Over the course of this week, I’ll be showing you how I prepare for a Memorial Day party. Right now, I’m purely in the planning stages – figuring out what I’m going to serve and how I’m going to decorate. Come back throughout the week for more tips, and find out how well my plan is working out!
Whenever I throw a party, the first thing I think about is what I am celebrating – and why. Of course, Memorial Day is no different!
Originally called Decoration Day, it’s a time to commemorate the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country. Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of the summer. The weather is hopefully starting to warm up on this three-day weekend. Woohoo!
Memorial Day creates the perfect opportunity to get your house into shape, spend time with friends and family, and enjoy great food. I believe these are the ingredients of a great party! For this holiday, I’m putting together a celebration that’s low-key and intimate. Here are some ideas:
Make the guest list
This seems intuitive, but start with the guest list. How many people do you plan on inviting? Are you planning on inviting kids? Adults only? Both family and friends? Make sure that the number of guests will fit your space to avoid overcrowding.
Your house, both inside and out, can serve as a location for a low-key Memorial Day celebration, though it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan for those of us who live in rainy areas.
Appetizers: guacamole, salsa, chips, veggie platter
Main Dish: barbecued chicken
Sides*: potato salad, green salad
Dessert*: blueberry pie, chocolate cakes, and cookies
*Note: Sides and desserts are great for guests to bring.
Who will bring what food? How much food should they bring? I have four kids and at this stage of life, a potluck-style party is the easiest way to go. I love to cook and plan meals, but to have my house clean, decorated, and have food for 30 guests while maintaining my sanity is too much. In my past life, I would have tried but NOT ANY MORE. So I outsource. And to be honest, people are more than happy to help. They feel like they are part of the preparations.
Here’s what I do: If I am hosting, I provide the main dish. For this Memorial Day gathering, I’ll take care of the barbecue and also add a big side dish, most likely my favorite potato salad or baked bean dish. Then my friends can bring the other sides and desserts.
The same goes with drinks. I will choose a couple of non-alcoholic drinks plus a signature drink to serve. Iced tea and lemonade are great choices for summer while a margarita is a fun cocktail to mix for my guests. Friends can then BYOB other adult beverages.
This has become a standard practice among my group of friends, which is really helpful. It makes throwing a party more affordable, and we’re more likely to invite each other over and over. You get the idea.
Bottom line: having a potluck-style party is more cost-effective and doesn’t feel like you’re throwing a mini-wedding every time you host an event.
Now, for the fun part: Decorations!
In my former, pre-children life, I would stay up many nights to handcraft complicated decorations. These days, I still want to create a fun, inviting, put-together bash, but in quick and cost-effective ways. Sound crazy? It’s not.
Look for multi-purpose decorations and make sure that they coincide with the kind of party you’re having. For Memorial Day party decorations, a color theme of red, white, and blue is the best way to go. Flowers can also transform your space so make use of them. If you plan on decorating the yard with geraniums or other seasonal flowers, coordinate those with your overall motif.
The items on your buffet table also double as party decor. Cake stands and beverage dispensers add height to the table, while the food, napkins, ribbons and flowers add texture.
Enjoy the party with activities!
Here are the activities I’m planning:
- corn hole
If you don’t have any old fashioned games, ask around! As with the food, most of your friends will be happy to lend a hand to make the celebration entertaining and fun.
And if you have a bit of land like I do, you can build a bonfire (a small fire pit works just as well) and make s’mores. We do this whenever the festivities run late so I always have supplies on hand.
These are just the planning stages of our Memorial Day celebration. Watch out for the next post to create your low-key party, and feel free to leave notes on what you and your friends do for Memorial Day parties!by