Lazy summer days are perfect for entertaining friends and family outdoors—there’s not much better than al fresco dinner parties on long, sunlit evenings. Or if your family includes children who need to get out some energy before bedtime, summer days are the perfect opportunity to coat the kids in sunscreen, hand them popsicles and plenty of water, and send ‘em outside.

The caveat here is that outdoor entertaining is really fun only if you’re prepared with the right stuff to make sure everyone has a ball while staying cool, comfortable, and bug bite-free.

Ready to learn more about the must-dos for entertaining in the great outdoors? Check out our list below!

4 Must-Dos for Entertaining Outside

Tan shade sail positioned over patio dining set in fenced backyard

1. Plan for shade.

A little sun is wonderful, especially after a long, dreary winter. But make sure to provide some shade for your guests (and any furry family members, too).

Patio umbrellas are a simple solution. Look for a shade sail if your style leans more toward modern and contemporary than traditional. If your outdoor living space is particularly large, a couple of adjustable (and portable) shade umbrellas will probably be your best bet. That way, visitors who want to stay out of direct sunlight can move the shade with them through the day.

Remember that design and function don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Look for patio umbrellas and shade solutions with built-in lighting for ambience as the sun goes down.

Two lavender plants in blue pots on wooden deck

2. Deter the bugs.

Very little ruins an outdoor gathering as quickly as a swarm of mosquitoes, gnats, or flies. Keeping a bottle or two of bug spray on hand is always a good idea, but there are plenty of other ways to discourage bugs from joining your party.

Don’t let standing water stick around. Standing water—whether it’s in empty flower pots, water features, playground equipment, or somewhere else entirely—is a magnet for mosquitoes. Before guests arrive, do a thorough sweep of your outdoor space for any spots where water might have pooled.

Light citronella candles or tiki torches around the perimeter of your outdoor space. These won’t necessarily prevent all mosquitoes and other bugs from entering your space, but they will provide some relief, especially in the approximately six-foot radius around the torch. Always keep a close eye on kids and pets around open flames.

Use plants strategically. Lavender, mint, rosemary, marigolds, and chrysanthemums are all fantastic, easy-to-grow container plants that mosquitoes and bugs don’t love.

Close-up of blue and white bean bag toss game with purple beanbags

3. Have games at the ready.

You know your guests and their idea of fun the best, but it’s always nice to have plenty of options for activities to keep everyone engaged and enjoying themselves.

Bubble wands and sidewalk chalk are always a hit with the younger crowd; look for lawn games like bocce ball, bean bag toss, and horseshoes for older kids and adults. If you’ve asked your guests to bring swimsuits, water balloons and lawn sprinklers are summertime classics.

Brightly upholstered patio furniture on wooden deck

4. Make comfort a priority.

You’d make sure you have plenty of chairs for an indoor dinner party, right? Well, an outdoor gathering is no different! Have ample seating and small tables arranged around your patio so guests can move around and set down drinks or plates as necessary.

If you’ve avoided upholstered patio furniture out of concern for durability, you’ll be pleased to know that fabric technology has evolved significantly. Most outdoor fabrics on the market today resist damage from moisture and sunlight, and they’re easy to clean. It is best practice to cover or bring inside any upholstered furniture or cushions if rain or storms are in the forecast.

Party 'Til Sundown (and Beyond)!

Party preparation can be a little nerve-wracking, but the great thing about summer get-togethers is that the inside of your house doesn’t need to be spotless. Everyone will be outside! Make your life easier by planning ahead and making lists. Follow our recommendations above to ensure everyone stays comfortable and has fun until (and after!) the sun finally dips below the horizon.

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