10 commandments of outdoor entertaining

Thou shall design a menu kind to all

As a host, it’s your job to ensure there are plenty of food options for everyone at your party. Prior to planning your menu, check if your guests have any dietary restrictions or allergies. Is there a vegetarian or lactose-intolerant guest in the house? Stock up on soy burgers and salads with dairy-free dressing. What about a gluten-free eater? Make vegetable and meat shish kebabs for an entree. It’s important to be prepared—you don’t want to make a last-minute grocery store run halfway through the party.

Thou shall never run out of food

Now that you have a diverse menu planned, it’s time to make sure you have enough. Nothing’s worse than running out of everyone’s favourite potato salad before the bowl even makes it around the table, so always make extra large portions to keep your guests stuffed and happy. And besides, who doesn’t love leftovers?

Thou shall not skimp on dessert

A cookout isn’t complete without dessert, so don’t neglect this final course. Our current favourite sweets include classic strawberry rhubarb pie, build-your-own ice cream sandwiches, homemade blueberry donuts and coconut cake. This is also the perfect course for those guests who insist on contributing a dish: ask your baking buds to bring their go-to dessert for the group.

Thou shall keep the booze flowing

Food, good company, and booze—that’s the trifecta of outdoor entertaining. Your party headquarters should be decked out with several drink stations to avoid long line-ups, and each should be equipped with beer, wine, liquor, and mix. We love the idea of specialty cocktail stations too, like a Make Your Own Caesar bar, where the guests can become their own bartenders. Even if your event is BYOB, the host should always have some alcohol on hand to keep the booze flowin’.

Remember thy twinkly lights

Outdoors, ambiance is everything, and it can be easily ruined if you don’t protect yourself once the food is finished and the bugs come out. Decorate your patio with twinkly lights and paper lanterns to create a warm, welcoming space. And if the mosquitoes are especially nippy, use an OFF!® PowerPad® Mosquito Lantern to protect your patio, or use OFF! Clip-On® Mosquito Repellent for head-to-toe protection.

Thou shall offer enough seating

Having the same amount of chairs as guests is a no-brainer at traditional dinner parties, but it should be a rule at informal get-togethers too. When you’re entertaining outdoors, make sure you have enough seats for everyone at your party, even if it means bringing out a few kitchen chairs or renting some for the night. And no, towels laid on the grass do not count as proper seating.

Honour thy playlist

As tempting as it might be to relinquish control of the iPod to your teenaged son to save time, it’s best to handle the music if it’s your party. When designing the playlist, stick to cottage classics and upbeat songs to keep the mood lively. If it’s possible, have an acoustic guitar on call for the inevitable late-night bonfire sing-a-longs. 

Thou shall not bore the children

Sitting around a table, surrounded by adults talking about adult things, is a soul-sucking experience for kids. Keep the youth entertained by organizing plenty of activities they can do throughout the day, like horseshoes and ladder toss, and into the night, such as an outdoor movie theatre. If space permits, designate a table just for the kids, where they can eat, hang out, and make crafts.

Thou shall protect guests from mosquitoes

You want your guests to remember the day by great memories, not by hundreds of itchy bug bites. As the sun sets, have Off!® Insect Repellent on hand for your guests.

Thou shall keep guests comfortable

Extra towels? Check. Plenty of pillows for uncomfortable wooden chairs? Check. Blankets for when it gets chilly at night? Check. iPhone charger? Check. Stock up on these types of items to keep your guests happy, comfortable, and worry-free.