Memorial Day is to honor those who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. military. And for many, the Memorial Day holiday is also the perfect time to welcome the warmer weather.
Memorial Day is the perfect excuse to don your patriotic marines sweatshirt, soak up the sun with friends, and celebrate the brave men and women who serve and protect our country.
Here’s everything you need to know to plan a Memorial Day celebration to remember.
Celebrate Summer Outdoors
Because Memorial Day celebrations are usually the first warm-weather parties of the year, they should represent everything to love about the summer season.
Host a Cookout or BBQ
To take advantage of the warm weather, consider hosting a backyard Memorial Day cookout or Southern-style BBQ. If you’re strapped for cash or short on time, consider hosting a ‘you-bring-it-we-grill-it’ potluck – each guest can bring their favorite side dish or item to grill and share.
Find a Pool
Pool parties are a Memorial Day staple. If you don’t have a pool, you can always ask a neighbor, friend, or family member if you can use theirs.
If nobody you know has a pool, consider renting a house that has one for the day. You can book short-term staycations on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo.
Plan a Picnic
If you want to have a smaller gathering, nothing really highlights beautiful weather like a picnic. So throw down a blanket, make some sandwiches, and gather your loved ones somewhere peaceful (like a local park) to reflect on the holiday’s significance.
A Red, White, and Blue Color Scheme
While decorating your yard for Memorial isn’t compulsory, making the extra effort can really lift the mood of a party. Dress and decorate according to a red, blue, and white color scheme with streamers, tablecloths, balloons, and lanterns, and try to incorporate the American flag as much as possible.
If you already have an American flag up in your yard, remember that civilians should fly it at half-mast before noon on Memorial Day.
You can also go the DIY decoration route by making a simple stars and stripes banner or some creative pineapple sparkler centerpieces. Simply spray paint the pineapples red, blue, and white, insert sparklers, and dot them around on tables – they are an inexpensive way to spruce up your holiday party décor in a matter of minutes.
All-American Summer Menu Classics
The menu for your Memorial Day celebration can feature all-American classics. If you’re hosting a BBQ and cooking everything on the grill, serve simple summer staples like hot dogs, burgers, and grilled vegetables.
You can get creative by setting up a build-your-own hot dog bar or slider bar by grilling some patties and dogs and offering an array of different toppings.
If you want to go beyond the traditional burger and hot dog offerings, host a Southern-style BBQ and cook pulled pork, brisket, or ribs. For an authentic experience, don’t forget the sides of mac and cheese, coleslaw, corn pudding, and collard greens.
For a low-key Memorial Day picnic, opt for pasta or potato salad, watermelon slices, crudités with hummus dip, and a few different sandwich options.
Keep the Drinks Flowing
A steady stream of refreshing cocktails is essential to any Memorial Day party. Aside from primary drink offerings, take advantage of the theme by whipping up some red, white, and blue cocktails.
Chances are, the temperature will begin to rise on Memorial Day weekend. Make a few trays of ice cubes with pieces of fresh fruit inside as beverage enhancers or a quick way to stave off the summer heat.
Memorial Day also signals that Rosé season is on its way – so have a few refreshing pink wine options available for your Rosé-loving guests.
As with any outdoor party, you can expect beer drinkers who want to sip on their favorite cold brew. If you’re a beer enthusiast, Memorial Day is a great excuse to set up a craft beer tasting for your guests. You can offer a selection of fruit beers, session ales, or summer beers for your guests to sample.
Memorial Day Activities
This Memorial Day, make the holiday about spending quality time with your friends and loved ones by organizing a few fun Memorial Day activities.
What would an outdoor party be without a few lawn games? Set up games like beer pong, potato sack races, ring toss, and croquet to get the party going and encourage guests to mingle.
You can’t go wrong with a few games of cornhole – also known as bean bag toss; it’s a game enjoyed by all ages. Cornhole can be played in singles or doubles, and participants take turns throwing a bean bag at a raised platform to try and get it into the hole. The first player or team to get 21 points wins.
Donate to a Military-Focused Charity
The purpose of Memorial Day is to remember those who lost their lives serving and protecting the country. You can do your part by encouraging your guests to make a donation of any size to a military-focused charity instead of bringing gifts, food, or drinks to your party.
Here are a few reputable charities you should consider supporting:
Tuesday’s Children is an organization whose original mission was to help families who lost a loved one on 9/11. Today, Tuesday’s Children assists and supports communities and families throughout the grieving process after a traumatic death. Tuesday’s Children also has a dedicated initiative for the families of fallen members of the military.
National Military Family Association has been helping the families of military members since 1969. One initiative the operation has spearheaded is the Operation Purple Program. The Operation Purple Program offers summer camp experiences to military children and healing adventures or family retreats for military families.
Hope for the Warriors is a non-profit organization that works directly with veterans, the families of fallen veterans, and military families. The organization provides services such as military spouse scholarships, health and wellness support, and peer mentorship programs.
How does your family celebrate Memorial Day Weekend?