Autumn is America’s favorite season, and it’s easy to see why. Mild temperatures and weather, gorgeous foliage colors, football, Thanksgiving and Halloween . . . the list could go on. We absolutely love Fall, so why not celebrate it with a bonfire party?
The secret to a good bonfire party is simplicity. But if you’ve ever planned a party, you know it takes a lot of work to make a party look simple. We have a guide to planning the perfect backyard bonfire to help you make yours look effortless.
The best part is this party is outdoors, so you don’t have to worry about cleaning your house. The most you’ll need to do is make sure the path from the entry door to the bathroom is clear!
Seating: you never want to run out of seating at a party. Fortunately with a bonfire, it doesn’t have to be all chairs! Picnic tables, benches, hay bales, tree stumps, even just blankets on the ground are all appropriate for a backyard bonfire. Offer a combination of options, so guests can pick where they will be most comfortable.
Bug repellent: tiki torches and citronella candles are common bug repellents, but they may not be the best options. You have to worry about them blowing out or a child possibly knocking them over, and they don’t smell very good. Spray-on bug spray is a hassle, too. Consider a more natural solution, such as essential oils. Many oils come from plants bugs don’t like the smell of, like peppermint, eucalyptus, or lemongrass. You can add these oils to the fire, set out a couple diffusers, or mix them with water in a spray bottle for your own homemade bug spray. Finally, set up a couple of oscillating fans around the exterior of the yard – bugs aren’t strong enough to fly through the air moved by fans, so they’ll stay away.
Blankets: even if you have enough seating so guests don’t have to sit on the ground, provide plenty of blankets. If guests stay late, they’ll get chilly, even sitting around the fire. You don’t want guests to leave only because they’re too cold to stay!
Lighting: depending on how big your yard is, the bonfire may provide enough light for the party. If you have a large yard, or if there are things in the yard that could prove to be a tripping hazard, you’ll need to have extra lights set up. Anything from a tiki torch to garden bulbs to string lights will do the trick. If there is a pathway through your yard, or if there is a particular place you want guests to walk when they go into the house, set lights along that. If there is anything in your yard like a garden, rocks, pond, etc., make sure those are well-lit.
In the days of Facebook events and text message invitations, stand out from the crowd by mailing paper invitations – but put a spin on them by including a s’mores kit! One marshmallow, a square of chocolate (such as these cute personalized ones!), and two graham crackers are the perfect incentive for guests to come to your party.
Remember to include any important details, such as whether or not guests will need to bring their own chair or blanket. If you are hosting for children, consider asking parents to stay for extra supervision – or at least let parents know they are welcome to join the party, too.
If your party is for adults but you are inviting children too, consider having a separate, enclosed fire pit for them. The kids will love having their “own” fire, and adults will be able to relax at their own fire knowing the kids can’t fall into the pit.
You can use something like pinecone firestarters, to add a sweet scent to the flames. Be very careful about what you use, though – you don’t want to add any plastic or chemicals to the fire.
You also will need to make sure you have more than enough firewood on hand before the party starts. No one wants to interrupt the festivities to have to find more wood!
It’s simplest to serve finger foods. You’ll cut down on prep work, table space in the yard, waste, and clean up. Chips, fruit, veggies and dip, hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, and, of course, s’mores ingredients are all great and easy choices.
Get creative with these bonfire necessities! Typically, a s’more is a graham cracker, marshmallow, and piece of chocolate. Up your game by offering these extra ingredients in a DIY Gourmet S’mores Bar.
Offer ingredients such as:
- Graham crackers: original, chocolate, vanilla, honey, cinnamon
- Marshmallows: original, mini, flavored; or make your own gourmet marshmallows! We love these bourbon marshmallows
- Chocolate: white, milk, dark, chocolate-covered fruit, peanut butter cups, snickers, kit kats
- Spreads: peanut butter, nutella, caramel, butterscotch, almond butter
- Fruit: strawberries, bananas, blackberries, shaved coconut
- Others: sea salt, bacon or candied bacon, cinnamon + chili powder (for Mexican chocolate!), potato chips, pretzels
- Cookies: other than graham crackers, offer chocolate chip cookies, rice krispie treats, samoas, oreos
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Get creative with your s’mores buffet and your guests will absolutely love it.
You can never go wrong with the standard lemonade, water, and soda combo, but if you’re looking to impress your guests, try some of these cocktail and mocktail recipes!
- Slow cooker hot chocolate: easy to make, easier to let sit until guests want it. Set out a bottle of rum chata in case guests want to spice things up a bit.
- Hot chocolate milkshake: if it’s not quite cold enough for hot chocolate, turn it into a milkshake instead. Rum or brandy are excellent additions to this one.
- Apple cider: hot or cold, this will be a favorite! Add spiced rum to turn it into a cocktail.
- Root beer float: ice cream, root beer, and maybe some bourbon – who could say no?
- French lemonade wine spritzer: lemonade and white wine is a perfect combination.
- Blackberry lemonade: a punch with blackberries, lemonade, club soda, and splash of white rum if you want it
- S’moretini: really wow your guests with this delicious, rich cocktail, made with vodka, chocolate liqueur, and Irish cream liqueur.
These mason jar mugs make excellent cocktail or mocktail glasses, and the monogram adds a lovely, personalized touch.
What’s a campfire without a few spooky stories? If your family and friends aren’t the creative type, there’s an app for that! It’s called Coleman campfire Tales and has a variety of scary stories, complete with sound effects.
If your group likes to sing, singing together around a fire can create a really magical aura – and probably a lot of laughs, depending on the talent level. Nevertheless, guests will love it. Older guests will also have an opportunity to teach younger guests the songs they grew up singing.
Depending on how clear a view you have of the sky, and where you are in the world, you may be able to enjoy some stargazing. Find a map, or an app, of the constellations and pick them out in the sky.
Add a glow-in-the-dark component to your games! Ring toss, cornhole, Jenga, ladderball, and even Nerf guns can all easily be made to glow in the dark to add another layer of fun to the game.