Toast the country—and your friends and family—with a festive Fourth of July celebration! Whether you’re doing it inside, outside or poolside, event planner Cathy Riva will share her tips and tricks to planning a patriotic party.

Party Snacks - Voices from the Ville

Serve up a simple yet memorable all – American menu

Keep the party fired up with these terrific treats from the grill. Don’t feel limited to burgers and franks. Try grilling seafood like scallops, Salmon kebobs, veggie kebobs and for vegetarians try bbq’d tofu. My 6-year-old loves the Salmon!

Salmon Skewer Recipe

6 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

3 tbsp honey

3 tbsp olive oil

1 1lb skinned wild salmon fillets

6 skewers

In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients except Salmon, set aside. Cube Salmon fillets then marinate for at least an hour. Thread salmon on skewers and grill for about 10 minutes, turning so each side gets browned. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Party Snacks - Voices from the Ville

This year’s summer salad is one of my personal favorites, Heirloom tomato salad with watermelon. It is fresh, and again you notice a theme, easy to make. It also adds a nice pop of red to your table.

Heirloom Salad Recipe

8-10 small heirloom tomatoes cut into wedges

2 cups watermelon scoops (melon balls)

1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

1 tbsp fresh basil (tear, don’t chop)

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Feta cheese (optional, but I recommend!)

Toss all together and top with Feta.

If you often have unexpected guests to your bbq as my family always does, then extend your menu by adding last minute affordable sides, like mesquite corn on the cob- grill the corn, break it half, then squeeze lime juice, a few dashes of chili pepper and parmesan cheese.

I love dessert and so do my kids so this year, I decided we could have our cake and eat it too… well apple pie at least. I created mini apple pie a la mode’s so you get a delicious bite of your favorite pie, but you don’t over indulge. Children can help make these simple treats. To create them use a mini muffin pan with pie dough filled with chopped apples, a pinch of cinnamon and sugar. I suggest doing this the night before your party. They are great hot or cold. You can bring out your inner child with these other fun treats… red velvet whoopee pies and snow cones are yummy too.

Mix up a star spangled signature drink

I love refreshing homemade lemonade and this is something fun the kids can make too. The can also spear raspberries or blueberries on toothpicks for a garnish. Serve this in Solo cups decorated with star stickers! Children love helping with the party plan and cup decorating is a fun and easy way to include them!

Party Snacks - Voices from the Ville

Grown up option: My friend and mixologist, Elayne Duff’s, Strawberry and Basil Martini. (Note this is a single serve option only. It does not scale for a beverage jar.)

Strawberry and Basil Martini

1 1/2oz Vodka

3/4oz simple syrup

3/4oz fresh lemon juice

1/4oz Dubonnet (wine based aperitif)

1 Strawberry, sliced

1 Basil leaf

July Fourth Party - Voices from the Ville

Muddle strawberry and basil leaf with simple syrup in a shaker. Add remaining ingredients, shake and double strain into a festive glass. Garnish with a strawberry for the 4th!

Red, White and Blue Décor

Your food can really be your décor for this holiday, but when choosing other decorative items choose one main color like blue and use the others as accents. Serve seafood on scallop shells, wrap napkins with red twine and add white flowers. Also, look around your house, use items you own in a new way, disposable picnic blankets make great tablecloths and I use sand pails to serve chips and to use as risers for food at a buffet bbq. In this photo we used our old fish bowl and filled it with blue water (made from watercolor paint) and floated a few sparkle pinwheels as our centerpiece.

July Fourth Party - Voices from the Ville

And, keep the bugs away from your outdoor bbq with decorative citronella candles. Place them around your table, light them about half an hour before all the guests show up to avoid any mosquito mishaps.

Garden Flower Power

Garden flowers are the best option to use in the summer, Hydrangea, Geraniums, Begonias all come in bright colors that are make wonderful red and white décor! Children can help cut the flowers and arrange them in a vase or any jar you have around the house. I recommend Red geraniums arranged in a beverage dispenser as a vase, add a few American Flags to go with our patriotic theme.

For more party tips check out and send me your party tips on twitter @CathyRiva or on Facebook Cathy Riva of Riva Events!

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Have your own impromptu Fourth of July party tips?

Cathy Riva

Cathy Riva


For event planner Cathy Riva life is about celebrating. With more than 10 years of experience in event planning and having been featured on talk shows such as NBC’s Today Show, The View, The Tyra Banks Show and, her own show, Discovery Channel’s “Party Girl”. Emmy nominated, Cathy Riva, founder of Riva Events is an expert at leading a team to create personalized, sophisticated events.

Past parties include a high powered technology event at the New York Stock Exchange with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, The Diamond Aquifer Pre –Oscar Suite at the Soho House, LA on behalf of the Diamond Information Center attended by celebrities such as Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Terrance Howard, Teri Hatcher and Adrian Grenier and a recent private wedding in Los Angeles for a Hollywood client.

Experience with both large and small events has really helped Cathy refine her own philosophy of reduce, repurpose, recycle when it comes to parties to often create something new for each individual client.

Now as a mom, Cathy specializes in making children’s parties the most amazing and creative celebration of family. She recently designed three New York City princess and pirate parties in two weeks. Her family friendly ideas have been featured on Today Show Mom’s and LXTV Mommy Monday’s.

As passionate as Cathy is about being a mother, wife and planning events, she is equally enthusiastic about teaching party planning skills. She was recently a guest speaker for a UCLA Marketing Class and the Learning Annex’s “How to get into event planning”. Her goal is to give people the tools to create their own party, creating happy memories, lasting friendships and bonding families together.

Cathy offers party planning features and tips for print and broadcast. She also curates style and design for home divisions of stores, such as Kohl’s, and content for websites and brands such as AOL, Splenda, Glad Press’N Seal, and her own new site www.CelebrateEveryday.TV.

Cathy lives in Manhattan with her husband Marc who is a film director and five-year-old daughter Riley.