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Outdoor winter party ideas

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By Alexandra Kerr

If you have great weather all year long, or even if you don't, try throwing an outdoor winter party this year, and celebrate the season surrounded by nature. With the right decorations, lighting and accessories, your winter party is sure to rival the best of summer BBQs.

Table Décor

Like any other garden party, you'll want to feature a main table for your winter party guests. Whether you're serving a meal or simply displaying appetizers and hot chocolate, use key décor pieces to evoke images of winter and provide a comfortable and cozy spot to gather.

--Because the weather is likely to be quite cold, aim for cozy, rustic chic rather than formal tableware. Guests will likely be in their softest fleece, not a cocktail dress, so keep the theme comfortable and welcoming.

--For a winter party, two main themes are typically used. Select either traditional or Nordic when picking colors and styles for your tableware.

--Traditional winter table spreads feature bright reds, rich greens and a variety of plaid patterns. Try a solid tablecloth with contrasting napkins and a plaid runner. Use bows, pine sprigs or strings of cranberries as napkin rings. In place of ice-chilled champagne buckets, arrange thermoses of coffee, hot chocolate and other winter beverages around your centerpiece. Place a red or green mug above each guest's plate (or in a group, if the table is not to be sat down at) for guests to fill with their hot drink of choice.

--For a Nordic inspired table display, mix red and white linens with pops of deep blue. Look for napkins or tablecloths with traditional "winter patterns" like the ones often seen woven in sweaters, and incorporate natural décor wherever possible.

--Wrap small strips of felt around bottles to mimic the look of scarves.

--Place a handful of cranberries in ice buckets for a pop of color and winter décor in chilled drink displays.

--Use clear glass or Lucite plates, cups, trays and platters to mimic the look of ice.

--For centerpieces, paint branches white and place in a clear vase. Lightly spray pinecones white for a snow-dusted look, then set in a decorative vase or bowl. Fill a decorative glass bowl with water, then place a handful of cranberries and a pine sprig inside. Set floating candles on top.

Lighting

Lighting is essential for winter parties, as it is likely to be dark outside well before the party ends. Capture the essence of twinkling stars and fluttering snowflakes with elegant lighting ideas that will add as much style as function to your outdoor winter party.

--String a line of white lights on white wire around trees with lighter bark, and white lights on green wire for trees with darker bark. Only place the lights in the branches for a subtle sparkle, or cover the entire trunk and branches for a more dramatic look. Many home décor and home improvement stores sell specialty mini lights designed smaller than traditional string lights. While they still give off functional light, they appear much softer and more delicate.

--Line your table with floating candle displays filled with cranberries and pine sprigs.

--Create an ice candleholder for the ultimate winter lighting. Fill a bucket or deep bowl with water. Add pine needles, cranberries or other holiday décor you would like to be frozen into the candleholder. Place a glass or smaller bowl inside the larger one, centered. Put a heavy object inside the glass to secure it to the bottom of the bucket, preventing it from floating. Make sure the water stops below the upper edge of the interior glass, as this will become the open center of the candleholder, where you will place your candle. Set the bucket in your freezer until the water is completely solid. Spray the edges of the bucket with hot water until the ice can be loosened from it. Remove the glass from the center, and place a candle inside.

--Spray paint tiki torches white for an arctic feel.

--If your backyard features a fire pit or outdoor fireplace, make use of it. These will not only provide great lighting for your party, but also help keep guests warm.

--Use flameless candles to line pathways around your outdoor party. While there is less of a risk of fire during chilly winter months, a candle's flame can still easily catch an unsuspecting guest's clothing on fire.

Accessories

--Cover chairs and benches with warm blankets and soft pillows to keep guests comfortable throughout the event.

--Cover chair backs with fun plaid pillowcases for warm and eclectic décor.

--If you live in an area with snow, use it in place of ice cubes for chilled drink buckets. Just make sure it is clean and free of debris.

--Place vintage sleds, toboggans, snowshoes and skis around your yard for theme appropriate décor.

This article was originally posted on IdealHomeGarden.com

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