This came up in a discussion, recently. Here's the scenario, you've got company coming, let's say for some outdoor entertaining, for dinner at 6:00. Do you wait till guests arrive to "get the party started" so to speak, or do you have the stage set, already?
I'm in the second camp. If I know my guests are arriving at 6, I try to have everything assembled, organized, and ready to go (in a perfect world) by 5:30. I want to be outside, relaxed, with the music playing, tiki torches and lanterns lit, drink in hand, maybe already nibbling on some chips or nuts. I feel like it's less awkward for them to walk in, there's no waiting around for things to happen. They walk right into the yard, right into cold drinks, snacks, and the rumor of good food coming. When they arrive, after settling in with a drink and chatting awhile, then I start bringing out the appetizers or first course, or just more chips or whatever depending on the nature of the gathering. Sure, it's a little self serving, but I like to feel relaxed and a little unwound before people start showing up.
The person I was talking to feels like that's rude, and that my guests maybe feel like they've arrived "late" because I've already started on my first beer, and the party's going already with or without them, and that everything should start when the company comes, like "oh, you're here now, let's put on the tunes, and have something to eat." That I should wait till guests arrive to put anything out, and wait to start in on everything.
So, SE folks, what's your style? What's the etiquette? What's your mentality? This doesn't necessarily apply to just barbecuing, although it was the topic of discussion. Start your party a little early, or wait till they arrive?