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Avoid these outdoor entertaining mistakes


It’s summertime. The party moves outside. It’s the ideal venue, with fresh air, plenty of space, and you don’t have to worry about everyone crowding into your kitchen.

There are other things to concern yourself with when planning an outside party. Avoid these outdoor entertaining mistakes that can put a damper on the event.

Serving all the food at once. When there’s too much food, more of it will be wasted. Set out your edibles in stages. Plan ahead for the “what” and “when” to serve.

Planning a menu that’s not outdoor friendly. Start with the safety factor. Anything with mayonnaise or other perishable ingredients shouldn’t be left outside for extended periods. Secondly, stick with foods that can be eaten standing up, with just a fork or spoon. Plus, an outdoor-friendly menu doesn’t include foods that must stay hot or cold. Don’t stress yourself out trying to maintain the right temperature.

Running out of food. If you’re one of those people who always has too much food, you probably overcompensate for fear of experiencing this problem. For items like burgers, estimate 1 to 1 ½ per person, and no more than one hot dog per person. If you’re grilling meats like chicken, estimate one pound per person.

Underestimating the bug problem. Expect that mosquitoes, flies, ants, and other unwanted insect guests will attend your outdoor party. Use citronella candles and tiki torches. Cover the food with plastic, foil, or inverted plates, bowls, or even colanders. Mow your lawn a day or two before the party so that bugs don’t have tall grass to hide in. Also, get rid of any standing water where mosquitoes can thrive. For a natural insect repellant, burn sage or rosemary over the hot coals of your grill.

Not planning fun and games for all ages. It’s not always enough to have good company and food. Kids will get restless if there’s nothing to entertain them. When they get restless, they get into trouble. Set up some kid-friendly lawn games, like ring toss, croquet, bocce, cornhole, lawn darts, ladder toss, and horseshoes (use plastic, not iron horseshoes).

Tending to the grill or bar yourself. Your role is host or hostess. If you’re distracted by taking care of grilling or mixing drinks, you’re missing the fun. Put someone else in charge of these important tasks.

Forgetting you have neighbors. The worst experience during a lively party is having a grumpy neighbor stopping into to complain about the noise. Let your neighbors know in advance when you’re planning a party—even extend them an invitation.

Assuming everyone brings “the right stuff”. Bug spray, sun protection, towels, and beach chairs are often overlooked when guests are heading out to a party. Set up a table with essentials that encourage people to go out and have fun, because you’ve got them covered.

Setting up the tables and chairs in one area. People cluster in small groups. Create a variety of outdoor seating areas, with small tables in each. When you’re estimating the amount of seating required, figure enough chairs for about 80 percent of the people who will be attending.

Planning only for good weather. Create a contingency plan in the event of rain or windy weather. Consider renting a canopy for a large gathering, which provides shelter and shade. In case you need to move your party indoors, have your home ready by moving furniture out of the way and stashing extraneous items in your closets.

Partying in silence. Music adds to the festive environment (assuming your taste isn’t the blues or Gregorian chants). Create a party playlist and pipe it into the yard—loud enough to hear but not turned up so high that it’s hard to carry on a conversation.

Omitting the trash cans. Yes, they’re not attractive, but guests will be looking for a place to throw their garbage. Place cans for trash and bins for recyclables in several places, so people don’t have to go searching for a receptacle. And if you don’t like the look of a trash can, dress it up with streamers and balloons.

Backyard parties can be fun and stress-free when you plan in advance and avoid these outdoor entertaining mistakes.