Outdoor entertaining is easy when you prepare accordingly with pack-and-go food, the right permissions, and recyclable supplies.

As long as the weather permits, summer parties, cookouts, and family picnics are quintessential this time of the year. While there are endless outdoor entertaining essentials, how can you coordinate such a summertime soirée when it's hosted in a public place like your local park? We recruited Sara Murray, CEO and creative director of Confetti and Co., and asked her to provide professional tips, including details on how to secure a permit (if necessary), the etiquette of deciding who brings what, and how to keep guests cool and the food fresh for serving.

friends gathering in park for party
Credit: franckreporter / Getty Images

First, check with your local council.

The appeal of a public park is in its facilities—there's oftentimes picnic tables and grills, playground equipment for the kids, centralized water fountains and restrooms, open ground and ample shade, not to mention the fresh air and sunshine. Murray recommends contacting the park's operators to ask if you need a permit, reservation, or paid rental rate.

Prepare food for the warm weather.

When invited to a summer party, it's customary that each guest bring something whether it's dining essentials, main dishes, desserts, or drinks. In the planning, coordinate who should bring what (ideally, by an e-invite R.S.V.P. system).

Summertime lends itself to the most delicious picnic recipes. However, dining alfresco also means contending with the heat. So, how can you keep your food at the perfect temperature as well as food safe? To keep food hot, you can use a chafing dish or repurpose a cooler into a portable hot box. To keep food cold, you can use a cooler packed with ice. And if all else fails, Murray offers a catering idea: a food truck. "As for food, we love nothing more than having your favorite local food truck pull up for the party. "This allows the food to be kept hot on the truck and allowing your guests to not have to worry about bringing anything. If you'd like guests to bring along a treat, dessert is the spot!"

Decorate for an open space.

If your perfect picnic spot doesn't include a pavilion or a table and bench, don't worry: "You can lay down amazing Gathre Mats (from $32, gathre.com) that are waterproof and allow for comfortable lounging," says Murray. Asking guests to bring comfy outdoor pillows can add a personalized picnic touch, too.

Aside from seating, create a summer soirée ambience with seasonal flowers. Murray says, "Wrap bunches of fresh flowers in kraft paper for guests to take-home as décor." To keep the pesky picnic busting bugs away, "use citronella candles to keep things glowy and bug-free!"

Make everything easy to pack and clean up.

When choosing plates, cups, and cutlery, recyclable tabletop partyware is best. "We recommend planning to bring easily cleaned up items so that the impact made on the park does not extend beyond your event," says Murray. If you're raising an eco-friendly family, make the post-party cleanup a collective effort; if you're hosting both friends and family, encourage everyone to leave nothing behind but footprints. It's another way to reinforce those values.


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