Get your walkways, porch, and outdoor dwelling spaces in shape before your next cold-weather soirée.
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Facade of Large Home in Snow
Credit: Jumping Rocks/UIG / Getty Images

The most wonderful time of the year is over, but that doesn't necessarily mean the festivities will come to a screeching halt. Whether you're celebrating a major milestone like a birthday or an anniversary, planning a dinner party, or simply getting friends together as a way to curb those cold-weather blues, it's safe to say winter is packed with plenty of reasons to entertain. Of course, just like any other soirée, your winter fête requires its own unique prep work; topping that to-do list is getting your home's exterior ready. "Everyone loves a warm welcome, and in the winter, that actually starts outside," explains Amber Mayfield, the founder of event company To Be Hosted and annual magazine While Entertaining, which highlights chefs of the African diaspora. "Preparing your home's exterior is about helping guests find the party and making sure they can safely come in and out." Ahead, party planners break down their best tips for getting your yard party-ready.

Light the Way

Between the mounds of snow and fewer hours of natural sunlight, locating your home's walkway might be easier said than done. Of course, matters will only become even more challenging once the sun sets, which is why it's so important to make getting to and from your front door a little easier for your nearest and dearest. "Outdoor rope lights are a great way to outline your driveway or the path to the party," Mayfield shares. "Lighting the way for your guests is especially helpful when snow or ice might cross their path. If you already have exterior lights on the main path, be sure to double check that all lights are working ahead of the party date." Unlike those last-minute touches, which should be done closer to go-time, Mayfield says you can illuminate your walkway up to three days in advance. And, if you want to give your yard an extra glow, she also recommends peppering the space with string lights and glowing orbs. "These lights will give your guests a well-lit passageway and further signal that the party is this way," Mayfield adds.

Shovel and Salt

No party foul stings worse than someone slipping on a slick spot before they even get to your front door. That's exactly why you'll want to winter-proof your walkway before anyone arrives. "Shoveling and salting your driveway and pathway is important to ensure safe and slip-free arrivals to your event, especially if you are in an area where temperatures drop below freezing at night," Mayfield explains. If your guest list includes a few four-legged friends, you might want to swap out your salt crystals in favor of some sand or dirt—salt can irritate a dog's paws. Since the weather can change faster than you can say "walking in a winter wonderland," you'll want to complete this step closer to party time. For the best results, Mayfield recommends salting and shoveling your walkway the morning of or night before the gathering.

Style with Signage

Your guests have made it all the way from your sidewalk or driveway to your front door—with no major slips or spills in the process, but now what? Since you'll be juggling multiple hosting duties—such as manning the appetizers, introducing guests, or uncorking a bottle of wine—you may not be able to instruct every single visitor on next steps. That's exactly why you should consider busting out the signage. "Tell your guests explicitly what you want them to do when they arrive," Mayfield says, noting to place these pieces just outside the main entrance. Iterations that say "Watch Your Step" or "Beware of Ice" are better placed at the beginning of a pathway or driveway.

Master Indoor-Outdoor Décor

Depending on where you live and what your yard is like, you might find yourself hosting a portion of the party outside, so why not decorate your outdoor space with your guests' comfort in mind? "Make the seating cozy and inviting, using velvet pillows and fur throws—no one wants to sit on a cold plastic seat in winter," shares entertaining expert Joanna Buchanan. "Make sure the area is well-lit, so invest in a few extra fire pits. They will serve a dual purpose for heat and light!" Buchanan adds you can also maximize your barbecue grill by whipping up a batch of mulled wine or hot cocoa for the kids. Or, if you're confining your party to your home's four walls, spruce up your entryway. "At the entryway, I recommend having a few things handy for guests when they arrive [such as] a pop-up coat rack [and] a few extra door mats so guests don't track in any snow," Mayfield explains. "Bonus points if you have a basket of slippers or warm socks for them to change into!"

Determine Your Fête's Footprint

It doesn't matter if your party is strictly indoors or has some outdoors elements—your guests will inevitably bring Mother Nature inside your home. If you want to keep the mud, leaves, and melted snow to a minimum, you might want to consider your soirée's layout. "Think about who will need to access the inside of the house and how you can best move them around without too much mud being tramped through," shares Buchanan. Consider which routes your guests will take—especially when their shoes and jackets are still on. How many doors does your home have? Do they need to walk across your house to take off their coats? What if they need to go to the bathroom right upon arrival? From there, you can cover potential walkways with an easy-to-clean mat.

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