Welcome to part three of my Party Planning Challenge! We’re all planning our 4th of July parties together, a little bit every day, just in time for the 4th. If you’ve missed the first two parts, find them here:

We’re following the steps outlined in my 4-Week Party Planner, but I’m consolidating the steps in our series. But if I were you, I’d sign up to get a copy of the party planner for myself to use for planning any party.

Today, we’re talking party favors and your menu.

Party favors – yea or nay?

The quick decision for this week is: do you want to send your guests home with a party favor? For a holiday party, I think favors aren’t necessary, but they always are a nice touch. If the budget you set in step one won’t permit party favors, then skip them. However, if guests are bringing outdoor games or if your meal will be pot-luck, then I would definitely offer party favors as a thank you.

You can certainly decide on party favors later, but it you want to order party favors, you need to do it early in your planning.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Extra sparklers to take home, tied with a ribbon and free printable – Lovely Indeed
  2. Hair ties for the girls – Our Lil Sunshine Shop
  3. A family set of four royal icing holiday cookies  – Guilty Confections (order by the dozen and then package them yourself)
  4. Handmade lollipops – Sweet Caroline Confect
  5. Star-shaped crayons for younger kids – Red Elm Designs (just don’t leave them outside in the heat — they’ll melt)
  6. Party crackers – Souvenir Suitcase

What food will you serve?

  • A meal, appetizers, or desserts only?
  • If you’ll serve a meal, will the main dish be hot or cold? Can you make your main and side dishes ahead of time?
  • Or, will your meal be potluck? If it will be potluck, you may want to assign a type of dish to each guest. (But remember, you shouldn’t assign a specific recipe.)
  • What about beverages? List those as well.
  • Order desserts now, either locally or online.
  • Or, if you will make your desserts, decide on which recipes you’ll make.
  • For whatever you intend to make, write out a shopping list of ingredients.

No matter what you decide about any of these questions, your answer back in part one about whether your party will be inside or outside matters here. If your food will be served outside, you have to make sure the food temperature is safe and that you can keep flies away from your food. Do you have serving dishes that allow you to create an ice bed? Do you have mesh food tents to ward off bugs? (You can find them on Amazon.) It might just be easier to set up a buffet inside, not worry about spoilage, and let guests carry their plates back outside to eat.

If you won’t have seating for all your guests, think about foods that can be eaten with one hand while your other hand holds a plate.

Menu Ideas

This is not the time to go for a fancy experiment with your main dish. Stick with the classics that everyone likes: BBQ, hamburgers and hotdogs or fried chicken. I give extra points to fried chicken because (1) you can make it ahead of time or buy it, (2) it’s awesome cold and (3) you can eat it with one hand.

  1. Pizza on the grill – Brit + Co
  2. Caprese salad on skewers – Jo Cooks
  3. Watermelon on popsicle sticks – Chiara Passion via Domino Magazine
  4. Individual nacho dippers – Love from the Oven
  5. Salad in a jar – Cookie Mondays (I would avoid any salad with mayonnaise if your party will be in the sun. Think fruit salad or cucumber salad or corn salad.)
  6. Corn on the cob – Spicy Southern Kitchen
  7. Dressed up chips – Redbook
  8. Cowboy beans – The Two Bite Club

Whatever you serve — and especially if you host a potluck — be sure to label each item. Pick a free 4th of July printable location and just jot down the names of each dish.

Dessert Ideas

What won’t melt in the July heat? That’s the question you need to ask. Let’s cross a few popular treats off the list:

  • Cake pops
  • Frosted cakes (unless you wait til evening to bring them out – I’ve even seen fondant start to droop in the heat). Here’s a good article from Craftsy on the topic.
  • Layer cakes or mini trifles with homemade cream or custard (unless you wait til evening to bring them out – you don’t want spoilage)

Instead, think about:

  1. Extra large red, white and blue M&M cookies – Two Sisters Crafting
  2. Candy coated Rice Krispies Treats – Live Love and Sugar
  3. Donuts – The First Year
  4. Fruit pies or hand pies – Jenn’s Farm Table
  5. Cupcakes – Oh Nuts
  6. Sugar cookie bars (or really any kid of cookie bar) – Delightful E Made
  7. Brownies (or, brownie – strawberry – blueberry – marshmallow skewers like these from Mel’s Kitchen)
  8. S’mores kits – Balancing Home (S’mores would be a great choice if you have a fire pit.)

Next time, we’ll talk about place settings and tips for serving food outside. In the meantime, be sure to grab your 4-week party planning guide.

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