Originally published on GoodHousekeeping.com
When you're hosting guests in the heat, don't forget these must-have items.
Al fresco entertaining may be a more relaxed affair, but summer parties do present their particular challenges (mosquitos, ahem). Whether you’re hosting a cookout, picnic, or pool party, make sure your shindig has everything guests might need.
1. Sun Protection
Keep your guests from frying in the summer sun by providing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 or higher, advises Amy A. Artuso, program manager at the National Safety Council.
Also, make sure there’s plenty of shade so guests can retreat from the sun’s rays. If you don’t have trees or naturally shady areas, be sure to set out patio umbrellas.
Cristina Riches, author and founder of Bird’s Party Blog, likes having personalized pails filled with essentials on hand: “This much-appreciated detail doubles as a party favor. Fill the pails with sunscreen, a small towel, a sun visor or paper fan, novelty sunglasses, lip balm, or after-sun cream.”
2. Bug Barriers
Friends aren’t the only ones who’ll flock to your outdoor gatherings. Make sure to have bug repellent handy and provide guests a choice — an oil of lemon eucalyptus–based spray for friends who prefer a more natural approach and a formula with DEET for those who want the heavy-duty stuff. (Refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s insect repellant guide to choose the right bug spray.)
Burning citronella candles around the perimeter of your party can also help repel mosquitoes — and add atmosphere. Not into playing with fire? According to the American Mosquito Control Association, mosquitoes are weak fliers, so simply setting out an oscillating fan is an effective way to ward them off.
3. Lots of Hydration
Between sun, salty food, and alcoholic drinks, it's way too easy to dehydrate at a summer soiree. Be sure to provide plenty of cool water for your guests, whether it’s individual bottles, or, better yet, a large, prominently placed dispenser alongside a stack of cups.
Also, offer foods with high water content, advises Artuso, such as watermelon, strawberries, baby carrots, bell pepper slices, or cucumber spears.
4. Easy-Serve Food and Drinks
Set out food and drinks so it’s easy for guests to help themselves, which allows you to mingle. Place drinks in coolers or in galvanized pails filled with ice. Also, says Riches, a fully stocked bar is nice, but serving a signature drink, like a sangria or punch, is always fun.
Make a food station complete with party-proof plates, utensils, cups, and napkins. Protect food from marauding insects with mesh tents and be certain to keep food at its proper temperature.
“Do not let food sit out for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the temperature is greater than 90 degrees F, or bacteria will multiply quickly,” warns Artuso.
5. Helpful Markers
At a party, how many times do you hear “Wait, is that my cup?” Dispel drink mix-ups by offering guests fun ways to tag their vessels. Riches likes a variety of decorated drink stirrers or straw flags. Or, she suggests painting inexpensive glasses with a band of chalkboard paint so guests can mark them as their own. You can get the same effect with stickers like these, above ($11 for 20, etsy.com).
6. A Way to Keep Clean
Nothing’s as good as a plate of barbecued ribs or grilled chicken — and nothing’s as bad as having your fingers smell like it hours later. Riches provides wet wipes or finger bowls as a thoughtful touch