OK, so you want your July 4thÂ picnic or BBQ to be a raving success. The question is, how do you make that happen, without overwhelm?
To make it simple, focus on three things: Guests, Setting, and Food. In that order. Now, this advice flies in the face of what the pretty, glossy magazines say. They tell you itâ€™s all about the food, the drinks, and the red, white, and blue decorations (and theyâ€™ve got the beautiful pictures to prove it).
Forget all that! Thereâ€™s more to a 4th of July picnic than Instagram shares. Read on to discover how to have your cake (and eat it too).
Keep this at the forefront of your planning: people make the party. Great guests = great party. So, aim high for your 4th of July BBQ. Start with a list of your favorite people who live reasonably close. Then add others whose company you enjoy. Finally, write down the people you â€œhaveâ€ to invite (relatives?).
Now that you have a list, figure out how many people you can reasonably support. Then pare the list down (or add to it). What you want, ultimately, is the right mix of guests. You want people who mingle well with others. You want fun, pleasant people. You want people good at small talk.
Thatâ€™s not to say you canâ€™t invite outliers. You can. But aim for balance: two high-energy guests for every wallflower, one teetotaler for every boozer, two comedians for every Debbie Downer, etc. The guest list for a July 4th picnic is like planning the seating chart at a wedding — everyone at the table should interact.
Be sure to ask your guests for help: setting up, serving, and cleaning up. Theyâ€™ll appreciate it. Why? Because a) they like help when they host a party and b) theyâ€™ll miss you if you spend the whole day slaving over the grill. When you drop the Martha Stewart do-everything act, youâ€™re less stressed and more attentive to your guests. And yes â€“ ask any kiddos present too. At that age, they love pitching in and feeling needed. You can try asking the teenagers present, but they wonâ€™t understand the request without an interpreter.
You canâ€™t go wrong with standard July 4th BBQ food — burgers and franks. Done right, grilling accentuates flavor, making everything taste more delicious. However, the food served should really comport with your guest list. Find out what they like beforehand. Or tell them what youâ€™ll be serving and gauge their reaction. If they politely offer to bring their own, you need to revise the menu!
You can mix up the 4th of July picnic or BBQ by assigning a theme to the food. The advantage is that when a guest asks what he or she can bring, you wonâ€™t have to think very hard. Food themes make July 4th events a little more sophisticatedâ€¦ more like a three-course restaurant meal than a wild, all-you-can-eat, international buffet.
Chances are youâ€™re hosting the July 4th festivities at home. That means making the place look nice (decorations included). What you wonâ€™t need to do is go white-glove crazy, if youâ€™ve perfected the guest list. Thatâ€™s because the guests will be too busy enjoying themselves and helping you to fixate on imperfections. Besides, every host gets a little self-conscious about cleanlinessâ€¦ you just need to let it go!
As far as seating, provide enough but not too much. Thereâ€™s a ratio of seats to guests that keeps the energy of a 4th of July BBQ high. Socializing is harder if guests are encouraged (even subtly) to sit. At a picnic, stand up once the main meal is over. Others will follow and naps will be thwarted.
If you donâ€™t have the yard space to host a 4th of July BBQ or picnic, head over to a local park. Find out the process beforehand; you might need a permit. Plan on getting there early, permit or not, to nab your spot. In most parks, alcohol is strictly prohibited.
Today, with social media and smartphones, thereâ€™s intense pressure to up your hosting game. In response, well-intentioned hosts have shifted their focus from the guest list to food and dÃ©cor. This is silly! Instead, plan your 4th of July BBQ or picnic with people first, and the other two will take care of themselves.