The summer season brings more than road trips and beach days. It’s the perfect time to arrange a backyard barbecue, themed picnic, or holiday party with family and friends. After all, there’s Memorial Day, Father’s Day, graduations, the Fourth of July, birthdays, and Labor Day to celebrate. Becoming a good summer host sounds easy enough, but it’s important to prepare so the event is both fun and safe. From cultivating the guest list to calling your last guest a cab, we’ve created an 8-part checklist to make throwing a summer shindig easier.
▢ Send invites
Make a list of the people you want to invite, then whittle it down to the desired number. Keep in mind that typically only three quarters of invitees will actually show up. Text messages, paperless post and Facebook events are convenient for casual gatherings, but consider sending a more official evite so the party stands out from other summer commitments.
▢ Plan the menu
Depending on the time of day, you may want to serve brunch, lunch, dinner, or just hors d’oeuvres. It’s best to choose a mixture of things you can make in advance and things you can easily throw together the day of the party. If your party has a theme, let that guide the dishes. As far as drinks, it’s a good rule to have enough so every guest can have two drinks per hour. Don’t forget about juices, soft drinks, and ice too.
Pro tip: Brush up on safe food handling tips from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) if you’ll be preparing or serving outside.
▢ Decide on activities
You don’t want anyone getting bored at your party. Consider incorporating a DIY bar or dessert station to keep guests busy. You can also prepare yard games, quizzes and informal sporting events. The more activity options, the more likely everyone will find something fun.
If kids are invited, make sure you’ve created a safe environment where they can run and play without getting into trouble.
▢ Check your insurance policy
Have you installed a swimming pool? Recently added on a deck? Take on any summer projects? These upgrades may make your house even better for hosting, but they also add risk. Review your homeowners insurance policy to ensure that it’s up-to-date with all your home features. That way, if something happens, you can be confident that you’re properly covered.
▢ Stock up on supplies
You’ll need more than food and alcohol to throw a swinging summer party. A week or so before the event, pick up decorations, serving dishes, plates, cutlery, linens, napkins, cups, garbage bags, cleaning products, soap, paper towels and toilet paper. If you’re grilling, make sure you have enough charcoal, ample lighter fluid and a fire extinguisher. Summertime partygoers especially appreciate if you have sunscreen, bug spray, and citronella candles at the ready.
▢ Make a playlist
Every party needs a playlist. Set up a bumping summer mix that will keep things upbeat, with a mix of current hits and classic jams. If you’re not big on music, consider asking a friend. They’ll feel privileged to set the mood of the party, and it takes one thing off your plate.
When you’re hosting families, you may need to screen some of the songs or organize the playlist so nothing inappropriate plays when the kids are around.
▢ Set the stage
As the day approaches, it’s time to clean the house and get everything in order. Focus only on the spaces your guests will see, like the kitchen, bathroom, living room and yard. Move any valuables or items that can get in the way to another room temporarily. Arrange furniture so it’s conducive to conversations and mingling. Keep in mind that some guests will appreciate shade if your party is going down in the daytime. If need be, rent extra seating and tables.
▢ Help everyone get home
If there’s going to be drinking at your party, it’s a good idea to set up some parameters for guests that arrive by car. Share information about nearby public transport, rideshare or taxi options. If anyone tries to drive home when they shouldn’t, offer to call them a ride. So long as you’re comfortable, you can always offer them a spot to sleep in your house. Anything is better than an accident.
Party planning can be intimidating. Having a plan will help reduce pre-event stress and maximize enjoyment on party day. Then, after all the guests are gone and the leftovers are stored, take a moment for reflection. Think about what went right and what went wrong. This summer party is an opportunity to inform your next soiree. Consider what you bought too much of, what you wish you had, and who you missed. The more parties you host, the better you’ll get at it!