16 Mistakes To Avoid When Hosting Your Own Ice Cream Social

Are you starting to plan an ice cream social? You might be doing so as a way to show appreciation for your co-workers, celebrate the accomplishments of a children's sports team, or simply gather with friends and family to socialize on a nice day. Regardless of the reason you decided to celebrate with an ice cream social, there is probably a lot on your mind as you try to get ready for the event.

While an ice cream social may not be as complicated to pull off as some other types of gatherings, that doesn't mean that you don't want to put some time, effort, and thought into your event. There are several common mistakes that people make when hosting an ice cream social. If you make one of these errors, you could end up with disappointed guests, melty ice cream, an overall underwhelming event, or worse. Be prepared. Don't let yourself fall victim to one of the ice cream social mistakes below.

1. Not planning the event enough in advance

Don't leave planning your ice cream social until the last minute. There are just too many variables and things that could go wrong if you don't leave yourself enough time to thoroughly plan out your event. Consider all of the different aspects of hosting the gathering that you want to make sure go smoothly: inviting guests, choosing and purchasing decor, buying all the bowls and serving supplies you'll need, planning out the ice cream flavors and toppings you'll need, and so much more.

If you leave this all to the last minute, you're going to be stressed trying to get everything organized. Moreover, there is going to be a greater chance that something will go wrong. For example, the decorations you want may be unavailable, the grocery store may be sold out of bowls, or several guests that you want to invite may not be able to attend because of conflicts in their schedules. 

Start planning your event from the day you decide to host it. Create a list of everything that needs to be done and give yourself due dates to make sure you stay on top of your list. In the week or so leading up to the event, you'll actually be able to breathe, rather than running around, trying to get everything done.

2. Not having enough ice cream

Perhaps the biggest cardinal sin you could make when hosting an ice cream social would be not having enough ice cream for all the guests. After all, what's an ice cream social if some of your friends don't get to enjoy the cold and delicious bowl of ice cream that they were promised? This is another reason to make sure that you start planning your event enough ahead of time, so that you'll know how many guests you'll have coming and can make sure to purchase enough ice cream.

Determining the right amount of ice cream to serve your guests can be tricky. Each gallon of ice usually offers 16 servings of 1 cup each. While this may seem like enough, some people can be heavy-handed when serving their ice cream, so you'll want to account for each person taking a little extra. Plan to have about one gallon of ice cream for every 10 people at your event, and you should be fine. It's better to have a little extra ice cream left over after the event, rather than run out before everyone's been served.

3. Not offering dairy-free alternatives

Unless you are completely certain that all of your guests can eat dairy and will be happy doing so, it is always a good idea to have some dairy-free alternatives available at your ice cream social. The good news is that there are a lot of dairy-free options now — several more than you would have been able to find a few years ago. Look out for ice creams made with oat milk, cashew milk, or almond milk. These will be able to more closely mimic the taste and texture of traditional ice cream and can still be paired nicely with the different sauces and toppings that you offer.

Another option would be to purchase some sorbet. While it may not offer quite the creamy texture of ice cream, your guests might enjoy its fruity and refreshing taste. Of course, you don't have to limit yourself to just one dairy-free option. Just as you may be offering a few different ice cream flavors, you could pick up two or three dairy-free options to make sure everyone can find something they'll enjoy.

4. Lacking temperature-controlled storage

Ice cream won't stay ice cream if it isn't stored in the freezer. While you don't want to wait until the last minute and purchase your ice cream right before your ice cream social is scheduled, you also don't want to buy several gallons of ice cream only to realize that you don't have space in the freezer for them. Finding a way to store so much ice cream may take some creative thinking. If you're hosting an ice cream party at your home, you can check with your neighbors to see if they have space for one or two gallons in their freezer. If the event will be at your office, you'll want to assess the available freezer space and consider talking to coworkers about removing some of their items a week or so before the event is scheduled.

There are also some special considerations you'll need to make for the day of the actual event, as well. Think about where the ice cream social is taking place and how close or far it is from the freezer where the ice cream is being stored. Unless it's in very close proximity, you'll want to be ready with some coolers and ice to keep the ice cream cold until you're ready to set it out for people to enjoy.

5. Not being prepared with scoops and other serving pieces

When planning for an ice cream social or another similar event, one thing that often gets overlooked is serving utensils. Many people only think about the bowls and spoons that their guests will need to eat the ice cream, but don't think about what they'll need to actually serve the ice cream and any toppings they'll be offering.

