The No-Fuss Guide to Hosting a Memorial Day BBQ

Photo: Mimi Thorisson

Memorial Day festivities mark the unofficial start of the summer, so it's no wonder that the most popular way to celebrate this holiday is a barbecue with friends and family. If you're playing host this year, you may be looking for the simplest way to throw a feast that won't drain your resources. Luckily, if this is your first time hosting guests, Memorial Day is the perfect holiday to start with—the fare is simple, and activities are laid-back. From food to décor, we're covering everything you need to know about throwing together an easy gathering with friends and family. Keep reading for simple tips on how to host a Memorial Day BBQ in the areas that matter most.


Of course, nothing says Memorial Day like a barbecue. For a simplified take that will give guests a variety of options, bring a finger-food approach to your menu. Serve sliders—like these amazing Southwest barbecue pork sliders from Half-Baked Harvest—or skewers like these turkey koftas from Camille Styles instead. Accommodate vegetarian guests with options like Minimalist Baker's veggie burger sliders, and if you've got picky guests (aka children) in attendance, give them a recipe they can customize themselves, like a hot-dog bar. Provide a variety of toppings and let them build their favorite variations of a Memorial Day classic. Of course, don't be afraid to ask guests to pitch in with food, too. Whether it's with side dishes or desserts, a potluck approach to food can help reduce your duties as host.


Running around as host probably means you won't have time to play bartender, as well. Have your drinks at the ready in beverage dispensers before guests arrive for a self-serve option. Creating mixed drinks in batches also helps cut down on buying mixers and garnishes that can add up and often go unused. Try a tropical punch to fit the summertime feel of the holiday, or mix up a batch of Long Island iced tea for an ideal daytime drink. If kids are in tow at this celebration, keep lemon-lime soda and grenadine on hand to mix up Shirley Temples. Skip the bottled waters for guests, and provide a dispenser of lemon water instead.


The biggest perk of throwing an outdoors get-together is limiting the décor to one area of your home, thereby saving time. In keeping with Memorial Day festivities, create a color scheme around red, white, and blue. Let your tablescape serve as the main focus of your decorations, and keep your bases simple, with a solid-colored tablecloth in blue and contrasting linens in a brighter red. Centerpieces with flowers can be difficult to find if you're planning a last-minute gathering, so opt for candles or firefly lights to line the runner instead. Complement your décor with string lights, which will also provide illumination once the sun sets.

Leaving town this weekend instead? Keep reading for eight cities across the U.S. you should consider for your Memorial Day road trip.