For most people in the United States, Memorial Day is the unofficial kick-off to summertime activities. It marks the time when kids get out of school, families plan vacations, but most of all it usually means the first real cookout of the season. Here are some tips on how to throw an amazing Memorial Day cookout for all your friends and family.

First of all, think of all the people you're going to invite. Are you wanting to hold a simple family gathering, or are you thinking of inviting all the people you haven't seen since last summer? Make sure to get invitations out early, or send out invites via the Internet. Make sure that everyone who's planning on being there sends you an RSVP. This will not only help you figure out how much food will be needed, but will give you and idea of who can bring what to help out.

Next, plan a theme for your Memorial Day cookout. You might throw a Hawaiian luau complete with grass skirts and blow-up palm trees. Or, because it's the first part of the summer, maybe have everyone wear the favorite beach attire. Of course, weather conditions are going to play a big part in your party, so be prepared for anything. If the forecast calls for rain, have everyone bring a rain poncho and enjoy the day anyway.

As for the menu, what will be served will depend on who all is coming. If it's just a nice family outing, then you can probably get away with a few hamburgers and some simple side dishes. However, if you're planning on having several people over, have a BYOM party. That means, Bring Your Own Meat and that also means everyone gets exactly what they want. As for side dishes and desserts, split it up depending on peoples' last names. An example would be that everyone with last names ending from A-M brings side dishes, and N-Z bring desserts. Or, couples bring the side dishes and singles bring desserts. Make it fun for all involved.

Another thing to think about is what types of activities are you going to provide? Again, think about the variety of people that will be attending your cookout. Will there be children there or is this a strictly adult party? Kids are pretty resilient about coming up with things to play, such as tag or hide and seek. However, if you know that there will be children there, have something ready for them to do such as a Pinata or Frisbee. If you have several adults around, have a few board games at hand, or just a plain deck of cards. Set out trays of snack chips and you might end up with a poker party before the day is over.

Memorial Day is not only a day to remember those who have gone on before us, it's a time to celebrate with those we still hold dear. Bring all the people you love together and throw a Memorial Day cookout that will always be one for the memory books.