Contributor Note: Today’s post is brought to you by Meg Grant, calligrapher, at-home entertaining expert, and founder of Meg Grant & Co. Meg began her career in Luxury Brand Management before changing her career course after having her son. Today Meg Grant is one of the most celebrated calligraphers in Houston, Texas. She’s consistently creating for weddings, high stakes soirees, and editorial assignments. When not working, she cherishes time with her son, yellow Labrador, and traveling the world – all of which inspire and inform her work.

Whenever I entertain, I always think about how to create a new and fresh experience for my guests. Whether that is with the food, decor, guest list, or another element, I love surprising my guests with a unique experience. Creative entertaining doesn’t have to be complicated; it’s about simple, unexpected touches and using what you already have in new ways.

 My goal for creating a backyard Memorial Day get-together was to gather decor that would be applicable for any summer gathering. After some inspirational research (thanks, Pinterest!), I decided on an al fresco setting that would revolve around a casual, rustic-inspired table top incorporating natural and earthy elements. I strayed from the typical “red white and blue” and opted for a more neutral palate. If you’re looking to host guests for Memorial Day – or any other al fresco meal this summer – read my tips below for how to host a unique, beautiful gathering in your own backyard without making a huge time or financial investment!

Get Creative with Your Table Surface

The outdoor table I own is one of the plastic ones you can buy on Amazon. To transition the piece for a beautiful al fresco dinner, I decided to use a wood table topper instead of a traditional tablecloth. I went to Home Depot and had one cut from maple wood. This “trick” is inexpensive — for my 6′ table, the cost was around $40-$50. There are also less expensive wood options to choose from. And the best part, the staff will cut a piece on site for whatever dimensions you want!

Say Yes to Simple Crafts

For the table runner, I created one out of Kraft paper to add a little bit of texture and a rustic feel. I simply taped it to the wood table top and cut the paper so that it draped over each side a bit. Kraft paper is easy to work with, inexpensive, and requires no clean up! You can find rolls of Kraft paper on Amazon, Michaels, or any local craft store.

Keep Your Place Setting Simple

A simple, clean white place setting is the perfect balance to the wood and kraft paper. It’s also super easy to mix and match with different colored glassware, napkins, salad plates, etc. Chances are you probably already own a basic set of everyday white plates, which makes this a very easy and budget-friendly option.

Clip Flowers from Your Yard

I wanted a more organic look for the florals, so I stuck with greens, and whites with a hint of yellow. These types of arrangements are wonderful because you can easily pick these florals from your own yard. Here I used some of the ivy I had growing around the house. The flowers provided a softness to the table and in the end, rounded everything out!

Make a Refreshing Batch Cocktail

When hosting guests I love to make a batch cocktail that guests can easily serve themselves. For Memorial Day I made a Blackberry Mint Firefly Cocktail. Crisp, colorful and refreshing!


3 oz Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka

3oz cranberry juice

1oz Torani blackberry syrup.



Combine first three ingredients, mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Pour into a glass with plenty of ice and garnish with fresh mint and blackberries

Create Handwritten Menus

Though calligraphy and lettering are part of what I do, don’t be scared to write out your own menu! Your unique handwriting on the table will provide a person touch … so give it a try!

Serve a *Partially* Homemade Dinner

Our friend Marcia Smart, chef and founder of Smart in the Kitchen, created our Memorial Day menu which revolved around store bought fried chicken and homemade sides. Such a genius idea to minimize time spent prepping in the kitchen! An easy green salad balanced out the meal and added color to the table, and the delicious berry crisp with vanilla ice cream was the best way to end the meal. Not to mention the made-from-scratch biscuits and honey butter which were to die for!

In the end, with homestyle food and simple decor, this little dinner came together beautifully. It was just enough, while still feeling casual and laid back. I cannot wait to see what your version of this looks like!

Please share your own entertaining tips in the comments below!

Happy (upcoming) Memorial Day weekend!