Memorial Day weekend signals the beginning of America’s summer season. Community pools open, folks clean off their grills and their patio furniture, beach towels, bathing suits, flip-flops and drink coolers make an appearance–all the things we associate with summer are ready and waiting to become a part of our lives again! On the last weekend of May, we are excited about the onset of the “great American summer,” and what better way to celebrate is there than to host a patriotic Memorial Day party! Ask your friends and family to wear red, white and blue and come over to get the summer started!
If the weather is supposed to be good, by all means, plan to be outdoors and grilling if possible. If you will need to be indoors, plan activities that work inside. It also never hurts to have a few fall-back activities to do in the house if you have to move from outside to inside in case of sudden showers. Assemble an All-American playlist to get everyone in the mood to party, whether they are outside or inside.
The all-American red, white and blue party theme is a great lead-in for your summer entertaining. It makes us “proud to be an American,” it’s bright and fun, it’s easy to accessorize with items you might already have, and it’s usable for other holidays like Independence Day, Labor Day, Election Day, and Veterans Day. The stars and stripes also go well with nautical themes. So whatever you buy in terms of decoration for your Memorial Day party can be repurposed for other occasions, thus making it a less expensive direction to choose.
The more flags you have, the better! You can get large ones for wall-hanging backdrops, medium or small ones for displaying or waving! I have a huge collection of flags and am always finding new ways to use them respectfully in decorating. Send a written party invitation attached to a small flag. You can use them lining the walkway to your house or yard, in large flower pots on your patio, in small potted flowers or vases on your tables, or at each person’s placesetting. Patriotic pinwheels also work well in these same ways.
You can find lots of different patriotic print tableware and napkins in cloth or paper, or you can stick with solid red, white and blue. Red-and-white checked tablecloths work well with this theme as do red-and-white striped or star ones. You may want a solid tablecloth that you can change out with a different print topper for different patriotic occasions to layer over it.
Put up a large flag or a patriotic tablecloth on your fence or house wall for your guests to pose in front of for crazy photos. Provide Uncle Sam hats, red, white and blue ball caps, bandanas, necklaces or leis to wear in the photographs. You can appoint an official photographer from among your willing guests or get guests to use their smartphones to capture the fun.
Many free patriotic printables are available on the Internet. You can find colorful signs, menu signs, water bottle wraps, cupcake toppers, toothpick flags for sliders, straw flags for drinks, and so much more. Print these out on your home printer and decorate to your heart’s content.
Obviously, patriotism is the real reason for Memorial Day to be a public holiday. Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May, commemorates all those American men and women who died while in the military service, defending our freedoms. In observance of the holiday, many people visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries.
If you decide to have friends over on Sunday, you may all want to watch the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS on Sunday evening. Check your local listings for the times in your area. This concert features uplifting musical performances. documentary footage and dramatic readings that honor the military service of our men and women in uniform, their families at home and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
If you are planning a party for Memorial Day itself, please include in the festivities a time to acknowledge your brave ancestors and family members who have given their lives so that we might enjoy the liberties of freedom. You might choose to attend or participate in a local Memorial Day parade or ceremony–check what is planned in your area. Share in the national moment of remembrance at 3:00 pm local time or designate your own for your guests. For other Memorial Day activities, check this post of mine.
No matter when you are celebrating, you might ask your guests to bring photographs of family members who were fallen heroes to post on a “wall of remembrance ” you create–a large labeled poster board or cardboard triptych on an easel or table will work. Have tape or push-pins for posting the photos and sticky-notes for guests to put names to these individuals and where they served. Encourage guests to talk about their family members who are pictured.
Guests of all ages can also write thank-you card for our troops and veterans! Send your letters to Operation Gratitude, and they will mail them to our soldiers and veterans.
If you are partying outdoors, you can set up lawn games for your guests to enjoy before and after the cookout–cornhole, horseshoes, ladder golf, badminton, volleyball. If you are going to be inside, you may want to set up different areas for cards, games like Outburst or Family Feud, patriotic crafts or paper-and-pen games about Memorial Day and other patriotic trivia. If you have an adult guest list, you may want to show a patriotic action war film that will touch on soldiers’ sacrifices–google for a list of choices.
If you are grilling your meal, the traditional favorites like hotdogs, hamburgers, chicken and steak are always popular. But you can also break the mold and fix pizza on the grill or barbecue seafood on skewers. For side dishes, folks love coleslaw, pasta salad and potato salad, but you can always change these up with the addition of other vegetables and spices.
Tasty dessert options include strawberry shortcake, red, white and blue cookies, cherry pie or make your own ice cream sundaes or sandwiches. Try fruit-flavored iced tea and lemonade for drinks or try a red, white and blue drink for the occasion (see my post on how to make this!)
Another option for your meal that will work indoors or out is a potluck meal. Tell your guests on their invitations that you will be grilling and ask that they bring their own meat choices for you to cook, or that you will provide the hot dogs and hamburgers, and they can bring the sides and desserts. Potlucks provide a wonderful variety of choices, and those with special food needs can bring things they can eat. Guests also can take any leftovers home to enjoy!
May your patriotic Memorial Day party be both a super start to the summer entertaining season, as well as a meaningful remembrance of the service men and women who gave their lives so that we might celebrate the American way of life. Enjoy!