There’s nothing more magical than a summertime dinner party,
with the soft summer breezes, the stars up above, and the splash
of a garden fountain nearby.
But you don’t want your guests tripping over the barbecue as
they enjoy all the beauty around them, a risk that becomes
increasingly possible after a few icy margaritas.
Last month, we took a look at some of the “little things”
that make outdoor dining so special: plates and eating utensils.
Now that you’ve got your table set, let’s consider your
options for illuminating your outdoor table.
There are three categories of outdoor lighting: table lighting,
hanging lights, and ground or stake lights.
For the best effect in table lights, we recommend something with a
wick instead of a bulb, even though you can find battery-operated
table lamps. A candle or lantern will produce a light that’s
soft and gentle, perfect for setting a more romantic mood for
Of course, you have to consider the special conditions of having a
candle outdoors: it will need protection from the wind. Luckily,
the options for this are quite decorative. A glass candleholder
will add a more formal touch, whereas a tin holder from Mexico
will look more casually festive. You can use simple white votive
If you’ve got a problem with mosquitoes, you can also place a
few citronella candles around the yard or patio. Just make sure
these are placed in a ring around the dining area, rather than
directly in the dining area itself, as they can have quite a
For hanging lights, the options are limited only by your
imagination. You can find decorative lights in every shape and
style, from hot chili peppers to classic tiny white lights. There
are also a variety of lanterns, including multi-colored Chinese
lanterns, which create a festive, vintage mood.
You can create a magical pathway across the lawn from the parking
area to the party area by planting tiki torches. First, consider
how high you want them to be; you should be able to find a variety
Make the path curve a bit, but keep it simple, and be sure to use
enough lights so the guests will be able to find their way back
long after the sun sets. For a different look, plant candles in
wind-resistant holders along the path, to provide lighting close
to the ground. These will work best edging an existing pathway.
If you are lucky enough to have
water on your property, whether it’s a pond, a birdbath,
or a swimming pool, you can launch a handful of floating
candles onto the water; the flickering flames will be
doubled when they are reflected in the water’s surface.
Make sure you complete your preparations with an investment in a
few elegant boxes of long matches. Once you start investigating
the use of outdoor lights, you’ll see that this is one “little
thing” that really does mean a lot!