christmas celebrations.” 

In addition, you can invest in one of the best outdoor rugs to create extra warmth, add a pop of color and give your backyard an instant upgrade. What’s more, plush rugs can keep your guests' feet on a soft surface instead of cold concrete, stone, or earth. 

5. Decorate with warm lighting 

Solar String Lights

Solar String Lights (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Similarly, decorating with warm lighting can instantly create a cozy ambiance. And once the sun goes down, you can keep the party going with the best solar lights. Whether they’re solar lamps or string lights, these are ideal for creating a warm, gentle glow for your backyard winter parties. 

Solar lights like these Brightech Ambience Pro Outdoor String Lights ($34, Amazon), will make your patio space look like an outdoor bistro or Italian cafe. Designed to look like retro Edison-style lights, these string lights are ideal for creating a warm, gentle glow on your deck in the evening. What’s more, solar-powered lights won't impact your electric bill, as they spend the entire day storing up energy from the sun. 

“As the evenings darken, illuminating your outdoor space becomes crucial when hosting guests.” Lesser states. “Beyond adding to the ambience and enabling everyone to see each other, having the correct lighting serves as a safety measure. Well-lit pathways help prevent accidents, ensuring everyone navigates your outdoor space comfortably and securely.” 

6. Set up a backyard cinema/entertainment area

How to make a backyard movie theater

How to make a backyard movie theater (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you enjoy watching those festive, Hallmark Christmas movies, why not learn how to make a backyard movie theater this holiday? Setting up is pretty easy — all you’ll need is a portable projector, a USB/microSD card, tripod, a large white bedsheet (if you don’t have a projector screen), and one of the best Bluetooth speakers

In addition, mini projectors like this Meer Mini Projector ($49, Amazon), are ideal for smaller spaces. Not much bigger than your smartphone, it’s power sourced, and can connect directly to your smartphone, tablets or laptops to play your favorite Christmas films.  Alternatively, you can just play your Spotify playlists, and invest in one of the best cheap bluetooth speakers to create those party vibes. 

7. Set up a snacks stand 


friends eating snacks (Image credit: Shutterstock)

To add to your festive outdoor movie nights, you can rustle up tasty snacks such as homemade popcorn for your guests to enjoy. This Hamilton Beach Electric Hot Air Popcorn Popper ($59, Amazon), makes up to 18 cups of tasty popcorn in just minutes. What’s more, you can customize your flavor by adding melted butter and salt to cinnamon sugar and more. 

“With the chilly weather, you could ensure your guests stay warm by setting up a hot drinks station,” suggests Lesser. “Offer options such as mulled wine and hot chocolate, allowing your guests to personalise their drinks with various toppings whilst enjoying the cosy warmth they provide. It's a fun way for everyone to create their perfect drink and keep snug in the festive spirit." You’ll definitely leave a good impression on your guests!

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Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!