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10 Tips and Tricks for Last-Minute Fourth of July Entertaining

Two local event-planning gurus tell us how to whip up decor on the quick for a casual backyard barbecue.

Mood board compiled by Marielle Shortell and Julie Shankline of Syzygy Events.

Maybe it’s because it falls on a Wednesday (sigh), but the Fourth really snuck up on us this year. So we asked Marielle Shortell and Julie Shanklin of Syzygy Events for some insider tips on how to get the backyard soiree-ready in a hurry—and on the cheap.

Shortell and Shanklin say there’s no need to run to the florist or rental company. To create their mood board, they pulled things you might have in the garage, in storage, or in the deep, dark recesses of cupboards containing seldom-used holiday decor. The vibe is eclectic and casual, a riff on classic Americana.

“Red, white, and blue patriotic is definitely a one time a year thing, and we like to be conscious of people’s budgets,” says Shortell. “Let’s say you have red damask from the holidays. Pull that out, throw in some blue gingham, some rough woods, galvanized tin, a little burlap. It’s casual!” The key is to repurpose things that are already at home and then hit up budget stores to add details where needed.

“Home Goods, World Market, and Target are our best friends for last-minute decor,” says Shortell.

Here are ten ideas from our pros you can re-create quickly and inexpensively at your own backyard bash this Wednesday:

• Use Mason jars as glassware. “We found blue glass jars online, but you can find them locally in any grocery store,” says Shanklin.

• Arrange galvanized tins of different sizes on the buffet table to hold utensils.

• Instead of napkins, try mix-and-match dish towels, tied in ribbon. They’re cheap, easy to wash, and can be used over and over again.

• Drop strawberries and blueberries into glass pitchers of lemonade, sangria, or mixed cocktails.

• Mix and match your table settings. “Maybe you have white plates, or perhaps something red from the holidays. Make it eclectic; if it’s too matchy-matchy, it looks too formal and stiff.”

• Pick fresh blooms from the yard (or sunflowers from the grocery store) and plop them in Mason jars for an easy, unfussy centerpiece. Have potted herbs? Move them to the table during the party.

• Let the food be the tablescape. “Put family-style platters on wood slabs or in galvanzied tins for an easy, earthy look,” says Shortell.

• For extra seating, put down four milk crates, top with a table top (use a folding table that has a removable top, a piece of glass, or even a piece of wood covered in fabric), and provide pillows for guests to pull up alongside.

• Carnival lights, like these from Restoration Hardware, feel more industrial than twinkle lights, and can stay up after the barbecue ends.

• Mix in some nautical elements—ropes, stripes, linen—since it’s a theme that can be used throughout the summer.

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