While you could make do using plastic spoons to serve toppings, a plastic spoon is going to be practically useless for scooping frozen ice cream out of the carton. Don't forget those ice cream scoops! You'll also want to bring more than one ice cream scoop. Make sure you have at least one scoop for each ice cream flavor you plan on offering to keep things moving. Even if you're only offering one flavor of ice cream, having multiple gallons open and available to scoop from will help move everyone through the line more quickly and allow them to get their ice cream ready to eat. Here's yet another reason to plan ahead: it will leave you plenty of time to purchase or borrow enough ice cream scoops for your event.

6. Forgetting to offer a variety of ice cream flavors

If you want to differentiate your event from other ice cream socials, one key thing to do is to offer several ice cream flavors. Many ice cream social hosts only buy vanilla — and maybe chocolate — ice cream for their parties. While these are both classic flavors, they can also get kind of boring.

One of the appeals of attending an ice cream social as a guest is the ability to try new flavors and topping combinations. It's an opportunity to try things you don't have on hand in your own freezer and pantry. If you only offer one or two flavors of ice cream, you're robbing them of this exciting opportunity. Consider choosing a few less traditional ice cream flavors, such as coffee, pistachio, peanut butter, cookies and cream, or mint chocolate chip for your ice cream social. However, you'll still want to make sure that you have chocolate and vanilla for your less adventurous guests or those who try a new flavor and decide that they don't really like it.

7. Not having enough topping and sauce options

The ice cream may be the star of the show at your ice cream social, but what good is a star without its co-stars? In the case of an ice cream social, the toppings and sauces will be the co-stars, and you want them to shine bright right along with the main attraction. Don't skimp when it comes to the different types of toppings and sauces you'll offer.

When choosing your toppings, you've got to include classic rainbow and chocolate sprinkles, whipped cream, and maraschino cherries. But, don't fail to include more varieties with options such as M&M's, crushed Oreos, marshmallows, crushed pretzels, Reese's Pieces, and fresh fruit. As for the sauces, hot fudge is a must. But you should also look for caramel, strawberry, and raspberry toppings. With all of these different options, your guests will be able to experiment to their heart's content, with a nearly endless number of combinations.

8. Using a table that's too small

Now that your menu is starting to come together, you need to start thinking about how you plan to serve everything to your guests. You will need a large table — or, more likely, several large tables — to hold all of the ice cream, toppings, and sauces. Think about the space where you're hosting the ice cream social and decide how you'll lay out the tables. Then, make sure that what you have planned will fit on the available table space.

Depending on how the space is set up, and the different options you plan on offering, there are a few different ways you could consider laying out the tables. You could make one table hold all the different ice cream flavors and a separate table hold all the various toppings and sauces. If you're hosting a large group, however, it may help move things along better if you have several ice cream stations, each with some different ice cream flavor, topping, and sauce options. You can label each table with the available ice cream flavors, and guests can head to the one that has what they want.

9. Offering too many different choices

At this point, you may feel a little confused. Weren't we just telling you to offer several different options for the guests at your ice cream social? Now we're telling you to avoid offering too many different choices. Believe it or not, the two are not mutually exclusive. You need to strike the right balance of variety, without overwhelming your guests with too many options.

Moreover, if you purchase nearly every ice cream, sauce, and topping available, you're going to run into several potential problems. One of these will be running out of space. Remember, the table you're using will only hold so much. Even with multiple tables, the space in the room is not going to be unlimited. Plus, with so many different options, you're likely going to be left with too many different leftovers. These can be difficult to store or use up before they go bad.

10. Hosting the event outside on hot day

You're probably going to end up regretting it if you host your ice cream social outside on a hot and steamy summer afternoon. The sweltering temperatures will make quick work of turning your ice cream into a mushy and runny mess that will be difficult to scoop, harder to eat, and less enjoyable for your guests. Also, your guests are still likely to be hot and uncomfortable standing around outside.

The outdoors can be the ideal setting for an ice cream social if the weather cooperates, however. You might still want to plan for an outdoor event, but you'll need to make sure you have a backup plan in case the weather is not ideal on the day of the event. If you're hosting an event at the office, check to see if one or more of the meeting or conference rooms will be available. If you're hosting at your own home, see if you'll have enough space inside for all of your guests. If not, you might want to consider rescheduling your ice cream social. 

