How to Host a Southern Porch Party

Traditional southern homes are built with large front porches so we can take advantage of year around outdoor living. My porches (front and back) are strewn with comfortable seating and hand-me-down furniture pieces which all blend together for comfort and entertainment. Impromptu and planned porch parties are a southern favorite and you can use some of my porch party tips no matter what region you live in and have an enjoyable afternoon with neighbors and friends.

Y’all Come Over

A porch party is very informal and should not have a specific arrival time. Invite guests to come over between certain hours, like between 4 and 8pm, for an ‘open house’ style porch party. This keeps the guest mix and conversation flowing smoothly.

Invitations should also be informal; make a few phone calls, hand out some fliers in the neighborhood and use email to get neighbors to come over.

Family Favorite Foods

A porch party is different than a backyard BBQ in the sense that it is relaxed and laid back, so the host should not be cooking during party hours. Serve foods that can be prepared ahead of time and served over a period of several hours. Sandwiches and salads (potato, macaroni) that can be kept refrigerated make good summer time porch party fare and hot dishes, like homemade chili, make good fall party fare. You can also make it a pot luck affair so all guests can chip in on the work and expense.

Base the drink choices on the season. Sweet ice tea is a must-have at one of my parties regardless of the season. Coffee is another must-have beverage. Lemonade and ice cold sodas are needed for summer time and warm apple cider and hot chocolate are great for late summer or early fall porch parties.

Set the Tables

Food and drinks are served buffet style and guests fill up their plates and have a seat anywhere on the porch, sans eating table. Set up two tables on the porch, one for food and one for drinks and have several occasional tables placed across the porch so guests will have a place to set their drinks. In the south, porch tables and seating are often created from recycled items, so don’t be afraid to use your ingenuity to create outdoor occasional tables.

If the porch is small and lots of guests are expected, use the porch as a serving station only. Set up all seating and small tables in the yard.

Porch Party Décor

Less is more for a porch party and the Chicago Tribune suggests to leave off the bright overhead lights and opt for ambiance lighting. Hang a few strings of lights or lanterns overhead or on the porch railings. Make DIY country luminaries by placing votive candles in Mason jars and place them on the walkway, steps, serving tables and anywhere else on the porch a little light may be needed. Line up empty Mason jars on the beverage table and place all eating utensils in woven baskets on the food table so guests can serve themselves.


My Own Experience

Porch Party

Chicago Tribune

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