8 simple steps to planning a 4th of July party

The 4th of July is right around the corner, and entertaining can be really fun and easy if you keep it simple and you have a plan! As I’ve reminded my readers for years at RE, learn to “KISS” and everything will flow nice and smooth. You’ll be a happier hostess, too.

KISS = Keep It Simple, Sister!

I remind myself of this when I try to do too much, or try to do it all. I learned years ago that delegation is the KEY.

Here are 8 steps that will help you plan your next outdoor party:

1. Decide how you want to serve your guests. Sit-down dinner, buffet style, or fill your plate at the grill?

2. Think about the seating. Folding tables, mixed-matched tablecloths and chairs work just fine!

3. Plan out the menu. Use a piece of paper to write down what you want to serve. Always start with the main dish. If you want burgers, then build around that entree.

4. Delegate. Jot your guests’ names down by a food item or entree’.

5. Let your guests know what they are bringing and then start preparing and organizing the food items you’ll be serving.

6. Head to the Dollar Store for simple red, white, and blue accents such as solid-colored napkins, tablecloths and simple paper items.

7. Add a classy touch by using potted red geraniums for greenery and “4th” flair.

8. Pull it all together with a healthy attitude that things do not have to be perfect. When everyone contributes, it becomes more about “community” and less about you.

4THOFJULYPARTYPhoto by Sam Howzit

Relax and Enjoy

One thing I love is the surprise and uniqueness of what each guest has to offer when they bring a dish for the holidays. It does feel better, especially in our economy today, when everyone becomes a contributor to the meal.

If you want to take it a step further, ask your guests to add a “July 4th” touch to their dish. It could be as simple as buying little toothpick flags and sticking them in your appetizer or dessert.

So many people are intimidated by the menu. I’m not sure why, except I think our expectations supersede the reality of what we’re really trying to accomplish.

I’m not trying to impress and one-up with my outdoor dinners or holiday parties.

I just want to celebrate summer, the independence of our country, families and friends, the harvest of our garden, nature, and good conversation.

Again, keeping it simple is really the secret.

Do you ever “over-do” when planning the menu by either not delegating, or possibly making too much food?


Sandy Coughlin is an author, blogger, wife, and mom to three children. She lives in Oregon and loves to develop recipes, cook, and host dinner parties. Read more at Reluctant Entertainer.

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  1. I definitely tend to over plan my menu.
    This year, we’re having guests over to watch the fireworks. They’ll arrive right before the fireworks start, so I’m just going to make simple, make ahead snacks (Texas caviar, red, white, & blue strawberries, and cocktails).
    I love your idea of buying accents from the dollar store and classing it up with flowers. Brilliant!

    • Thanks and yes, it’s amazing the “little things” you can buy there. Although your cart can get full rather quickly. LOL. Enjoy your 4th! 🙂

  2. If I stress out about a party it’s definitely over the food. I agree that it’s so much easier if everyone contributes a dish.

  3. I tend to always make too much food, but it works out because then I don’t have to cook the rest of the week 🙂 And I love to have everyone bring something, I think it makes the whole experience easier, and I stress way less about everything.

  4. Yes, I almost always overdo the responsibility I put on myself (and hubby, poor guy). So much more fun to let people join in the food bringing and the last minute “setting up” right before you eat. Makes everyone feel more at home and conversation is instant and relaxed when there’s a joint effort happening.

  5. I love your KISS philosophy, and the idea of delegating the meal! I tend to take too much on and not delegate. But last Friday, after working a whole month helping a friend with her wedding, I cooked a simple night-before-the-wedding-dinner for the bride and bridesmaids, and I simply asked two of them to come an hour early and help me cook! They were happy doing it, and it made a special meal possible for all.

  6. Love what you say, ” it becomes more about “community” and less about you.” That’s my main goal is bringing people together. I’m not a fancy chef, so I always love the idea of potlucks. It’s such an inexpensive way to have a variety of food. With pinterest and super crafty moms on blogs, I do get intimidated by these fancy festive parties. I’ll pin a million things and try to include them in my “theme” but I find myself to be stressed, overwhelmed and at a million different stores trying to buy everything. I have to own up to I am. I totally and a KISS kinda girl. So a vase with flowers, some mix match tableware and a quick trip to the Dollar Store sounds good to me. 🙂

  7. Simple is always the best… I like the flowers they are pretty.

  8. I always head to the dollar store for last minute decorations. although no’one celebrates the 4th of July in my country I will use the wonderful tips for my next outdoor party

  9. i like the the pot luck idea. Everyone in my family says “what can I bring” so having a menu and being flexible is great.
    One thing that works nice if people are traveling a long distance to get to your house to ask them to get there 30-40 minutes early to help with last minute setup instead of bringing food. Sometimes having two (or 4) extra hands there for last minute setup or trip to store is life saver. It also lets them regroup from long car ride.
    Also love the dollar stores for inexpensive fun party items.


  10. yes, for my son’s 2nd birthday i doubled all the dips not realizing that dip recipes are already large quantities!

  11. Folding tables, mixed-matched tablecloths and chairs work just fine!

  12. I love as much colour as possible for these things – plastic tablecloths with loads of bright designs and patterns, yay!

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