8 Mistakes You Make Hosting a Summer Party

Avoid these pitfalls, and you'll be well on your way to some fun in the sun.

By: Amy Preiser

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It's Not You, It's Summer

No matter how hard you try to keep your hosting skills up to snuff, warm weather can be a tough foil. The bugs, the heat, the wind — it all threatens to topple even the best-laid plans for a casual get-together. Luckily, a few pros from around the country want to help you banish those summer party worries. So next time you'll be fearless in the face of spoiled food, angry neighbors, sweaty guests and all other avoidable threats.

Forgetting to Mention the Party's Location

And we don’t mean your address. “I’ve seen so many hosts neglect to to tell guests that the party is outside,” says Libbie Summers, a cookbook author and stylist based in Savannah, Georgia. “This affects how guests dress and prepare for the party. Make sure you let them in on your plans so they feel comfortable." Note the party locale on the invitation (whether that's a snail-mailed note or a simple text message), and remind guests to dress for the weather. And if it's a super sunny day, have some extra sunscreen on hand. 

Neglecting the Neighbors

Nothing brings a party down like an uncomfortable visit from the couple nextdoor. So take a tip from Ida ​Kroell, the Georgia-based founder of EVENTLAND, and prepare them in advance for some extra chatter and laughter. Or better yet — invite them to join. They’ll appreciate the courtesy, you’ll earn yourself some noise leeway, and you'll avoid an awkward situation when your neighbor decides to hang out on her patio right when your guests start playing lawn games.

Blasting Music Into Neighboring Yards

Music is key for a great time, but you have to be mindful of the volume (and speaker placement) when entertaining outdoors. “Turning speakers towards structures like the house or a tree line will stop the music from carrying too far,” says Jaime Engebretson of J’aime Events in Osseo, Minnesota. The last thing you want to do is disturb the peace in your neighborhood.

Neglecting to Plan an Outdoor-Friendly Menu

Not all culinary masterpieces will stand up to a warm summer afternoon. "Watch out for mayonnaise in the hot sun or anything with chocolate — unless you’re prepared for it to become chocolate sauce," advises chef Rory Schepisi in West Texas. "And stay clear of anything with Jell-O. It will just turn to liquid in the heat." These might be mainstays for cooler evenings or indoor parties, but keep them off your list if you know it will be sunny.

Heat also means thirsty (and sweaty) guests, so make room for some water bottles in your coolers or bar cart. For a fun display, Schepisi uses flower pots to organize drinks. "Fill them with ice and designate each one for a type of drink." For extra credit, paint the pots to match the theme of the party. Guests will flip.

Not Minding The Time — And the Bugs

"Party timing is everything when keeping insects like mosquitoes and sand gnats at bay," says Summers. "Insects love dusk and dark, so I prefer an outdoor party when the sun is out!" Wise words from this Savannah resident, who certainly knows a thing or two about those pesky, uninvited guests.

But if your party continues after the sun goes down, keep some bug spray on hand for guests, or set up a small fan near your party space. The breeze it creates helps blow mosquitoes away.

Putting Out All the Food at Once

Sure, some things (like chips or pretzels) will hold up well when served for party-long grazing, but don’t be in a rush to put the bulk of your menu all out at once. Cold salads, freshly grilled burgers and frozen desserts (of course) are best when they're fresh. Engebretson suggests serving only a portion at a time and leaving the rest in the fridge or freezer, ready to be swapped in when you’re running low. Another handy tip? “Wrap blocks of ice in a pretty fabric,” she says. Then use them as platters for your dishes. Genius!

Decorating Like You Would for an Indoor Party

Vases of flowers are nice, but why not accent your outdoor party with outdoor-appropriate accessories? We love Summers’ idea of going all out with simple summer items. “I love to take one decor element and really blow it out for my parties, ” she says. “For an outdoor party in the summer, try using affordable things like colorful beach balls or paper lanterns. A few of them are ordinary, but 100 — that's extraordinary!”


Missing Out on an Opportunity for Fun

Summer and fun go together like, well, summer fun! So it’s no surprise that Summers recommends going playful with your party. “Plan some kind of game — one is enough,” she says. “And always have a slightly cheesy trophy for the winner! Everybody loves bragging rights and competition makes for great photos.”

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