11. Serving ice cream instead of making it a buffet

There are several reasons to set your ice cream social up as a buffet where guests can serve themselves. First, it will allow you to socialize with your guests. It will also make sure that you're able to get some ice cream too. You don't want to put in all the time and effort that it takes to plan an ice cream social without being able to enjoy yourself on the day of the event.

Another benefit of letting everyone serve themselves is that they can control how little — or how much — ice cream they take. Guests who might want a smaller serving can scoop out just what they want. Similarly, those who may be looking for a big bowl can give themselves a few extra scoops without feeling like they're getting judged. 

Similarly, each guest can also customize the toppings that they add to their ice cream. Some may only want a small scoop of something like M&M's, while others may prefer a mixture of various toppings. If you're serving, you're not going to know which option each guest prefers.

12. Not decorating for the event

No event is complete without decorations — at least not any exceptionally enjoyable or memorable one. When you're planning for your ice cream social, don't forget to think about the types of decorations to use. One of the first things to do is to decide on a general theme for the event. The theme could be related to the guests of the event — for example, the company you work for or a children's sports team. On the other hand, it could be something more generic and fun to get your guests even more excited about their ice cream.

If you don't want to tie the theme to the specific group the event is for, consider making ice cream your theme. Find large ice cream cone decorations and colorful events to portray fun and excitement. Other theme ideas could center around summer fun or tropical islands — such as a Hawaiian luau — since ice cream is something best enjoyed on a warm day.

13. Not providing games or entertainment

It doesn't matter whether your guests are first-graders or corporate bosses: it's always a good idea to include a few games to help everyone loosen up and have a good time. Of course, the specific types of games you choose will vary based on your guest list. If you'll be outside, consider setting up a few cornhole stations, giant tic-tac-toe with bean bags, or some fun sack races. If you'll be inside, a fun game of bingo or charades could help everyone have a great time.

Depending on your event and how long it will run, you could also consider hiring a DJ or a local artist to play a few songs. Your guests will enjoy the background music as they eat their ice cream and socialize with their friends or co-workers. Everyone is certain to ask you when you'll be hosting the next ice cream social as they leave.

14. Not enlisting help

Let's face it, hosting any event, large or small, is challenging. There are a lot of moving pieces and many different things to stay on top of. If at all possible, try to enlist some helpers to make sure everything goes smoothly. This will prevent you from getting completely burned out as you plan your ice cream social.

With a team of ice cream social planners, you'll be able to divide and conquer. You can all work on the to-do list with everything you'll need and then split it up into manageable pieces for each person to work on. Be sure to schedule a few check-ins so everyone can see how the event is coming together and share new ideas to make it even better. These check-ins can also help identify any potential problems that have arisen so that everyone can brainstorm solutions to overcome them together.

15. Not being prepared to clean up

The aftermath of hosting an ice cream social can be quite overwhelming: sticky messes from the ice cream dripping out of the sides of containers, scattered sprinkles and other toppings, gooey chocolate or caramel sauce all over the tables, and abandoned bowls or spoons placed all around. There are a few things you can do in advance to make clean-up easier. 

First, lay plastic tablecloths on all of the tables, especially those where the ice cream and toppings will be served. This way, you can simply pull up the tablecloth and throw it, along with sticky messes covering it, in the trash can.

If you're going to be outside, away from a water source, prepare a bucket with some soapy water and a sponge before the event starts. This will make it much easier to clean up messes on the tables or chairs. You'll also want to make sure that you're prepared with plenty of trash bags and paper towels. Don't forget some moist towelettes for all of the attendees. They'll appreciate being able to wipe off their hands before leaving the event.

16. Not considering an ice cream caterer

If the prospect of hosting an ice cream social is simply too much, you can hire a professional to help make your event a success. Different companies offer ice cream catering services and can basically bring the full ice cream social to you. All you'd need to do is worry about the guest list and decorations, then on the day of the event, you can kick back with your guests, enjoy your bowl of ice cream, and know that everything else is taken care of.

Check with each catering company to learn more about the different packages or flavor options they offer. Some may offer a wider selection of flavors or different packages based on the number of guests, so you'll want to shop around until you find the right fit for your event. Hiring a caterer won't be the right choice for every ice cream social, but if you have a lot going on, or want to remove some of the variables that could interfere with a specific party, it might be the best fit for your needs.