Unless you’re planning to pay $75 per person to squeeze, sausage-like, onto a fancy hotel terrance for the dismal probability that you might get to see a firework or two, chances are you’re heading to a barbecue (or its vegan equivalent) this Friday. While the Fourth of July Barbecue tends to be the most casual of all parties—engagement, holiday, dinner and birthday varieties all come with a more formal set of rules—it still amounts to a ton of work for your dear, poor host, which means you’ve still got to be on your best behavior. Well, not your best best, because then that would make for a very boring Fourth of July.
1. Bring Stuff
We hope that at this point, the idea that to attend a party you must pitch in the $12 that it costs to buy a six-pack at the very least is firmly ingrained, and if not, the fact that you were even invited to a Fourth of July party is mind-boggling. If you’re drinking, bring beer, liquor or rosé. (Who wants to drink Pinot Noir on the trashiest holiday of the year? Plus, rosé is cool now.) And then bring something else, whether it’s a snack or a different party necessity like beach chairs, a sun umbrella, charcoal, ice, a cooler, games, paper ware or cheesy decor.
2. Ask Before Bringing More Than One Guest
SO’s are generally implied guests, but if you’re bringing a crew (i.e. three people walk in at once) send a text to the host first—unless he or she has made it clear that this barbecue is a mixing-social-circles kind of thing and the more the merrier yay happy fun.
3. But Don’t Text The Host Unless You Really Have To
One thing your lovely, welcoming host does not need on top of making sure the place is clean and that there’s enough food and that they look decent and that everyone is having fun and being paid attention is to answer text messages like, “what are you wearing i can’t decide!” or “is jack bringing nicole i hate nicole.” If you have to find out if Jack is bringing Nicole, text another guest instead. The only things you should be bugging your host with on the day of the party are expressions of your delight upon being invited and asking if they need more stuff (see #1).
4. Arrive Wearing Sunscreen
Sunscreen is expensive and precious. BYOS.
5. On Top Of The Sunscreen, Wear Something Festive
You don’t have to look like this, and you don’t even have to wear red, white or blue. (But like, why not? Seriously, who doesn’t own an item of clothing in either of those colors?) It’s simply polite to dress one or two shades nicer than you would for any other oppressively hot day in July.
If you’re sitting in one spot for too long, it looks like you’re waiting to be served. But more importantly, it makes you look boring and sends the message that you can’t be bothered to talk to more than one person. And definitely don’t stand around in the kitchen—not only are you probably in someone’s way, but everyone knows you’re just there because you need to be the first one to taste whatever’s coming out of it.
7. If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, Don’t Stand By The Grill
For whatever reason, people really, really enjoy hovering over grills. Much like sports trivia and The Economy, grilling is one of those things people with very little expertise feel comfortable voicing their opinions about, even if said opinions are wrong. But even if the Designated Pitmaster (behind The Host, the DP is the most important title at a barbecue, which is probably why everyone wants to hover in the first place) doesn’t grill zucchini exactly the way you might grill zucchini, do not offer your zucchini-grilling advice. What’s more, hovering over the grill does not make you any part of the actual grilling nor any more worth of the DP title; in fact, it’s mostly a nuisance (sort of like when someone watches you type). Unless you’re asking the Designated Pitmaster what kind of beer you can get him or her while they cook you food, it’s best to just get out of the way.
8. Talk About Something Besides Work
Nothing sours a three-day weekend (for those lucky enough to get a three-day weekend) like work talk. Of course, you already knew that, but it’s still all too easy to fall into discussing your latest office drama or industry trends when you’re meeting someone for the first time with whom you quickly discover you have absolutely nothing in common. Some alternatives: the World Cup (“Zusi is incredibly attractive!”), baby sharks in the Rockaways, the Hobby Lobby’s insane verdict, or, I don’t know, literally anything other than “so I got this new stapler last week…”
9. Turn Your Extreme Social Awkwardness Into Extreme Helpfulness
Instead of sitting silently or hanging with the cat, give yourself something to do that makes everyone else glad you’re there. Help serve drinks, throw garbage away, or if it comes to this, feed the cat. Hopefully, your host will get the hint and give you a job that’ll occupy you for the whole night and spare you from having to actually, you know, talk to people.
10. Don’t Criticize the Music
You don’t know who picked it or why they picked it. Additionally, don’t demand that your music be played instead of anyone else’s.
11. Don’t Get Annoyingly Drunk But Don’t Get Annoyingly Sober Either
Staying sober is different from getting Annoyingly Sober. If you don’t talk to anyone, shoot judge-y looks or refuse to join in any of the fun, you’re being like, the opposite of the Fourth of July. Naturally, the other end of the spectrum is just as annoying, but we’re not going to lecture you on the dangers of drinking too much because you are an adult.
12. Don’t Be A Hog
If you didn’t bring a dish, don’t be the one to take the last of whatever’s left. And don’t “accidentally” block the bowl of guacamole with your body while you shovel load after load into your mouth. (This is me, reminding myself.)
Offering to clean, or better yet, helping to clean without asking first, is as universally understood as basic party etiquette as bringing stuff, so once again, we won’t remind you. However, your cleaning responsibilities are directly related to how good of a party guest you were throughout the thing, i.e., if you were stellar in other ways (you supplied tons of booze and food, made everyone feel welcome and helped in the kitchen) your cleaning responsibilities are far less than someone who, say, vomited everywhere and crashed on the couch. If this is you, you either clean their entire apartment and then buy them brunch, or you leave forever.
Follow Rebecca Jennings on Twitter @rebexxxxa