While the end of summer holiday, Labor Day, neither marks a change in the weather (curse you, climate change!) nor the autumnal equinox (curse you, solar calendar!), it does mean something everyone can support: barbeque.
The Labor Day Weekend BBQ is a great tradition of Americana, a last hurrah before school starts, or more appropriately for DC, Congress returns. Here are a few tips for throwing a Labor Day BBQ that will be the exclamation point to end your summer.
Invitations—Digital Age Decisions
With so many different ways to issue an invitation now—Facebook, Evite, email, text, old fashioned paper—it can be hard to decide which method is best. My advice is to choose a way that all or nearly all your invitees use to communicate. If there are a few outliers that don’t use that method of communication, you can reach out to them separately. Don’t forget to provide a date by which you would like people to RSVP.
And a side note to everyone on the receiving end of the invitation: respond. Let the person know whether or not you can attend. It’s the bare minimum you can do to acknowledge that you have been invited into someone’s home.
For online invitations, I’m personally a fan of Paperless Post. They have the aesthetic appeal of paper invitations (Evite graphics are fug), are easy to use, and add a sense of gravitas to your event. You aren’t throwing some Natty Lite kegger in your backyard—you are having an event in your garden with microbrews.
Audience Participation—Clarity is Key
Some people assume that a barbeque means they should bring food or drink. Others don’t assume this at all. For the convenience of your guests, let them know clearly in the invitation whether or not they are invited to bring something of their own. (Of course, if you are hosting a potluck, say you are hosting a potluck. However, a potluck is different than a BBQ. Moving on.)
Use simple, straightforward language about bringing food, such as, “We will have plenty of food and drinks, but please feel free to bring something if you wish.” Or if you prefer your guests do not bring anything, say “All food and drink will be provided.” If you are… CRING… sending a text invite and that’s all too many words, “BYOB” or “NOT BYOB” should get the point across.
Preparations—The Boy Scout Way
There are some clutch items you’ll need to have a clean and comfortable BBQ:
- Plenty of plates, utensils, napkins and cups. Disposable ones are admittedly easier, but consider the environment and get recyclable materials or even use your own regular kitchen items.
- A few spare blankets or sheets for people to sit on the ground if you run out of chairs.
- Bug spray. Everyone will love you for this.
- Large coolers with plenty of ice.
- Clearly labeled bins for trash and recycling. Don’t forget the extra bags.
- Outside lighting if you are going into the late hours of the day—think tiki torches, Christmas lights or candles.
- Band-Aids for the random boo-boos.
- Sunscreen. You should have plenty left over from the pool.
- Extra TP and paper towels are critical for hosting.
Food & Refreshments—Om Nom Nom
MM makes no claims whatsoever about being a good cook, but I do have a few quick pieces of advice to make sure all your guests go home satisfied.
- Diversify. In the modern world of vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free eaters, it’s good to have options. Provide at least one main dish that can be enjoyed by the most restricted eater you know is coming. If it’s any good, everyone will have some.
- Have a plan B. Stash a couple frozen pizzas or keep a delivery number handy. In the unfortunate event that your planned cuisine goes caput or you run out of chow, you’ll have a low-stress solution ready to go.
- Wetness is the essence of beauty. Have plenty of water and nonalcoholic drinks available.
- Buy an extra case of inexpensive beer. If you get to the point where you need to delve into the cheapo case, no one will care by then what they are drinking.
Happy Labor Day, workers of Washington!