We have been victims of outdoor get-togethers gone awry plenty of times, but this summer, we vow to host the perfect gathering on the patio or deck — free of incident. Thankfully, we are not left to our own devices to see this through. Local entertaining experts have been kind enough to share their words of wisdom and instruct us on how to throw the bash (or bashes) of the season. Say goodbye to flies, hello to fresh flowers and master your table setting by following the great advice of local caterers, florists, master entertainers, event planners and business owners.

Outdoor Entertaining Tips from Local Experts

#1. Create an interesting table setting.

Entertaining pro: Angie Cook of Hester & Cook

“I often create a table setting using one of our paper runners layered over a linen tablecloth. This allows you to clear away the plates and any mess and still leaves you with a nice table for more of those delicious cocktails. A little greenery from nearby landscaping incorporated into the tabletop is also a nice touch.”

Entertaining pro: Jill Melton of Edible Magazine

“Lighting, lighting lighting. Candles make any table feel and look special. Also, little white lights draped about create a magical atmosphere. And place utensils in jars or baskets at one end of the table and place mason jars of fresh herbs on the tables as well.”

Paper runners are great for outdoor entertaining + more outdoor entertaining tips

Hester & Cook’s paper runners help create a lovely table setting.

#2. Keep the flies away.

Entertaining pros: Ursula Norris and Lee Ann Merrick of Tinwings

“To keep flies away from your picnic, make a solution of one part bleach, two parts water, and spray it on your picnic table or water-resistant tablecloth. Let it dry completely, then enjoy your outdoor entertaining fly-free!”

Learn how to keep the flies away from your summer spread + more outdoor entertaining tips

Keep the flies away from your summer spread with this tip from Lee Ann and Ursula of Tinwings.

#3. Use fresh flowers.

Entertaining pro: Anna Page of  Rebel Hill Florist

“Whether you use them as table decorations or party favors, fresh flowers are a must for outdoor entertaining. There are many seasonal flowers blooming this time of year that perform well outside because the temperature isn’t too hot. For May and June, I recommend peonies, roses, gerbera daisies and coleus foliage — just don’t leave them out in the midday sun while you are setting up for an outside affair! Also, help your guests keep track of their wine glass by using flowers as glass markers. Have a big vase of fresh flowers ready next to wherever you typically serve beverages. As guests arrive, make sure they choose one of the flowers from the vase. Then, simply cut the stem from the flower and use a floral adhesive called UGlu to paste the blossom to the side of their wine glass. Be sure to pick flowers as colorful as your guests, such as daisies, ranunculus and zinnias.”

Entertaining pro: Amos Gott of AmosEvents

“A summer party should be a relaxing and easy-to-plan experience. Float gardenias or peonies in a shallow bowl to create a simple, but fragrant, centerpiece surrounded by battery-operated candles in mercury glass votive cups that will never blow out in the summer breeze.”

Brighten up your party with fresh flowers + more outdoor entertaining tips

No matter the size of your party, fresh flowers can elevate the scene, as Amos Gott of AmosEvents did here. Image: Wild Cotton Photography

#4. Serve up cocktails and water (in practical drinkware).

Entertaining pro: Angie Cook of Hester & Cook

“My signature cocktail is an icy glass of sweet tea with a splash of bourbon and fresh orange juice, garnished with orange slices. Delicious! Don’t forget lids for the pitchers and covered containers for the garnishments. Also, a glassware alternative is a good choice. Our Hester & Cook drinkware comes in several elegant shapes. These also provide weight that won’t easily tip over.”

Entertaining pro: Jill Melton of Edible Magazine

“Water is key. Place pitchers of water embellished with fruits, herbs and veggies for a refreshing and beautiful drink. This keeps everyone hydrated.”

Entertaining pro: Kristen Winston of Kristen Winston Catering

“Start with a refreshing cocktail. Vodka-spiked lavender lemonade and bourbon slush are a couple of summer favorites.”

Setup a bar cart for your next outdoor event + more outdoor entertaining tips

Angie Cook of Hester & Cook always has refreshing cocktails (in practical drinkware) on hand at her events!

#5. Fire up the grill.

Entertaining pro: Amos Gott of AmosEvents

“Typically, the main time consumer of any party is the entrée. And one of the easiest ways to cook is on the grill. The meat department of your grocery typically has beef and chicken kabobs already skewered and waiting for purchase. Just crank up the grill and throw them on, rotating a few times. Couldn’t be easier!” (Read more about Amos’ tips on what to serve here.)

Entertaining pro: Kristen Winston of Kristen Winston Catering

“It is a fun, social and healthy way to cook — another advantage is the minimal cleanup. And, choose side dishes that can be made ahead of time.”

Break out the grill at your next outdoor get together + more outdoor entertaining tips

Using the grill for outdoor gatherings makes for a delicious meal with little hassle! Image: Ashley Hylbert

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