Put your new patio dining set to work: Host an outdoor dinner

Patio dining sets come in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles. After looking through the website and finding the patio furniture set you want, it's time to plan a party to put that new set to work. Start by thinking of a theme for your dinner party and the menu and then jot down a list of people you want to invite. After all, what's the purpose of having a patio dining set if you don't gather around it to share good food and drinks with friends and family?

A patio bistro set comes with a small table and two or three chairs. A bistro set is perfect for couples to sit at while enjoying coffee in the mornings, cold lemonade after working in the yard, a lunch-sized salad made from fresh veggies from the garden or dinner after work. You'll find them constructed of a variety of materials: Rustproof aluminum, steel, resin wicker with metal frames, and so on. Popular colors include various shades of browns and neutrals, reds, greens, and white. Some of the bistro sets have chairs without arms. Others have arms. Bar-height bistro sets are also available. If you purchase a bistro set, you'll also have room for other patio accessories. You can shop for patio swings, rockers, gliders or loveseats.

The more the merrier

If you want to have larger gatherings, choose a dining set with a bigger table and more chairs. Measure how much space you have for a patio dining set. The smallest set is a five-piece one with a table and four chairs. You can find a seven-, nine-, 10- or 11-piece set, too. Tempered glass and ceramic tile are popular tabletops. Both provide a smooth surface that's easy to clean. Look for chairs that are durable steel, rustproof aluminum or another sturdy, durable material that's weather-resistant. Outdoor fabrics are UV-protected to keep them from sun damage, and are also mildew and stain resistant. If you live where it's often a little chilly, you might want to consider a bar set with a fire pit at the center. If you don't have much shade, consider purchasing a coordinating patio umbrella.

Do you have a swimming pool near the dining set? A Hawaiian luau would be a good theme. Use a variety of bright colors for the cushions and table linens: orange hibiscus cushions, a white tablecloth and lime green placemats. Purchase inexpensive dinnerware with bamboo handles. Find shell napkin rings and wrap them around turquoise blue napkins. Crack coconut shells in half, drain out the milk and fill with tropical drinks. Drape one lei of artificial flowers over the back of each chair. Set up tiki lights around the table for a little ambiance.

For the menu, start with coconut battered shrimp. Serve roasted pork with pineapples or beef kabobs on skewers with pineapples and vegetables for the entrée. Finish with a dessert made with coconut or macadamia nuts, which would be great served with Hawaiian coffee. You are only limited by your imagination. Send invitations to your friends and put that new patio dining set to work.

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