16 Things Southerners Should Do Before Hosting Outdoors

Whether preparing for a laid-back backyard barbecue or sit down dinner party, there are a few essential to-do’s before guests arrive when entertaining outdoors, especially in the spring and summer. And when hosting al fresco, it’s still a good idea to give the main living areas inside a quick tidying—especially any spaces guests might pass on the way to the bathroom. From trying to outsmart the heat or keeping warm in cool temps to fending off mosquitoes and pollen, here are 16 things a Southerner should always do before hosting an outdoor party.

Dust Off The Pollen 

If you live in the South, or even just visited in springtime for that matter, you’re likely all too familiar with the yellow coating that covers everything as soon as colorful blooms start to peak through the ground. While any outdoor surface needs a good wipe down before inviting guests over, cleaning pollen off a screened porch or furniture is a whole other matter.

Gather the Citronella Candles

As temperatures warm up, you’ll want to be ready to fend off those pesky insects. The last thing you want is your guests to end up covered in bug bites. Stock up on citronella candles, incense sticks, or bug repellant. And if you plan ahead a little, you can even surround your patio with plants that repel mosquitoes. Fans can also help keep the bugs at bay.

Provide Shade

While you should always have a backup plan when throwing an outdoor gathering, it’s especially important to have a way to escape the sun whether it’s the shade of trees, a covered porch, or a patio umbrella. It’s also a good idea to be ready for an unexpected summer shower.

Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Page Mullins

Break Out the Food Covers

At any outdoor event in the South, it can be hard to keep those pesky flies and bugs away from the food. Rather than burning a Sterno gel or constantly swatting away the pests from trays of watermelon to potato salad, keep the critters away from prepared dishes with a practical and pretty food cover.

Prep the Beverage Tub 

Outdoor parties mean it’s time to pull out (or borrow) a beverage tub and load it up with cold drinks. A big punch bowl can also work. Especially in the summer when the heat and humidity are at their peak it’s important to stay hydrated. An outdoor drink station also helps keep guests from repeatedly going inside to the fridge.

Check the Grill

If you’re hosting a backyard cookout, don’t be caught with a grill that needs cleaning (or worse is hiding a wasp nest) when it comes time to throw burgers on the grill. Plan ahead to test out and clean your grill equipment before guests arrive. Is the propane tank full? Do you need more charcoal?

Hector Manuel Sanchez; produced by Mark Thompson

Refresh Your Container Gardens

Just as you might find a beautiful floral centerpiece on a dining table for a dinner party, container gardens convey the same idea and add a polished look to any porch or patio. A full and colorful pot shows attention to detail and adds a lively touch.

Mix Up a Batch Cocktail

Don’t let the perfect cocktail be one more thing to fret over. A thoughtfully crafted batch cocktail is still up to Mama’s standards. From signature drinks to non-alcoholic punches, you can turn almost any beverage recipe into a batch cocktail in a drink dispenser or pitcher. Use ingredients from the recipe for a tray of garnishes.

Prune Your Plants

Giving your plants a haircut will not only have them looking their best for company, but also help your blooms prosper resulting in more flowers. Clean up any scraggly looking bushes or border plants and deadhead container gardens to ensure your outdoor space is looking its finest. A freshly mowed lawn, trimmed foliage, and happy plants are sure to impress.

Go Overboard With Ice

Always, ALWAYS have extra ice—especially for entertaining outdoors when it’s prone to melt quicker. And not just for keeping cans and bottled beverages cold, be sure to also stock a cooler with bags of clean ice for mixed drinks.

Carmel Brantley; Styling: Page Mullins

Fill Your Vases 

Whether it’s yard clippings or a grocery store bouquet, something fresh and colorful on a serving station or outdoor bar set up makes all the difference. You don’t need an over-the-top arrangement. Keep it simple and lean into the season and natural surroundings with florals and decor.

Consider Your Menu 

Serving dishes that can be enjoyed at room temperature is always a safe method. If something you’re planning to serve should be enjoyed warm or cold, take the elements into consideration (keep the icebox pie in the cooler or don’t put the cheese out too early so it’s not sweating) and ease of access to your oven or fridge. If entertaining outdoors in the cooler months and serving hot dishes, consider warming plates and lids to help the food retain its temperature as the party goes one.

Stock the Bathroom 

Even though the primary festivities are outside, make sure your powder room is in shipshape. Break out your fancy soaps. fresh monogrammed linens, and maybe at a little bud vase with a stem or two.

Create Easy Access to Essentials

From serveware and extra cups to prepared cold dishes and condiments, gather all your party essentials together and put them in an easy access location. If you have a secondary fridge, like in the basement, consider putting the food you’re planning to serve all together in one place so nothing gets forgotten about.


Have Plenty of Seating 

Even if you send out invitations ahead of time and know who will be walking through the door, it’s always important to be prepared for an unexpected guest (or two), especially if it’s a seated affair. Pull out a few extra chairs or benches to ensure visitors have a place to sit and enjoy themselves.

Replenish the Woodpile

If you’re planning to have a bonfire at your outdoor shindig, the last thing you want to happen is running out of wood, especially if guests are relying on gathering around the fire pit for warmth. Having an extra stash of wood tucked away is always a good idea.

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