You gotta love the Fourth of July. It’s just the excuse you need to doll up your backyard, invite your friends and family, and celebrate our nation’s independence with food, fun and fireworks. The Fourth of July is the holiday to show your patriotism. Stars and stripes? Of course. Red, white, and blue? Naturally. Casual and kid-friendly? Abso-frickin-lutely! Show it in your food, show it in your drinks. Definitely show it in your décor. And keep your outdoor get-together as easy and breezy as you want it to be.

Want to know how to throw the ultimate last-minute Fourth of July party? Read on, friends… and Happy Fourth of July!

 

The Theme

Establishing a cohesive theme is key to any successful party. Thankfully, you don’t have to look any further than the flag on this day. For the Fourth of July, it’s America all the way. That means stars, stripes, red, white and blue. Even If you want to make sure everyone is as festive as they should be, specify the dress code on the star-spangled invite (a subtle threat such as “no festive dress, no festive beverage” should be enough to entice them to break out some colorful duds.). For a fun twist on the traditional, go nautical by adding details like ropes, anchors, twine and ship wheels, as seen on Hostess with the Mostess.

 

The Food

Barbecue is a favorite choice for the Fourth of July whether it’s a casual hot dogs and burgers crowd or you’re bringing out the big barbecue guns with ribs or grilled seafood. Experts recommend grilling as much as you can ahead of time so you won’t be stuck behind the barbecue while the party is going on without you. For sides, you can’t go wrong with a variety of salads, of the green, pasta, or potato variety (or, even better all of the above). And to make things truly festive, find ways to give traditional dishes a patriotic hue, like this take on bruschetta by Jehan Can Cook or this blueberry, strawberry and jicama salsa from Two Peas & Their Pod.

For a celebratory and tasty desert, try Epicurious’ Strawberry Angel Food Trifle, which “calls for frozen strawberries, but at the height of summer, it’s better to use fresh, and if possible local, berries—you can even use a combination of strawberries and blueberries to give the dessert a more patriotic look,” they said. “Using fresh berries doesn’t change the recipe, though you will need to cook the fruit a bit longer.”

The Drinks

To quench your guests’ thirst, keep it within your patriotic color theme and make watermelon the star. For the little ones: Food and Wine’s watermelon strawberry agua fresca. For the adults: their watermelon sangria. If you feel the need to show your extreme bartending skills with a drink that takes patriotic to its pinnacle, you can throw in Pop Rocks Jell-O Shots from She Knows. The Pop Rocks make the drink fizzle and the rock candy looks like a fireworks display shooting out of the playful shooters.

 

The Décor

Flags, pinwheels, banners, hanging stars—if you want, every surface of your home or corner of your yard can be covered in Americana. If you want to use a lighter hand, choose a few key areas, said Lucky Magazine, “to achieve the right balance of decorations. A simple stars-and-stripes garland will set the mood, and you can stick to primary accent colors for the rest of your servingware,” they said.

 

The Entertainment

Bring in a DJ or live band to play a mix of good ‘ole country, rock & roll, or even Bluegrass, and you’ve got yourself a party. Prefer to play the tunes yourself? Check out Marie Claire’s Ultimate Independence Day Party Playlist. If you’re going to have kids at your party, try some fun patriotic crafts or bring in a face painter who can draw up patriotic themes on the kids and can help keep them entertained.

It’s not a Fourth of July celebration without the requisite fireworks. If you don’t live in an area where they’ll be viewable overhead or within a reasonable distance, bring in sparklers and make some confetti balloons for the kids. “Satisfyingly loud and sparkly, these confetti-filled balloons are a fun alternative to fireworks,” said Martha Stewart. “And unlike the real ones, these can be set off by kids — indoors! To make, pull a balloon over a funnel. Pour in confetti until balloon is a quarter full; inflate with a hand pump. Use a sharpened pencil for popping.”