Throw a bang-up party and still have a blast

Friday, June 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Frazzled by your upcoming Fourth of July party?

Perhaps you've found yourself the unexpected host this year. If you drew the short straw, not to worry. Here are some quick ways to celebrate and keep your cool.

Fortunately, the Fourth is just about as informal as holidays come. There's no need to dress up. And this may be your only chance all year to direct a party from a hammock, so go for it.

Unfurl the flags, relax and enjoy your party with some tips from a party planner, a decorator who uses plants, a party store co-owner and two journalists who cover interior design.

THEME: You can set the theme for a different Fourth of July party from the start.

Why not model invitations after a firecracker? Sandra Dingler, owner of Party Service, a Park Cities planning service,suggestsusing red mailing tubes stuffed with confetti. The same mailing tube could be adapted as a table decoration.

PLANTS: To make your yard festive,you can use plants, both on the ground and hanging from trees and poles.

"Blue flowers are a real toughie, so typically we move more to the red and the white," says John Rowland of Plant Temps in Dallas. Plant Temps arranges and rents plants for special occasions. Red flowers mentioned by Ms. Dingler include geraniums and begonias. Petunias serve as white flowers, Mr. Rowland says.

Perk up your beds around the grounds with annuals such as caladiums and begonias. To add a colorful touch, add red and white 12- to 15-inch-tall hibiscus plants in 6-inch containers, Mr. Rowland says.

DECORATIONS: Group candleholders around the entry to your yard and along the fence for a dramatic lighting effect, Ms. Dingler says. Use candles and paper lanterns "to make it really magical," says Sandra Soria, Better Homes & Gardens interior design editor.

POOL: If you have a pool, make it the center of your party, says Gail McCauley of Gail McCauley's Decorating Details. She is a writer who specializes in online content about decorating, including a short daily newsletter for TipWorld (

SEATING: Poolside, easy-care fabric cushions on furniture clean up with a stream of water from the hose, Ms. McCauley says. Chairs in iron or resin are perfect for next to the pool. Use comfortable seating like decorative benches made of wood, iron, wicker, etc., for "an outside version of an indoor sofa," she says.

Don't overlook outdoor seating like hammocks, gliders and old-fashioned swings, Ms. McCauley says.

You can rent white chairs for the tables to complete the red, white and blue look, points out Ms. Dingler.

"Play with colors and have a sense of fun," Ms. Soria says.

TABLE TOP: Ms. Soria, Mr. Rowland and Ms. Dingler suggest ways to brighten up the table at your party:

 Cluster terra cotta pots in groups of three, each a different height or width, with different plant colors and textures.

 On terra cotta containers, sponge-paint stars in different colors or draw firecrackers, flags, red-white-blue motifs, or Uncle Sam.

 Use bromeliads as centerpieces. "People are fascinated with them because they really don't see them that often," Mr. Rowland says.

 "It's also a real bounty time, so use your produce as a centerpiece outdoors," Ms. Soria says.

 Use candlelight and fresh flowers.

 For a really stunning look, write each guest's name on a tag and attach to a flower with a raffia-tied bow.

 Plant a flag in each pot.

 Use miniature terra cotta pots filled with English ivy as place-card holders by tying on a name tag with a raffia bow.

 Pull off the blue part of the red, white and blue look with your table settings, Mr. Rowland suggests. You could have blue napkins and plastic dinnerware, although Lin Kimmer, co-owner of Party Bazaar in University Park, has many items, including serving pieces, with a Fourth of July theme.

 Use galvanized buckets and baskets to hold serving pieces and napkins.

With the right planning, you can have less of a formal event and "more of the easy buffet poolside," Ms. McCauley says.

And you can declare your own independence from party panic.

Elizabeth Simnacher is a Dallas-area free-lance writer.