The Ultimate Guide to a Sensible Memorial Day Gathering

Whether your Memorial Day will be a duo or a dozen, here are a few things you won't want to forget.

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Memorial Day means different things to different people. Some look at it as a somber day to celebrate patriots who paid the ultimate price. Others see it as a long weekend to get plants in the ground and DIY projects done. For still others, it’s the first of many warm-weather opportunities to hang out with friends and family over hot flames and backyard games.

Most of us see Memorial Day as some combination of them all. As states begin to relax the rules on responsible social gathering, there’s a good chance some of us will be enjoying some version of a get-together this coming weekend.

So whether your Memorial Day will be a duo or a dozen, there are a few things you won’t want to forget. Here’s our ultimate guide to hosting a great gathering.

Figure Out Some Food

The Grill

No warm-weather gathering is complete without the aroma of various meats and veggies seared over an open flame. To stay safe, make sure your grill master keeps his or her mask firmly in place while tending to those tasty morsels. But before all that happens, there are a few things to consider:

The Menu

You’ve decided on the method, now set the menu. Family Handyman‘s sister publication Taste of Home is jam-packed with great grilling recipes for your Memorial Day gathering. We chose three that can be easily tailored to the size of your group.

  • Grilled Stuffed Jalapeños
    • The reader who submitted this promises a “flavor explosion” in each crisp and tender pepper. They had us at “cheese-stuffed jalapeños.”
  • Grilled Pizza
    • Twenty recipes for grilled pizza that satisfy everyone’s tastebuds. Go for it with sausage and basil, zucchini and pesto and honey and fig.
  • Grilled Loaded Potato Rounds
    • Another tried-and-true outdoor snack from another TOH reader. She adds sour cream, cheese, bacon and chives.

Schedule Some (Responsible) Socializing

Backyard Games

Even the best Memorial Day get-together will fall flat without a serious supply of games and entertainment. Given the state of affairs these days, it’s not likely your gathering will be adults only or just kids. Plan for participants of all ages and skill levels. Here are some ideas:

  • Games You Can Buy
  • Games You Can DIY
    • For more ambitious game-players or those with extra time before the big weekend gathering, here are 12 backyard games you can make yourself. Things like lawn dominoes, bag-toss boards or a jumbo Jenga top the list.
  • Games You Can Wifi
    • During daylight, Seek by iNaturalist is an amazing app that lets you and your guests identify the tree, shrub and plant species in your yard by pointing your smartphone camera at them. At night, SkyView is a free augmented reality app that helps you find constellations around the world in real time.

Fire Pits

Your Memorial Day will inevitably wind down. When it does, you’ll need something to keep your loved ones cozy. The crackling flames and iconic smell of burning logs will immediately instill a relaxing ambience into your gathering — provided everyone remains six feet apart!

Leftover materials from that unfinished retaining wall project will work in a pinch to build a DIY fire pit. But if you’re looking for something more refined, you’ve got options:

  • Simple Fire Ring
    • The quickest way to turn your backyard into a campsite. A traditional fire ring is easy and durable. And if you’re not committed to the campfire concept, it’s easily removable.
  • Grass-Saving Fire Pit
    • Trading your healthy lawn for an occasional backyard camping experience is understandably undesirable. You’ve got a few options, but the smokeless fire pit from Solo Stove is the Cadillac of choices. It’s a cool product that combines cutting-edge construction and innovative design to maximize fire time.

If you’re not ready for that kind of a monetary commitment, a raised fire pit offers functionality, portability and an aesthetic edge over the traditional fire ring.

  • Permanent Fire Pit
    • If you prefer a permanent addition to your landscape, a stone fire pit won’t disappoint. Make sure you’re committed before going down this path as stone represents a notable upgrade in price.

Add Some Entertainment


Few things evoke nostalgia or build camaraderie like singing songs surrounded by friends and family. Whether they’re somber or silly, all your Memorial Day songs this year may sound muffled through your face mask. Maybe this is the year to just listen and let the pros sing. Here are three ways to do it:

  • Outdoor Speakers
    • From speakers disguised as rocks and planters to über-tough, waterproof sound systems, outdoor speakers will ensure your acoustic anthems last as long as your get-together does.
  • Smart Speakers
    • Whether you prefer Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Mini, the sound carries in even the largest backyards. Already own one? Sound quality and range are always improving on these devices so it might be time to upgrade.
  • Simple Smartphone Speaker
    • If you’re not interested in shelling out extra cash for a speaker that you might not use that often, don’t worry. Here’s a genius way to amplify your music using a ceramic or other hard material bowl.


As the daylight turns to dusk, strategic outdoor lighting can illuminate lawn games or create a sense of calm among your guests. Depending on the ambience you hope to create, here are three options:

  • String Lights
    • A far cry from the plastic holiday lights of years past, today’s outdoor string lights are simple, elegant and an absolutely epic choice for your Memorial Day gathering.
  • LED Color-Changing Lighting
    • All LED color-changing light bulbs work in traditional light fixtures but require some form of control (remote, Wifi, Bluetooth, or app) to make their color changing magic happen.
  • Pathway Lighting
    • Path lights not only help guide you along an outdoor walkway, but can be used to highlight features of your home, garden or landscaping. Whether simple or elaborate, garden path lights also help with safety and home security.

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