The 4th of July is a wonderful time to celebrate our independence and throw a heck of a party in the meantime! When I think about the 4th of July, food, drinks, fun in the sun, fireworks, and campfires all come to mind. These all happen to be the perfect ingredients for a good time and a great party. I love to entertain and can throw a gathering together in a hurry. People are always impressed and think I spent a ton of time, but the truth is, it’s not nearly as time-intensive or as much work as some think. On the other hand, an experienced host appreciates a party where someone paid attention to the details and knows it doesn’t “just happen!”
Who to Invite:
When I put together an event, the first thing I consider is “who.” Throwing a random group of people together where no one knows each other rarely works; on the other hand, throw a group of friends together who have been together many times and it’s easy and everyone is sure to have a great time. I always recommend the latter and 8-12 people is a nice-sized group. Once you start going above that, you usually have to start thinking harder about seating, dishes, second fridges, etc. So, my first piece of advice is to go for a smaller, higher-quality gathering with under 12ish people.
Second, the time of day matters. Does this event have an end time? How many meals do you want to feed everyone? Thinking about the 4th of July being on a “school night” as my mom would say, starting around 4 pm with drinks and snacks, moving into a later dinner, and then lighting fireworks off at about 8:30 pm sounds about right.
Summer events can be very relaxed and informal. I heard a saying a long time ago that everyone who is at the party is having as much fun as the hostess. In other words, make this easy and stress-free so you can have a good time too! “Get-togethers” are exactly about getting together. Decent food and plenty of drinks will work! But here are the little secrets that make a “fun night” a great party:
Presentation Part One
- Get cute paper plates and napkins. Do clear silverware in bulk from Sams or Costco. Presentation is everything.
Cocktails and Mock-tails
- Think about your crowd and the cocktails. Have kids coming over? Do a separate cooler for juice boxes, soda, water, etc. For adults, sticking to beer, seltzers, and wine keeps it much simpler. When you get out the liquor you’re into cups, ice, mixers, etc. Just stick to cans. Oh, and don’t forget to have a stash of koozies handy!
- My go-to apps that can flow from drinks at 4 pm through dinner at 7 pm are chips and salsa, pinwheel roll-ups, french onion dip with potato chips, and tailgate dip (recipe below).
- 8 oz block cream cheese
- 8 oz sour creme
- ½ cup chunky salsa (hot or medium for preference)
- 1 can of green chilles
- 1/teaspoon cumin
- mix everything together
- add to taste the following:
- sliced black olives
- minimum of 2 cups shredded cheese (add more if you love cheese as much as I do)
- serve with chips
Presentation Part Two
- I try to pick dips that do not have meat and are more stable in warmer temps so they can safely sit out for a few hours. Serve your appetizers on nice platters and dishes, even if they are store-bought. Transfer the store dip from their plastic container to a real dish and it will instantly look like you either made it or cared enough for it to look good. 90% of how we think something tastes has to do with the presentation of it on a plate! Pro tip: keep your serving ware in silver or clear because it goes with any theme, any time of year.
- When dinner time comes remember that people have been drinking for hours, are talking, have been snacking, and are probably hot. All of this equates to less food. People will not eat nearly as much as you think they will! Stick to smaller portions that people can easily choose if they want a “whole or half” serving.
- For example, sliders are great and easy to make as opposed to giant hamburgers. Don’t be afraid to cut hot dogs and buns in half. These items are both easy to eat and do not require silverware. Add chips, pickles, and a veggie tray and you do not need a fork or a knife. Again, it’s just keeping things simple.
Presentation Part Three
- Pro tip: get creative with table coverings - even if you’re serving in the garage or outside, the base of your table goes a long way. Nice beach towels can be fun for summer in place of linen. They can be loosely scrunched instead of lying flat. Pro tip: varying heights of everything being served on a table literally elevates the presentation and creates more space.
- Don’t forget the sweets. :) This is my favorite part of life. Let the kids know the icy pops and ice cream bars are in the freezer and then do a fun station of temperature-stable treats such as red licorice, Rice Krispy bars with festive-themed sprinkles, and frosted sugar cookies in red, white, and blue. Watermelon soaked in vodka or rum can be fun too!
- Turn up the music and turn down the lights! These right here are the two biggest impacts on the ambiance that so many people overlook.
- Don’t forget the basics - stock the toilet paper and put a couple of extra hand towels in the bathroom.
There you have it - a theme, food, alcohol, music, and good friends and you’re certain to have a great time! Happy 4th of July!
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