It’s that time of year when outdoor summer parties are more or less compulsory. And they always sound like a good idea when the notion first springs to mind. What could go wrong, after all? There’s more room for fun and games, and everyone loves being outdoors.
Outdoor summer parties, however, need just as careful planning as any other type of party, so here are a couple of tips to make sure yours goes down the way you’d want it to.
Too many people think it takes just a couple of days to throw everything together, then wonder why the music’s rubbish, the kids are bored and the food runs out.
Here’s a quick checklist of areas where planning is needed:
- Guest list
- Games/kid’s activities
- Venue prep
Unless it’s a really spur of the moment family get together that needs no more planning than a quick supermarket trip, you’ll need at least a couple of weeks. Factor in months if it’s a big do and you’re hiring entertainment, erecting a stage or marquee, or organising outside caterers.
Keep Everyone Entertained
As the organiser, it’s up to you to make sure everyone is having fun. Fun can’t be conjured up on demand so make sure you provide the elements needed:
Children — need entertaining and supervising. Toddlers can get into a world of trouble at a moment’s notice so maybe consider drawing up a parent rota for supervision duties? The grownups will appreciate their time off duty more if they know someone’s keeping a watchful eye on their little ones.
It’s a good idea to have some kid-specific entertainment, and supervising lively tots is easier if these happen in ‘fun zones’, especially if guest numbers are high. How to cordon off areas? Hire some barriers or fences. They don’t obscure the view of what’s happening, but they help keep everything and everyone in one place. When there are various activities going on at the same time, this also helps prevent items (or people) wandering off or getting lost. Ask for volunteer supervisors for each area to make sure everyone takes turns and plays nice.
Adults — providing food and drink goes without saying, but it’s a good idea to keep it as simple as possible. If you’re hiring outside caterers, arrange delivery times and locations that allow room for error. There’s nothing more stressful than being behind with the food when hungry guests are forming queues. Drinks bars are popular and, like kitchens at a party, are where people congregate. Erect a marquee for big parties or a gazebo for little ones, and have plenty of tables and seating.
Bands and DJs — need somewhere to work/perform. Hire a stage if the budget allows, and have it erected by professional stagers. Stages need to comply with safety regulations, ensuring they’ll withstand the intended use and weight.
Health and Safety
Thinking about the safety aspect before the event will mean you spend less time fretting during the event.
Things to consider include:
- Fire and burn hazards — these range from open flame candles to hot food and spitting barbecue fats. Have a fire extinguisher handy, just in case, and make sure cooking zones are away from lively party/dance/play areas.
- Trip Hazards — guy ropes from tents or power cables running across pathways can spell trouble.
- Toddler dangers — aside from adequate supervision, make sure the venue is as safe as possible. Cover ponds or pools, make sure garages or sheds are locked up tight, fence off entrances and exits so there’s no wandering off, and keep pets under control.
And finally, a bonus tip — an outdoor summer party may well keep your house tidy, but there will be plenty of clearing up to be done after everyone’s gone home. If you can rope in some volunteers to help pick up glasses, stack seats, clear away debris and tidy up the kid’s activity zones, this post-party obligation will go a lot smoother.