Keeping Guests Happy at Your Outdoor Party

BY NANCY MATTIA ON AUGUST 1ST, 2017

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Fourth of July celebrations can go from fireworks to forgettable unless you plan ahead for all of the things your guest will need. This year, gain a reputation as being a host who goes out of his or her way to keep guests happy and comfortable. Here are some smart tips that really work.

1. Set up a big fan to keep mosquitoes away.

These notorious biters don’t like flying into “wind,” which a fan simulates. But avoid blowing guests away too. “This can be a good idea if you keep it on low, angle the fan up and away from guests, and make sure it’s oscillating,” says Amanda Richardson, founder and CEO of Events by Bella, Charlotte, N.C. Also make sure it’s not blowing directly on food or scattering napkins around the yard.

2. Keep guests cool.

When the temperature soars, shade is key. Make sure everyone, especially older guests and small children, has access to an air-conditioned room. Stock up on cold drinks that guests can grab on their own. “White wine is a huge hit on a summer day, but be sure to have just as many, if not more, water bottles available,” Richardson says.

3. Optimize your space.

Have seating spread out across the yard, not cramped in one location. It will open up the party and give your guests space to move around and interact. (For a casual cookout, you should have plenty of seats but you don’t need one for every guest.) Set up outdoor umbrellas around the event space too to provide some shade as guests mingle.

4. Schedule the get-together for when the sun isn’t blazing.

“So many people plan their cookouts for 2 or 3pm, which is also the hottest time of the day in the summer,” Richardson says. “I always push my parties to a 4:30 arrival time. People tend to filter in through the cool house, and get a cocktail inside, and then they’re easier to corral outside for the evening's festivities.”

5. Let guests pour their own drinks.

Self-service bars are the way to go. Richardson recommends setting up two tables dedicated to drinks. The first one should be inside, set up on a small table that’s not in the middle of the busy kitchen. The second table should be set up outside, preferably under some substantial shade.

6. Avoid a food line.

You can prevent people from swarming the buffet the moment food is set down by having a cocktail hour and hors d’oeuvres beforehand. Or set up a grill – people are less likely to swarm someone grilling, notes Richardson, and have a table dedicated to side dishes and condiments.

7. Spruce up the yard.

Make your yard more attractive to guests by using decorative screen dividers to hide eyesores, such as air-conditioning units. “It’s instant beautification,” Richardson says. This turns your backyard into more of a venue and helps dull the noise from those pesky household appliances that make conversation difficult.

8. Provide lighting at night.

Lanterns, candles and string lighting will add style as well as make your yard safer when it gets dark out, but keep a few things in mind. Unless you can attach them to trees or pre-existing structures, “Make sure your string lights are not strung in open air overhead,” Richardson says. “Although they might look gorgeous at night, if they are hung inappropriately it can be an eyesore during the day.” Secondly, keep your eye on the weather if you decide to hang paper lanterns. “There’s nothing worse than wet paper scattered all over your patio!”

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