If the only items on your pool party checklist are food, drinks and sunblock, you might not be ready, say Long Island party planners. They share their hard-won advice on making your event a splash — no matter the weather.
1. Don't start too early
Starting your pool party at midday or early afternoon guarantees intense sun exposure and could mean your guests will be around for a very long time.
“Let people have their days,” says Michael Cerbelli, president and chief executive of Cerbelli Creative in New York, which frequently stages events on Long Island, often for clients in the Hamptons. “Start your party at 5 or 6 o’clock and end it at 11 or 12. It doesn’t have to be a 12-hour event.”
2. Establish party zones
Andrea Correale, owner of Elegant Affairs in Glen Cove and New York, says she likes to establish separate “zones” for serving, eating, lounging and dancing. In planning for a client's pool party, she figures out ahead of time how the sun will affect each zone and whether tents or umbrellas will be required.
“You’re trying to create great flow, and you’re not putting your food or your bar area dead in the sun,” she says. “Stand-up umbrellas and 10-foot-by-10-foot pop-up tents are easy to assemble and can keep everything cool and fresh.”
3. Create a pool-friendly menu
Whether for meals or snacks, Correale says, “don’t feel like you have to do everything ahead of time, and don’t be afraid to tell guests, ‘You bring a fruit platter’ and ‘You bring some wine.’” She recommends stocking an abundance of ice — one pound per person per hour — and dividing your menu into two categories: premade room-temperature sides and food to be cooked poolside. “All you have to do at your party is grill," she says. "It cuts away fuss.”
4. Pick a theme
To give your pool party character and make it memorable, Cerbelli suggests picking a theme and completing it with decorations and branded giveaway items, none of which need break the bank.
“A lot of our summer party clients are having fun with festival themes, bringing in musical acts, giving it that Coachella type of feel,” he says. “And you don’t have to spend $1 million to make it a million-dollar event. Set up a station with simple flower headbands your guests can make themselves, wear on their heads for the night and keep as party favors.”
5. Hire help
Pat James, a partner with Glenn Jacinto in Pat Glenn Productions of Port Jefferson, encourages pool party throwers to outsource. He says he has personally hired certified lifeguards, cabana attendants and, in one particularly memorable case, synchronized swimmers.
“And if it’s in the budget, get a really great DJ,” he adds. “Let the music make the party.”
6. Have a Plan B
Long Island party planners agree that one of the biggest and most common mistakes hosts make is failing to come up with a contingency plan. Bad weather could force you to rent a tent, move the whole affair indoors, or even cancel or reschedule. Better to be prepared, James says.
“You also have to like your backup plan,” he stresses. “Some people like to be optimistic and wing it. But you really do have to have that B plan.”