The Do’s + Don’ts Of Outdoor Entertaining
The Do’s + Don’ts Of Outdoor Entertaining

The Do’s + Don’ts Of Outdoor Entertaining

10 tips from an expert party planner.

Outdoor parties are a breeze with these tips from expert party planner Debi Lilly of A Perfect Event. Based on her experience throwing hundreds of high profile outdoor events, here’s a rundown of the top 10 most common outdoor entertaining mistakes and how to avoid them.

DON’T: Blame it on the rain

Sure, mother nature can put a damper on things, but she doesn’t decide which parties succeed and which don’t.

DO: Have a backup plan

Prepare a backup plan in case of bad weather so you avoid making the most common host mistake. “Have it worked out in advance, so you’re not in a panic,” Lilly said. “You’ll save yourself a ton of stress especially in front of your guests.”

DON’T: Create awkward silence

Music keeps the energy of a party going, and nothing kills that energy faster than a radio that runs out of power, a crummy Bluetooth connection, or an extension cord that doesn’t stretch far enough.

DO: Stock up on batteries

Be sure to stock up on batteries and test your speakers’ Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signal range so guests can hear the music. Have a backup plan in case the internet (or power!) goes out.

DON’T: Run hot and cold

Party throwers take on extra stress by serving food that needs to be hot or cold.

DO: Keep it at room temp

Lilly says: plan your menu around food that can be served at room temperature. Think cherry tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil skewers, grilled shrimp salad or big platters of grilled vegetables.

DON’T: Work overtime in the kitchen

Another common mistake is planning a too-complicated menu, says Lilly.

DO: Outsource what you can

Cook one dish and buy the rest. “There’s no pressure in today’s world to make everything from scratch,” she said.

DON’T: Forget food restrictions

Well-meaning hosts may be unaware of guests’ food allergies or preferences.

DO: Provide multiple food options

Make sure to prepare or buy at least one dish (such as a scrumptious salad) that is vegetarian, another that is vegan. Make sure some options are also nut and gluten free.

DON’T: Procrastinate

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll finish setting the table, or run out for more ice, later.

DO: Plan ahead

Get everything (that means plates, glasses, extra food and ice!) ready ahead of time, Lilly says.

DON’T: Play bartender

Don’t hire a bartender or get stuck spending your party behind the bar.

DO: Create a concoction

Make one specialty drink ahead of time. Lilly, for example, has pre-poured prosecco with raspberries ready when guests arrive. “It’s a warm, welcoming gesture, instead of pointing and saying the bar is over there,” she said. A good non-alcoholic option is sparkling cider with fruit.

DON’T: Assume your guests will come prepared

For some guests, simply knowing the date and address of the party is an achievement. Don’t expect them to remember their own sunglasses, sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

DO: Provide the essentials

Keep a supply of each and create a “comfort station” with items including OFF!® FamilyCare insect repellent so under-equipped partygoers can avoid getting mosquito bites.

DON’T: Clump everyone together

While you can’t control the size of your outdoor party space, you can arrange seating in a way that suggests people mingle in large and small groups.

DO: Set up multiple seating areas

Set up a table that seats six or eight away from smaller tables and couplings of lawn chairs. This invites guests to visit with smaller or larger groups, whichever they might prefer.

DON’T: Be too busy

The host sets the tone, so it’s important not to be preoccupied with running the show. Busying yourself with logistics and trying too hard to entertain everyone can backfire and make guests nervous or feel pressured to relieve you of your hosting duties.

DO: Stay relaxed

Stay relaxed, light, and interested in your company, and they will respond in kind.