While an outdoor party can be easier to host than a formal dinner, some planning is required. I'll help you walk through the steps by breaking the party into sections.
You should always take the approach that the more you can do in advance the better. This will allow you to greet your guests and have fun.
Main course: Grilled Chicken and Ribs - served with Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce
Sides (all homemade, of course): Green Beans, Mac & Cheese, Corn on the Cob (it's always better grilled), Cornbread
Dessert: Strawberry Angel Food TrifleThis menu works best served as a buffet. Before the party, set out the serving pieces and utensils you will need for each dish. Use baskets, cake stands, etc. to give the table that certain charm.
For a casual backyard BBQ, make large batches of summer cocktails - margaritas are perfect.
On the side, offer a selection of wine and beer, plus nonalcoholic options such as lemonade, iced tea, pop and water. Also, be sure to have plenty of water on hand.
Setup the food and drink stations separate to prevent everyone from huddling around one table. Be sure to prep as much as possible. Keep beer and pop cold in ice-filled coolers or decorative buckets next to the bar. Also, keep a separate bucket of ice for cocktails.
To make it easy for everyone to help themselves, serve the pre-mixed cocktails, lemonade and iced tea in attractive beverage dispensers or covered pitchers.
Table: For a Fourth of July gathering, it is important to remember not to go overboard with everything in red, white and blue. Instead, add a few touches of the colors here and there.
Rather than buying stars-and-stripes-themed tablecloths and place mats, choose linens in a solid red or blue or simple stripe or check.
Plates and Silverware: For plates and silverware, you could use your own everyday plates and silverware. Or, to make it easier on you, use the crystal disposable silverware and the thick Chinet paper plates.
Lighting: Having proper outdoor lighting at the party is essential. If you use candles, be sure they are under glass to prevent the wind from blowing them out. Tiki torches, lanterns and decorative string lights are always a nice touch as well. For the dining table as well as the buffet and drink tables, simple glass lanterns are perfect.
Once all is said and done and the dessert has been served, it's time for the fireworks. Be sure to setup a viewing area with blankets and chairs. Add some big pillows to enhance the comfort level.
Then sit back and enjoy the show...you deserve it!
*Photos courtesy of Epicurious.com