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Memorial Day Party Checklist

Memorial Day is a day to remember and pay respects to the men and women who lost their lives in war. And if you're like many Americans, you'll also celebrate the long weekend with a party to kick-off the summer.

Welcome the summer with friends and family at your own backyard party. Here are tips for throwing a Memorial Day party and a checklist that covers party prep, what to buy and day-of set up.

Basic party prep

  • Plan your guest list. Carefully evaluate the area where the party will be held. You want to be sure that everyone is comfortable and not competing for space. 
  • Check the weather forecast to plan for bad (or amazing) weather.
  • Send out the invitations. Online invites are a quick and easy way to get this task done and it's a breeze to keep tabs of RSVPs.


  • Brightly colored napkins, plates, and cups can pull double duty by serving food and being decorative.
  • American flags, hanging lights, tiki torches, floating candles, and paper lanterns are great for setting the mood of the party.
  • Use simple flowers like daisies, cut them short, and place them in bud vases or tumblers for centerpieces.
  • Balloons, streamers, and pinatas add decoration and double as party activities for the kids.


  • Party rule #1: Ice, ice, and more ice!
  • Stock the cooler and beverage station with plenty to drink: ice cold water, lemonade, soda and adult beverages keep the partiers happy and refreshed! Find recipes for more thirst quenching drinks from the folks at Country Time Lemonade.
  • When setting the menu, plan to have food for vegetarians as well. 
  • Typical BBQ fare (hamburgers, hotdogs) is always delicious, but you can also try ribs, pork tenderloin, chicken, and a grilled vegetable assortment. Crockpot dishes like salsa verde pork are super easy and a great time-saver.
  • Sides like veggies, fruits, salads, chips, dips, and desserts like cookies, brownies, and cupcakes are convenient. Be mindful of the weather - you don’t want anything sitting out in the hot sun that could spoil or melt. 
  • If possible, place food under a covering such as an umbrella or overhang. 
  • Set up food buffet-style and arrange plates and utensils at the start of the line to keep it moving quickly.
  • Have separate seasoning and beverage stations with condiments and such to avoid delays in the buffet line.
  • Stock plenty of napkins at the drink station, along with stirrers and straws.

Set up

  • Move indoor furniture outside for additional surface space and seating. Benches, chairs, stools, and side tables are versatile.
  • Have clearly labeled trash and recycle cans.
  • Leave sunscreen out for guests to use.
  • Have shade options available by using umbrellas or canopy tents.
  • Lay rugs or outdoor throws on the ground for additional seating.
  • Be eco-friendly with reusable plates (not grandma’s china, but every day or camping plates if you have enough), utensils, and cups. (Acrylic cups are a great buy and easy to find.)
  • Place outdoor toys and games for younger guests in a “kid-zone.” Check out some easy and fun outdoor family games.

Memorial Day Party CheckList:

  • Make guest list
  • Check the weather forecast
  • Send out invitations
  • Inventory plates, utensils, cups
  • Plan menu and/or solicit potluck dishes
  • Create grocery list
  • Make “trash” and “recycle” signs
  • Get coolers or large buckets cleaned and prepped for beverages
  • Hose down patio furniture
  • Dust off outdoor cushions
  • Clean the grill
  • Food, water, lemonade, soda and adult beverages
  • Napkins, plates, utensils
  • Decorations: flags, lights, tiki torches, floating candles, paper lanterns
  • Flowers
  • Balloons, streamers, pinatas
  • Ice
  • Sunscreen
  • SET UP
  • Add drinks and ice to cooler a couple hours before the party starts
  • Move furniture outside
  • Set out and label trash and recycle cans
  • Set out sunscreen
  • Put up umbrellas or canopies for shade
  • Lay rugs or outdoor throws on the ground
  • Set up outdoor toys and games
  • Arrange food, beverage and condiment stations

See more shopping and to do lists in the Cozi List Library.

Michele Johansen is a writer in Bellevue, WA. She is the co-creator of the Ruby Slipper Guide, a website that lists activities and events for families living east of Seattle and blog that delves into the foils of parenting.

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