How To Host The Ultimate Memorial Day Party

Memorial Day is a day to honor the men and women who lost their lives in war as well as honor those who currently serve our great nation. For many, Memorial Day is also the official start of summer, even though the actual summer solstice won’t take place until June 21, 2015.  For kids, it’s the last holiday of the school year and a signal that there are just a few more days of school.

And if you’re like many Americans, Memorial Day is the best holiday to officially fire up the grill, uncover the pool and throw the first party to welcome summer.  Even though it’s a few days away, it’s never too late to start your planning.  Here are memorial day party ideas so you and your friends and family all have a great holiday celebration. 

Memorial Day Celebration ideas

How To Host The Ultimate Memorial Day Party - American Flag
Before you go hog wild at Costco or rent a frozen margarita machine that’s meant for a small army, plan your guest list.  Make sure you have enough space to where everyone will find a comfortable seat (especially if it rains suddenly and the party moves inside).

Set your budget.  This is an important thing to do, considering that once you hit the store, it’s easy to go overboard on chips, salsa, dips and beer to where you end up spending way too much money even before you hit the party store for decorations.  If you’re doing all the food planning, make a list of everything you plan to serve and stick to your list when you shop.

Send out your invite list as soon as possible and set an actual RSVP date so you can plan your trip to the grocery store or call a caterer with your headcount.  I’ve made the mistake of assuming people were coming over for barbecue and bought 15 pounds of meat for seven people who actually showed up.  Unless you have lots of extra freezer space, hungry teenagers or an office who loves leftovers, I’ve learned to buy supplies based on the number of confirmed guests.  Now that everyone’s on Facebook, you can easily do your inviting online, track your responses and message those who don’t respond in time.

Once you get your headcount, finalize your list before you head out and shop for both food and supplies.

Memorial Day Party Decorations

When you want to throw a memorable party, your memorial day celebration ideas need to include having some decorations on hand.  Since Memorial Day is a unique American holiday, try finding the best red and white blue supplies to remind everyone of the day’s significance.  Costco is great for party supplies if you plan to host an actual army of folks; but most party stores carry brightly colored napkins, plates, and cups, which allow you to serve food in decorative style.

Other decorations to consider as memorial day party ideas or your memorial day celebration ideas include hanging the American flag, hanging lights, tiki torches, floating candles, and paper lanterns. If you have many tables set up for entertaining, I also like to get fresh cut flowers and put them in vases as a centerpiece.  This time of year, it’s easy (and inexpensive) to get a couple of dozen daises and put them in red, white and blue vases to match the Memorial Day theme.

Memorial Day Party Food

For the ultimate Memorial Day party ideas, my suggestion is to go simple on the food and plan a menu that allows you to enjoy the party as much as your guests.  I’ve hosted many gatherings over the years and my favorite place to pull together my food items is still Costco!  And if you live in an area where there is one, Wegmans offers a lot of great items, which you can also order online!  I always stick to the basics:  burgers, hot dogs, coleslaw, baked beans and potato salad.  Depending on how busy my family gets before the event, we’ll sometimes dig out my mom’s recipe for potato salad and spend the day before making a big batch of old fashioned southern salad.  However, now that I have kids who think I’m a chauffeur to all their sporting events, time is often hard to come by, so this is why I’m all about stress-free planning when it comes to outdoor parties!

How To Host The Ultimate Memorial Day Party - Grilling

What I do to give the food a personal touch is I’ll often get burgers and season them with either a barbecue rub, coffee mixture or a bit of crushed peppercorns.  The same with potato salad—I like to add a paprika topping to what I get at the store to give it an extra flavor.  This justifies my saying, “I made all of this” to my party guests when they asked who pulled together all the delicious food.

If you’re truly strapped for time, remember that there’s always crowd pleasers such as fried chicken—which means a quick trip to Popeyes or KFC and you can have an instant party in under an hour!

Remember to check if any of your guests are vegetarian. I made the mistake once of thinking everyone coming to my party enjoyed a good burger.  Now I know to include a few items like veggie spring rolls, a summer salad with quinoa, and grilled vegetables as options to make sure everyone has something good to eat.

For desserts, I usually get a few watermelons to have on hand.  I also recommend small items like cookies, little brownies or a large supply of popsicles for the kids.  However, my favorite party dessert to serve on Memorial Day is still apple pie with vanilla ice cream—you can’t go wrong with apple pie!

Memorial Day Party Drinks

Admittedly, beer is my drink of choice on Memorial Day.  Nothing like the flavor of a hearty beer to match a tasty burger.  However, not everyone enjoys a good beer, so I also offer up both red and white wine to get the party started!

One of the best things I like to serve—thanks to the Tasting Room in downtown Frederick—is homemade sangria.  It’s easy to make and people drink that stuff like water!  All you need is some cheap red wine, fresh cut fruit and some mixers and you have a delicious drink that all the adults can enjoy.  You can find many sangria recipes out there!  For kids, I usually get some sodas and juice boxes.

Memorial Day Party Kid Fun

Unless you enjoy seeing a bunch of kids in your basement playing video games or watching movies, I suggest having some outdoor events to keep the little ones occupied.  If you have a large enough space, set up a net for volleyball or badminton.  If you have time, you can set up a Memorial Day craft table and have the kids make placemats, drawings or anything else creative that keeps them occupied and outside where the party takes place.  You’d be amazed how long some chalk, crayons and flip-chart paper will hold someone’s attention span—especially if you make the activities a contest with prizes!

Memorial Day Party Music

If you want to throw a truly awesome party that people will remember, make sure you have a huge playlist of songs to keep people entertained.  Thanks to apps like Pandora or the music channels on Comcast, you can just find a station and leave it on for hours on end.  However, what I have learned is that people prefer a mix of songs, so my suggestion is to create your own playlist that has a good mix of country, pop, dance, hip hop, and classic rock and roll to get everyone moving.  The only things I wouldn’t include would be jazz, classical or easy listening as you want people to remain lively during your party.

How To Host The Ultimate Memorial Day Party - Party

However, one way to create a natural ending to your party is to have a list of slow songs that you play when you’re ready to call it a night.  I have a list of about ten songs that let’s people know things are slowing down and that it’s time to head for home; in fact, I think “Closing Time” by Semisonic is still the best way to shut things down as the words are an obvious message that the party’s over and it’s time to go home!

Got Your Own Memorial Day Party Ideas?

If you have your own ideas about throwing the ultimate Memorial Day party, share them below in our comments section!

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