Everybody loves a party, and who doesn’t love a great big bonfire? And when you combine the two…forget about it!
Campfires have long been a favorite and well-received staple when people head out for some nice relaxing camping in the mountains, the desert or the beach. It’s a place where people love to gather, talk, share stories, catch up and even cook things like s’mores and hotdogs.
And as fun as a campfire can be, the smallish campfire environment is limited in terms of the number of people that can actually enjoy the festivities. Fortunately, there are now some people who are actively remedying this limitation by beginning to host bonfire parties in their backyard. What could be more fun than that?
Of course, in order to host your own backyard bonfire party, the process is much more difficult than simply lighting a fire and partying the night away. There are several steps you will need to take to ensure the party goes off without a hitch.
Some of these steps include creating an invite list and sending out the invitations; preparing your backyard for the fire and to ensure everyone has a good time while still remaining safe; making the food and assembling the beverages for your party; and actually building and lighting the bonfire.
Completing each of these steps will almost guarantee a successful and well-planned bonfire party—a party of which everyone will talk about for years and one in which everyone remains safe and protected.
Steps To A Successful Backyard Bonfire Party
Although you would think that step number 1 towards having a backyard bonfire party would be to pick a date and send out the invitations, there is actually one step you need to take first: you must determine whether or not you are actually ALLOWED to host such a party according to the local rules and laws in your area.
Check with First Responders
In certain areas of the country, not only is having a bonfire frowned upon due to drought and dry brush in the area, it is actually against the law or local fire ordinances.
Nothing ruins a party quite like a visit from the police or fire deputies, so always check with the authorities about the laws in your area regarding such fires and even tell them exactly when your party is going to be held and the safety precautions you intend to take.
Select a Date
Selecting a date should be one of the easier parts of your backyard bonfire party—should be!
Whether you are throwing this party for you and your adult friends and family to enjoy or you are throwing a teen Sweet 16 party, you definitely want to schedule the party for a weekend night—a night that after which there is no work or school to contend with.
That leaves Fridays and Saturdays. If you work away from the home, or if you work until late afternoon on Friday, there may not be enough time to accomplish all you need to accomplish on the actual day of the party.
Plus, if your friends have to work late it might limit your attendance list. For this reason we suggest you select a Saturday to host your party.
Try to plan ahead—as best as you can—and select a Saturday in which the weather looks favorable.
Needless to say, rainy nights are NOT ideal for a bonfire. Late spring, summer and early fall are usually good dry seasons from a weather perspective in most areas, but just make sure you plan for other activities should rain consume your backyard
Who is coming to your backyard bonfire party? Are you planning your own party or a birthday or graduation party for your teen?
Whoever is on your list—or potential list—you will first need to determine just how much room you have for a party of this type. The good part about backyard-style parties is that you can usually schedule more invitees to attend than you might otherwise ask.
Provided your backyard is sizeable, and given the fact that most people will probably remain outdoors for the most part, you are not really constrained by the size of your home. Of course, you want to keep your party at a manageable size, and we recommend that you only invite people that you know and trust.
Parties such as this can quickly get out of control, and the last thing you want is outsiders ruining your backyard landscapes with their out-of-control antics.
After coming up with your guest list, it is now time to get creative with your invitations.
Today, there are many store-bought invitations that can announce your plans for this type of party, but if you have the time, and you fancy yourself a creative person, why not make your own personalized invitations that really pop? Sam at Geeky Matters recommends Etsy as another way to find some unique invitations for your party.
Enlist the help of friends and family and come up with some stunning invite cards that really grab one’s attention!
Note: Mail-sent invitations still go over better than e-vites, so take the extra time and make sure you get your invites out at least 10 days before your backyard bonfire party so that your guests can plan in advance and clear their social calendars.
Decorate for Your Backyard Bonfire Party
The decorations for your backyard bonfire party can take on any theme you desire, regardless of whether that theme is a graduation, a birthday, an anniversary, or a holiday like Fourth of July, Labor Day or Memorial Day, the unofficial beginning of the summer season.
Flags and streamers are always good choices, but be sure to keep these away from the direct fire area. Tiki torches are great for a Hawaiian or Polynesian theme and go well with the bonfire itself.
Generally speaking, the sky is the limit when decorating for a backyard bonfire party, provided you always keep the safety of your guests at the forefront of your mind.
Prepare to Feed Your Guests
The food and beverages you decide to serve to your guests will—and should—depend on the people who are on your guest list.
For example, if this is a party for your teen son or daughter and the guest list consists of their school friends, the type of food and drinks you serve is going to be much different than what you might offer your adult friends and their spouses.
Large backyard bonfire parties will usually not require a full-dinner spread. Instead, you want to serve snacks and beverages that will keep everybody happy and contented.
Instead of breaking down these possible snack and beverage options into two categories, below we will list some potential ideas and allow you to decide if they are appropriate for your party.
Food and Beverage Options
- Frito Pie. Frito Pie is a great snack option that always pairs well with a big old fire in your backyard. Be sure to serve with chips for scooping or corn tortillas.
- Hot Dogs/Hamburgers. A staple at backyard parties and always easy to cook, you always want to think about grilling up some hot dogs and hamburgers at your backyard bonfire party.
- S’mores. What else would you have available at a backyard bonfire party? S’mores, a mixture of Hershey bars, marshmallows, and graham crackers, will bring a smile to everyone’s faces.
- Hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is especially popular when the weather turns cold, so be sure and have some of that chocolatey goodness on hand.
- Hot Cider. Having your backyard bonfire party in the fall? If so, hot cider is definitely the way to go—a beverage that screams autumn.
- Snack foods. When it comes to the snack foods to have on hand the list is virtually unlimited. Popcorn, chips, nuts and pretzels are always good, as are more healthy options like carrots and celery with dip.
- Alcohol. Having a backyard bonfire party for your adult friends or workmates? If so, nothing screams party like a little alcohol. From beer to wine to cocktails, have plenty of this stuff around and your party just might rage on until dawn.
You have checked with the first responders, picked a date, sent out invitations, decorated your party space and prepared the food. Now your guests are in-route and starting to arrive and you must prepare for the bonfire—the central attraction of your party.
The first step in this process is to dig a small pit in your backyard. This pit will be needed to bank the fire.
Make sure you “Dig a pit that is a few inches deeper and wider than you want your fire to be, about two feet in diameter and a foot deep is usually just enough.” Once dug, try to place some rocks around the ring to help the fire stay contained to that specific area.
Place a layer of tinder or kindling on the bottom of the pit, along with a layer of charcoal briquets to keep the fire hot and continuously burning. You can also use some newspaper or dryer lint to help initially light the fire.
Gather some wood and arrange it into a tee-pee shape in the bottom of the pit. This is the ideal arrangement for starting a high fire that your guests will truly notice.
Make sure there is nothing directly outside of the fire pit that might burn should the embers come into contact with it.
Now you are ready for your guests to arrive. Once everyone has had a chance to sample the snacks and beverages you have prepared and laid out, lead those eager guests out into the backyard and carefully light your fire creation.
Start by lighting the kindling, which will then light both the charcoal and the tee-pee wood formation. In no time you will have a roaring, blazing, high fire and a party that people will talk about for years to come.
top image: Zach Petersen, Flickr, CC 2.0