As far as holidays go, the Fourth of July is a pretty easy one. The weather's usually great, the kids are out of school and everyone's in that laid-back summer mindset. You don't have to cook for weeks and decorate your house within an inch of its life, like you do at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Independence Day is all about parades, fireworks and grilling, and the backyard is where the action is.
If you're the barbecue host this year, don't stress! Decorating your backyard will be a cinch -- and it'll be fun, too. The color scheme is a done deal, obviously, so you don't have to worry about that. Sure, you can go the quick-and-easy route and raid the seasonal holiday decor aisle at your local party store, but you don't have to stick strictly to stars and stripes. Get creative and find things around the house that will look smashing when pulled together in a fabulous Fourth theme.
And once you've decked out your yard, entrust the grilling to someone else. Grab a drink, sit back and enjoy the fireworks!
Around May, stores start to fill up with Fourth of July decorations. Tiny flags, streamers, strings of lights, sparklers -- you name it -- and it's all red, white and blue. You could buy all the bunting you can find and have a Fourth of July shindig that looks exactly like everyone else's, but why do that? Without much more effort, you can create out-of-the-ordinary decorations that everyone will remember. Stay within the color scheme, of course, but get creative. Throw some metallics in there. Never underestimate the power of stickers and spray paint, and remember that a little glitter never hurt anyone.
Instead of using store-bought bunting to adorn your deck, have some fun with fabric. Find red, white or blue fabric in any kind of pattern you want -- doesn't have to be stars and stripes -- and tie it to the railings with contrasting strips of material. Find patterned paper that you can cut stars from. Grab some colored rubber bands from your office and wrap them around clear votive holders to make a striped candle display. Put some red apples in blue buckets or strawberries in white bowls. Bandannas can be used in any number of places, such as coverings for seat cushions, as placemats on tables, tied around chair backs, wherever you want.
Keep your eyes open for creative color ideas when you're thinking about the three most important components of your Fourth of July backyard décor: table dressing, lighting and finishing touches.
Fourth of July picnics and barbecues are usually pretty informal affairs, but that doesn't mean you should skimp on table decorations. Quite to the contrary: The table is one of the most fun things to dress up! Color coordination isn't going to be a problem, so you really can't go wrong with whatever you choose to cover your tables.
If you happen to have an old picnic table lying around (or can buy a cheap one), there's no need for tablecloths; a few cans of paint will bring it back to life. You can go with straight-up red, white and blue, or get fancy and stencil stars and fireworks on it.
The easiest thing to do with any other kind of table is to start off with a plain white tablecloth and then embellish it. Try striped ribbon, glittery paper stars, crepe paper edging or a fabric runner with tiny paper stars dangling from the ends. If that sounds like too much work -- or you're having a very kid-heavy event -- just cover the tables with white paper, provide red and blue crayons and stickers, and let the kids do the decorating.
Now that the table itself is prettied up, it's time to shed some light on the party.
If you're having an afternoon Fourth of July get-together, lighting probably won't be a big priority in your decorating plans. But if you're planning a dinnertime or evening bash, you'll need illumination to keep the festive mood alive. Too-bright lighting is an obvious no-no -- it'll compete with views of fireworks and put a damper on that festive mood -- but it would also be a shame if your guests end up fumbling around in the dark (and also not being able to appreciate the amazing work you did on your table decor!). Luckily, there are plenty of lighting options that you can customize in Fourth of July style.
String lights and white paper globe lanterns are summer party staples, and for good reason; they give off soft light and look beautiful hanging in trees or along a deck railing. Pull out your trusty ribbon, scrapbook paper and star stickers to dress up globe lanterns, or create a string of hanging votives in tiny wire baskets.
Of course, no Fourth of July party would be complete without sparklers, so be sure to have plenty on hand. We'll stop short of advising you on fireworks, but keep it safe and legal, whatever you do. And be sure you have a fire extinguisher on hand.
After the tables are dressed and the lights are aglow, it's time to move on the final details.
When you're thinking about decorations for your table and elsewhere in the party area for your Fourth of July soiree, remember our advice from the first page -- there's no need to spend a ton of money on something generic and premade. You'll probably be able to make something incredible with items you can find around the house, and it doesn't have to take hours, either. Here are a few simple, eye-catching decorations that will give you a lot of bang for your buck:
While you're adding the final details to your table, don't neglect the silverware! Even if you're using plastic utensils, why not put them in an attractive container instead of just plopping them in piles? Buy an inexpensive white tray and embellish it with stickers and ribbon, or group knives, forks and spoons in pretty painted flowerpots.
Now that you have the visual part of your décor all figured out, it's time to give your guests a little ear candy. Read on for our suggestions for Fourth of July music playlists.
We're sorry, but you can't play The Beatles and The Rolling Stones at your Fourth of July party. You don't need to blast Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." all night or play an endless loop of "America the Beautiful," but there's nothing wrong with getting a little patriotic. You can do it in a subtle and creative way if you don't want to be too obvious. Keeping it all-American is a given, but where do you go from there?
Classic country is a good choice if you're having a casual cookout -- think Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (be sure to include Cash's "Ragged Old Flag"). Motown would be easy, too (Marvin Gaye's rendition of the national anthem is a must for this one). Here are some more suggestions for playlist themes:
- Chronological Classics: Start off with big band and make your way through classic rock, disco, '70s punk rock, '80s hair bands and '90s R&B.
- Name Game: Any tune title referencing America or an individual state is fair game. "Surfin' U.S.A.," "American Pie" and "Sweet Home Alabama" are all crowd-pleasers.
- Hometown Hits: Play only artists from or songs that mention your home state. Granted, this will be an easier task if you're from, say, California rather than Iowa.
Check out the links on the next page for more party planning and decorating ideas.
Trying to find how to use Christmas fragrances in your decorations? Read our article How to Use Christmas Fragrances in Your Decorations now!
More Great Links
- Better Homes and Gardens. "Easy DIY Decorations for the Fourth of July." (May 9, 2011) http://www.bhg.com/holidays/july-4th/decorating/easy-diy-decorations-for-the-4th-of-july/
- Boston. "A Hip, Patriotic Playlist for July Fourth." (May 13, 2011)http://www.boston.com/ae/music/gallery/patrioticplaylist?pg=11
- CNBC. "Biggest Beer-Buying Holidays." March 16, 2010. (May 9, 2011)http://www.cnbc.com/id/35221611/?slide=1
- Good Housekeeping. "Fourth of July Decorations." (May 9, 2011)http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/holiday-ideas/fourth-of-july-decorations
- Handwerk, Brian. "4th of July Facts." National Geographic. July 4, 2010. (May 9, 2011)http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/07/100704-4th-of-july-facts-nation-july-4-fourth/
- Jackson, Josh. "12 Patriotic Songs Better Than Lee Greenwood's 'God Bless the U.S.A.'" Paste magazine. July 4, 2009. (May 13, 2011)http://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/lists/2009/07/12-patriotic-songs-for-the-4th-of-july.html
- Martha Stewart. "Fourth of July Decorations." (May 9, 2011)http://www.marthastewart.com/fourth-of-july-decorations
- Martha Stewart. "Fourth of July Votives." (May 13, 2011)http://www.marthastewart.com/272769/fourth-of-july-votives
- Petty, Linda. "Adding up Everything on the Fourth of July." CNN.com. July 2, 2010. http://articles.cnn.com/2010-07-02/living/july4.by.the.numbers_1_new-york-s-coney-island-joey-chestnut-dogs?_s=PM:LIVING (May 9, 2011)