Party season is just around the corner and it’ll soon be time to take a break from the mundane and get down to some serious partying with your family and friends. However, playing host during the holiday period can often be hard work, so it makes sense to organise as much as you can in advance. If you’re planning to host an outdoor party this Christmas, here’s our top 12 tips for planning the perfect outdoor Christmas barbecue that will ensure you don’t end up hot and frazzled and that everyone, including you, will have a thoroughly enjoyable time.

1. Decide on your décor

If you’ve decided to go with a traditional Christmas theme for your barbecue, choose your decorations in advance. Strings of fairy lights around the area are always a nice festive touch, as are coloured paper lanterns. Cover your table with a plain or patterned cloth, and add some greenery, scented candles and a few baubles in glass dishes. Short of inspiration? There’s plenty of ideas for decorating your table on sites such as Pinterest.

2. Provide some shade

If you don’t have natural shade around your property, consider putting up a pergola or several large umbrellas. These can be made more festive with the addition of lights and Christmas decorations. Oh, and don’t forget a sprig or two of mistletoe. If the forecast is for wind, make sure you have some pegs to keep the tablecloths secure, and use stones or Christmas snow globes to keep the napkins from flying away. You may also want to consider erecting some small play tents for the kids. They’ll serve a dual purpose of keeping the kids out of the midday sun and providing a secret hideaway to escape the adults.

3. Plan your menu

While you might be tempted to stick to your usual barbecue fare, Christmas is the time of year to try new things. Offer a selection of marinated meats, together with some juicy Aussie seafood, and a variety of sauces. Or how about setting up a station where your guests can put together their own gourmet burgers? Don’t forget the vegetarians and vegans; have some suitable alternatives available.

4. Offer simple sides and desserts

Freshly made salads, dips and a variety of breads will complement your barbecued foods, while a selection of desserts that you’ve prepared in advance will allow you to relax once the cooking is done.

5. Prepare as much as you can the day before

By taking the time to marinade the meats and prepare the salads, dips and desserts prior to the party, you’ll have more time to mingle and enjoy the fun. Get as much ready as you can the day or night before, so that all you have to do on the day is put the dishes out and cook the food.

6. Check your BBQ is clean and ready for cooking

Don’t leave it until the last moment. You don’t want to have a mountain of meat to cook and nothing to cook it on.

7. Provide plenty of nibbles

Your guests will be able to help themselves before the food is ready and it’ll ease the stress of trying to cook everything quickly because you’ve got a hungry horde on your hands.

8. Make a drinks cooler

Whether you’re providing all the drink, or your guests are bringing their own, a container filled with ice is a practical way to keep the drinks cool and easily accessible, plus it saves your guests from trekking in and out of the kitchen all day. And for extra impact, why not rustle up a festive punch? You could also make a non-alcoholic version for the kids and adults who prefer not to drink alcohol.

9. Play some festive music

Greet your guests with your favourite Christmas tunes and they’ll soon be in the party spirit. There’ll be plenty of time later for playing more contemporary music.

10. Entertain your guests

If you’ve invited kids to your celebration, make sure you have some form of entertainment on hand. Set up games such as backyard cricket for the older kids, or perhaps a Christmas treasure hunt for the young ones. If you’re lucky enough to have a pool, remember to remind your guests to bring their swimwear, and enlist the help of someone to keep an eye on the kids as they play in the water.

11. Keep the pests at bay!

No we’re not talking about your great-uncle Arthur, but the flies and other bugs that tend to plague our outdoor feasts at this time of year. Try using citronella candles or add insect repelling herbs to your table centrepiece. Alternatively, an electronic bug zapper can prove invaluable for keeping the nasties at bay.

Relax and enjoy the fun

Planning your Christmas barbecue in advance will mean that you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy spending time with your family and friends. After all, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?