In addition to offering plenty of water and light bites, our experts say having safety protocols in place is essential.

Throwing a pool party is a fun, refreshing way to celebrate summer. And while all a poolside get-together truly requires is, well, a pool, there are a few etiquette rules to follow to ensure you and your guests stay healthy, happy, and safe throughout the day. Ahead, planners share several guidelines to keep in mind when you host your own celebration this season.

Properly invite your guests.

The first rule of thumb? Let guests know about the get-together in an elevated way that goes beyond a text or email. That's where digital invites come in. "We're all glued to our phones 24/7 now, so digital invites are accessible and easy to put together, especially if it's a spur-of-the-moment idea," says DeNeitra Burnett, the creative director and CEO of Savvy Events. "Plus, digital invites are sustainable and can save you money, versus paper invites." Elaine Swann, a lifestyle and etiquette expert and the founder of the Swann School of Protocol, explains that invites are a necessity—and are that much more important if your gathering involves some level of coordination. "If it's going to be a potluck style where you are asking people to bring things to pitch in, then that's where you would share that information and create a means of communication," she says.

Provide the essentials.

Swann explains that pool party hosts are absolutely responsible for providing the following: towels, sunscreen (formulas for both the face and body), and plenty of bottled water. Bug spray is another staple—but try going the extra mile and bug-proofing your yard, instead. "Any time you host a party, you should always set the scene," the etiquette expert shares. "Setting the scene for a pool party comes with making sure you have secured the area so that it is free of bugs." Consider lighting citronella candles or hiring a professional to spray the area before your guests arrive, she notes.

Disposable flip flops and sunglasses, which can double as a party gift, are other thoughtful provisions. Sharmaine Diaz, the owner and lead planner of iHeart The Details Event Design, suggests placing any extra pool party items on a designated table, so attendees can help themselves. "Display travel-sized necessities like sunscreen, hand sanitizer, wipes, and bug spray on cake stands in various heights and colors," Diaz offers, noting that you can add other helpful items (like towels, goggles, sunglasses, or safety floats) to these vignettes, as well. "Finish your table off with an easy-to-create balloon garland and your essentials display has now doubled as 'functional décor.'" 

group of friends socializing by pool
Credit: Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Keep guests hydrated and well fed.

Stocking the party with refreshing foods and drinks is another must-do. Diaz's advice? Keep it simple and serve light bites that come together quickly. "Finger sandwiches are easy to grab and go, and you can never go wrong with a colorful array of fruits and salads to keep the menu cool and refreshing," she says. "Feel free to balance things out with sizzling, hot barbecue from the grill."

When it comes to drinks, Diaz recommends a flavored water station to keep guests hydrated. "Create a water station by displaying a row of clear beverage dispensers," she says. "Give each pitcher a bit of pizazz by adding combinations like mixed berries, watermelon, mint and lime, and orange." Another tip? Avoid using glass and try plastic or acrylic pitchers, containers, and plasticware to avoid any hazards underfoot. In terms of food safety, Burnett prefers serving "individually packaged charcuterie spreads and canned cocktails or single bottles of chilled Prosecco—all of which are always fun party additions, regardless of the times!" According to Swann, however, you aren't required or expected to provide alcohol at your poolside event.

Communicate COVID-19 protocols ahead of time.

"Keep your guest list intimate and practice social distancing as much as possible," Burnett says; it's just as important to notify guests of any restrictions (or a lack thereof) ahead of their arrival. "If everyone has been vaccinated, per CDC guidelines you don't have to put a mask on around your guests. But keep in mind everyone's comfort level is different and some may choose masks regardless."

Establish a pool safety plan.

According to Swann, it is not the host's responsibility to babysit poolside if kids and their parents are in attendance. However, if moms or dads aren't at the pool party (perhaps it's a birthday party for your 10 year old, for example), it's the responsibility of the host to prioritize safety for all children—or have someone present (like a hired lifeguard) to keep a watchful eye on the pool activities. "As the host of any event, it's important for us to take responsibility for our guests," she says. "We should either monitor the situation ourselves or designate an individual to be a monitor or pseudo lifeguard, if you will." (Diaz notes that nonprofessional safety monitors should be CPR certified.) If little ones are invited, Diaz recommends having floaties and an emergency first aid kit readily available. Mats or dry towels will also come in handy in high-traffic areas of your home so kids (and adults, for that matter!) don't slip when transitioning between outdoor and indoor spaces.


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