As a holiday designed to honor America’s workers, the Labor Day backyard barbecue party has become an iconic American pastime to promote relaxation, recreation and rest for all — except the party host. Avoid the time-sucking, stress-inducing aspects of throwing a Labor Day celebration by following a few of these party-planning tips.
Even at an outdoor barbecue, guests will wander inside your home to hang out or use the facilities — which means hosting a Labor Day party at home requires tons of cleaning inside and out to get your house guest-ready. Skip the scrubbing and instead reserve yourself a picnic pavilion at your local park, where maintaining the facilities and recreation equipment is the city’s responsibility.
Keep the prep for a public park picnic simply by bringing disposable dishware, festive tablecloths and blankets to pad hard bench seats. Pack plenty of balls, Frisbees, rackets and other sporting equipment to provide guests with a wide assortment of recreation options. Also come prepared to provide for your guests’ unexpected needs by bringing along comfort items like moist towelettes, extra toilet paper and a first-aid kit.
For the party host unwilling to “rough it” with outdoor public facilities, a room at a local hotel resort provides a perfect substitute for a private home while still allowing you to skip the cleanup. Select a hotel with an impressive pool and book a poolside room to help keep the party in one location.
Opt for a hotel suite over a single room, as it gives you access to an additional restroom, several places for guests to change into swimsuits and a kitchen area. As an added bonus, you can call room service for additional towels rather than raiding your own linen closet.
Providing a sumptuous spread of summer food favorites takes hours on end to prep — plus it keeps the host hopping for the entire party with all the reheating and restocking. Take the pressure off providing all the food by planning a “Bring Your Own Fare” buffet — a.k.a. a good old-fashioned potluck. Do your part by providing the main entree of burgers or grilled chicken, then ask your guests to provide the sides and desserts to share.
The trick to planning a successful potluck is ensuring you don’t wind up with a dozen desserts and no salads to pass. Determine a minimum of sides, salads and desserts you’ll need, then make sure you have those slots covered before you let your guests know it’s OK to bring whatever they please.
A catered affair
While the potluck option makes life easy, it also takes control of the menu out of your hands. Chances are that gamble will pay off with a table of great dishes, but there’s also the possibility you’ll wind up stuck with a funky-tasting casserole that no one touches. Going with a caterer lets you avoid that risk while still skipping the cooking and clean-up stress.
A fully catered affair means you’ll have someone else on hand to prep, serve and clean up all the food — but that luxury comes with a hefty price tag. You can find a happy medium by purchasing large group items off a local restaurant’s catering menu, but handling the serving and clean up yourself. Most restaurants send out their dishes in disposable chafing dishes that can go straight from the table to the trash.
True, the quintessential Labor Day party is all about the barbecue — but no law says you can’t buck tradition. Skip the hassle of providing a big meal altogether by scheduling your Labor Day shindig after lunch or dinner. Instead, invite guests to a backyard cocktail party where you can get away with serving just an assortment salty snacks, sweet treats and a bevy of beverages.
Take advantage of afternoon fun without setting up expectations for a large meal by planning your Labor Day pool or garden party for 2 p.m., with an expected end of 6 p.m. Should the party run long, simply take up a collection and send out for pizza.