4th of July Party Planning

flag4th of July, or Independence Day, is a patriotic holiday, exclusive to the United States. Traditionally, it's a day when family and friends gather to celebrate the occasion with a picnic or cookout. Locally, you may find parades, carnivals, sporting events, and fireworks displays for added entertainment around your city.

Your 4th of July party can be an all-day event, a place for friends to hangout in between other activities (an open house), or a big shindig all by itself. Begin planning early and you'll be better prepared. Below are ideas for invitations, decorations, food, and activities to help make your party a smashing success.

Location

The 4th of July is all about spending time outdoors so find an appropriate location, weather permitting. Parks, beaches, campgrounds, and recreational areas fill up quickly and some will not take reservations. Basically, it's first come, first serve, so you may be literally camping out just to save your perfect spot in the park. As always, check in advance.

If you want some privacy, a backyard barbeque or cookout may be your best bet. Of course this means you'll be responsible for maintenance, safety, and more work on your part but the benefits are well worth it. If the weather is iffy, consider renting a cabin, large tent, or using your garage. Not into large crowds? Plan a picnic in a safe area that is well-maintained and sprayed for insects. You can also do a bit of your own pest control.

Invitations

After you decide when and where, you can choose your invitations, which should be sent out at least two weeks in advance. You can find patriotic invites in any party supply store or make your own homemade ones in a cutout fashion of a flag, fireworks, or perhaps Uncle Sam. Glam them up with some glitter and ribbon. Clearly print your party information inside with any alternative location(s) listed in case of bad weather. Use patriotic stickers to seal them and address them neatly.

Decorating Ideas

Besides cooking, decorating will probably be your biggest task. A patriotic theme will do just fine and you can't go wrong with red, white, and blue. Traditional 4th of July decorations are flags, streamers, balloons, and ribbons. Need more ideas to set your party apart from others? You can create a real eye-catching display with a floral wreath, centerpiece, banner, bunting, windsocks, chimes, and an appearance of Uncle Sam. For nighttime extravagance, adorn trees with clear Christmas lights. Clear rope lights work great for windows and railings. (You can also try red and blue lights but they do not shine near as bright as the clear ones.)

Cover tables with tablecloths. Plain white will do but you can add more color with the checkered ones used traditionally for picnics. If you anticipate wind, they will need to be taped down to keep them secure. Regardless, it's a good idea to have some heavy-duty packing tape on hand for things that just won't stay put. Provide colorful tableware (plates, cups, napkins, and plastic forks, spoons, and knives) that will also help your place look patriotic. Put party favors in the middle of the tables that will double as decorations.

Food / Menu

Chances are, you'll be serving and eating outdoors. Besides planning the menu, you should have the appropriate dishes and accommodations to keep the hot food warm and the cold food cold. Having a fridge nearby is ideal but if you're camping or out on a picnic, coolers will be necessary. Utilize plastic bags and paper products as much as possible. Serving dishes, platters, cups, and all tableware should be plastic, which is unbreakable and lighter in weight.

Serving picnic foods is easy because you can prepare the dishes ahead of time and all you will need to be concerned with is keeping them cool. Sandwiches can be your choice or a variety of deli meats, cheeses, and condiments. Serve on bread, or buns. Ham, turkey, tuna, or chicken salads taste great on homemade rolls. Add some salads, chips, dips, pickles and a tasty dessert to complete the meal.

Ready to cook? Fire up the grill and celebrate American style! Ideal foods to cook out are hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, and kabobs. Not everyone prefers BBQ, so leave some sauce off for the kids. If you prefer frying, a chicken or fish fry is a real crowd-pleaser. You can ask close friends and family to bring some side dishes and salads to help out. Have plenty of dip ready for chips, crackers, and veggies.

  • Desserts

Satisfy sweet tooths with desserts that do not need to be refrigerated. Cookies, brownies, bars, and cake are simple to make and transport. If you have the accommodations, ice cream, sherbet, popsicles, pie w/whipped topping, watermelon, and cantaloupe are traditional 4th of July goodies that children love to dig in to. Chocolate lovers can use a grill or campfire to make s'mores. If you like the idea of a chocolate/fruit combo, consider chocolate fondue with strawberries, cherries, bananas, or apples for dipping.

  • Beverages

Cold drinks will keep everyone happy and hydrated. Serve punch, lemonade, iced tea, soda, or a combination. Whether or not to allow alcohol may depend on your ability to keep it away from minors. If this can be done, you can opt for a B.Y.O.B. party or provide beer and beverages for mixed drinks. Remember that a safe Independence Day is most important and not to let anyone drink and drive. It's just not worth it. Be prepared to monitor behavior and cut off drinks if necessary, provide rides, or overnight accommodations.