John Maher:  Hi. I’m John Maher. Today I’m here at Woodman’s with Curt Fougere, a fourth‑generation Woodman, and Kristi Swett, a fifth‑generation Woodman. Today, we’re talking about backyard parties. Kristi and Curt, welcome.

meat skewers on barbecue

Kristi Swett:  Hi, John.

Curt Fougere:  Welcome.

Space for a Backyard Party

John:  How much space do I need in my backyard for the amount of people I plan on having at my party?

Curt:  The biggest rule of thumb is you’re going to need a table and chairs if people are going to be sitting. You’re going to need, usually, a 60‑inch, round table or an eight‑foot long table. It’s roughly about eight square feet per table if you’re going to fit anywhere from 8 to 10 guests at that table.

It’s going to be the number of tables that you might be able to fit in that eight foot square space for each table. Most backyards that we run into in our catering events generally fit up to 50 to 60 people. Then, there are obviously big places that can hold a couple hundred people.

If you choose to use a tent, then that may limit your space a little bit for what you want on the size of the tent and the size of the backyard that the tent would, obviously, need to fit into.

Backyard Party Menus

John:  What are some of the things that I should consider including in my menu?

Kristi:  You want to look at the menu as a whole and make sure you are including all different types of food groups. You definitely would have some appetizers or something as guests arrive.

It could be things that people always offer to bring, so they could always bring an app or dessert and have you focus on the main food. You would want to do proteins, vegetables, sides, and things like that.

Party Music

John:  Should I have music playing in my yard or no? If I do, should I ask the neighbors if it’s okay?

Curt:  I think having music in the background is a great thing. It gets the people a little bit more relaxed and in conversation. You should always check with your neighbors.

Depending on the size of the party you’re going to be having, people are going to need to park on the street. People may need to go through somebody’s property to get to something.

It’s always good to check in with your neighbors, let them know what you’re planning, just to make sure that there’s no hard feelings or anything comes up — you don’t need a dispute.

John:  Right, especially if maybe your neighbor is planning on having a party the same day. You have no idea. Your music could be competing with their music or something like that.

Curt:  Exactly. You can run into all sorts of situations where somebody could be home sick that needs quietness next door to you. It’s good to always touch base with your neighbors, let them know what you’re planning. It usually works out, even if you invite the neighbors over. That always helps, also.

Setup and Cleanup

John:  How should my backyard be set up? What should I have to help make clean‑up easier after the party?

Kristi:  You want to think about what type of party it is first. Are you going to throw a kid’s birthday party where they need a lot of space to run around or is it something more?

Some type of graduation party, where you’re going to have people coming and going throughout the afternoon or throughout the evening?

Clean‑up — if you hire someone to help come work the party, oftentimes they have trash removal. If not, it’s definitely worth investing into larger barrels than what you’d, say, have in your house, and scatter those out through the yard.

Keeping Everyone Entertained

John:  How can I keep everyone at the party entertained?

Curt:  A good way of entertaining the people is by having any types of games. If you have a backyard pool, then it might be pool themed. If you have a big lawn with a lot of open space, then you could be doing volleyball, softball games.

A band with dancing is always a great way to keep people entertained. If you keep the food coming, that usually entertains a lot of people, also.

John:  You mentioned dancing. Do people bring in a dance floor for people to dance on or do people usually do it right there on the grass in the backyard?

Curt:  You can do it either way. It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re doing a wedding event, obviously you want dancing, and you’re going to have a tent at that event or, possibly, a band. A lot of the tent rental companies will provide dance floors for that type of an event.

Best Time for a Party

John:  What time should I plan on having the party?

Kristi:  There are different things to think about before you set a time. What type of food are you going to be serving? Is it an all‑day affair? Does your town have any type of noise ordinance that you need to follow?

If you are going into the evening, are your backyard and entry ways to that point well lit so people will be able to see, and come and go safely?

Party Invitations

John:  Should I send formal invitations to my party? I know for a backyard party it sounds informal. Should I send out invitations?

Kristi:  I would always recommend sending some type of invite out, if it’s formal through the mail or now, with the Internet, you can do a Facebook group or some type of e‑invite. It’s always a good idea to know how many people are planning on stopping by.

Also, too, if you are doing any type of outsourcing in terms of catering, you are going to have to supply them with a guest count so they know how much food to prepare.

John:  Great advice. Kristi and Curt, thanks very much for speaking with me today.

Kristi:  Thank you, John.

Curt:  Thank you.

John:  For more information about catering, visit the Woodman’s website at or call (978) 768‑2559.

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