• 1 A couple of big galvanized steel pails will do the trick for holding ice and drinks and looking cute while doing it. They're inexpensive and classier than coolers. The nice big one pictured in the second photo is only $29 from Woodland Direct.
• 2 In lieu of pricey paper plates and cups, invest in a set of durable re-usable dishes in multiples for outdoor use. Melamine is a great choice. Crate and Barrel has these cute yellow confetti plates for $4.50 apiece, along with matching cups and serving pieces.
• 3 A couple of strings of white paper lanterns goes such a long way for an evening outdoor party. They give off just enough soft light to make the night feel magical and allow guests to see their food and each other. And even if the party begins in daylight hours, they look festive. The Paper Lantern Store has them priced at $1.25 and up.
• 4 A glass drink dispenser with a spigot instantly gussies up any outdoor party. It makes it easy to serve a single signature cocktail or sangria (along with your bottled drinks in your galvanized pail, of course). They come in lots of fancy shapes, but we like this simple jar, available for $66.99 from Amazon.
• 5 Keeping a stash of lightweight, machine-washable blankets for outdoor use is always a good idea. Guests can sit on them or, at evening parties, bundle up in them. Fleece is inexpensive by the yard, so why not DIY a set of matching soft blankets for your outdoor party kit? Even if you don't sew, whipping up a few blankets is a great weekend project. Here's a post from the archives with some great no-sew fleece blanket ideas.
Which essentials do you keep around for outdoor parties? Please share!
(Images: Top photo by Stacey Bode; other images as linked above)