Summer fun is here; so call a few friends, and throw a party. Grab your tank top, tidy up the patio and start scrubbing the deck, because the birds are singing outside and daylight saving time is offering us all another whole hour of sun to celebrate in. Those staid winter-season gatherings with the good china and crystal are a thing of the past -- till next fall, anyway.
Need some ideas to create a party atmosphere and make your deck, pool or patio bash an afternoon or evening to remember? There are lots of cool themes that can dial up the romance, generate some humor or work as a masterful conversation starter the next time you entertain. Don't just stock up on supplies at the party store, either. A little ingenuity and a sense of fun can go a long way toward making your summer party a sizzling success.
10: Arabian Nights
Aladdin never had it as good as the folks who'll be sampling your shrimp kabobs, marinated ribs and other finger food. The aromas may be enough to make people feel the love, but some decorative enhancements could turn those tasty tidbits into a decadent evening to rival an interlude at a desert oasis.
With so much outdoor entertaining going on these days, make sure to stock up on plush indoor-outdoor pillows and padded loungers. Even if you have a small outdoor space or think your yardscape needs work, an Arabian Nights-themed party with lanterns and comfy seating will set the scene and give your guests somewhere to unwind in style.
Paper lanterns are a wonderful idea, but even outdoor lights covered with gauzy fabric will look muted, romantic and deliciously fun. Drag out your harem pants if you dare.
To round out your theme, be sure to have a little mood music playing in the background, like the second movement of Rismky Korsakov's "Scheherazade." Spray some essence of jasmine on the evening air, or plant a night-blooming jasmine variety for some authentic flare.
9: Beach Blanket Bingo
If you have a pool, a beach party theme is a natural. Throw a few beach balls around and encourage folks to dress in their swimsuits or short shorts for the occasion. Decorate your table with brightly colored terrycloth towels instead of a conventional tablecloth, and opt for some nifty beach-classic graphic elements, like polka dots or bold stripes. Play to the crowd with 60s-era music or something more modern, and keep it lively. Offer finger food that's portable and has picnic nostalgia, like fried chicken or hot dogs. Early evening is the perfect time to light up your fire pit if you have one and roast some marshmallows in front of your own faux beachfront bonfire.
8: Dog Day Afternoon
Include your pets in the summer fun by inviting them to the festivities. Summer season puppies can be a blast to play with, so if you have friends with new canine family members, make them the stars of the show at your next gathering by turning it into a puppy party. Puppy paw print textiles, like cushion covers and tablecloths will tie in well with the theme, and some kibble and abundant sources of fresh, cool water will make your four-footed guests feel welcome.
Keep the festivities in a well-supervised location so you can corral your furry charges, and encourage pet parents to make sure their pets are current on their shots before they make their social debut. Oh, and don't forget to designate a cleanup person to keep the premises tidy for the duration.
With the technical issues taken care of, all you need are some classic summer foods, like potato salad, burgers and beans, some doggy toys, and a few single-use cameras to capture the puppy party highlights.
7: Tiki Bar
You may never visit a South Seas island, but relaxing under tiki torches while sipping an exotic drink may be the next best thing. Inviting your friends to share the fantasy will be a breeze if you add a few other Polynesian touches to your décor, like putting a raffia skirt around your buffet table and making sure to have some live orchids and other lush vegetation to place on tables and countertops. Some island music will create the mood, and a centerpiece of fresh fruits, like whole pineapple, coconuts, bananas, mangos and papayas will make a colorful and tasty arrangement to share or save for later feasting.
6: Christmas in July
The shopping networks are celebrating Christmas in July, so why shouldn't you? If you can't get enough of Santa, love Rudolph and consider decorating the Christmas tree a hobby, pull out the pine boughs and bring on some not-quite-Christmas cheer. Santa in a speedo would be a definite ice breaker, and setting up your tree, complete with a pile of beach sand around the base and a complement of shells and starfish for decoration would get the theme ball rolling, too. Deep fry a turkey or grill one, instead. If you've never prepared the big bird outdoors in the open air, you're sure to become a convert once you've tried it.
Need we say that some carols playing softly in the background and a few merrily wrapped presents will add Christmas ambience, and a couple of elves or reindeer in sunglasses will contribute some subtle humor, too. If you can't wait until December to hear "Jingle Bell Rock" one more time, this one's for you.
5: Wild, Wild West
Grab your chaps, six shooter and bean pot, because this cattle roundup is headed for your house. If your idea of bliss is a nice sirloin or porterhouse steak around the campfire, then stake your claim to a Wild West theme party. Decorate with red or blue kerchief fabric, pull out those hurricane lanterns and turn on some classic country music. With some baked beans in your slow cooker, cowboy hats filled with fresh flowers and a few "Wanted" poster placemats, you'll be ready for your own hootenanny.
4: Under the Sea
Even if you don't have a water feature on your property, you can celebrate the joys of boating, surfing or just an afternoon near the water with an under the sea themed party. Choose your favorite denizens of the deep, like whales, sharks and dolphins, for party ware and tablecloths. Add some unexpected surprises, too, like a treasure chest made from plywood or an old trunk. Have everyone bring a gag gift for the chest, and you'll be able to distribute the booty at the end of the evening. Decorate with shells, sand and candles. Asking everyone to wear costumes is always fun, but even if no one is wearing an eye patch, it's still a great way to throw a party.
3: South of the Border Fiesta
This party theme almost decorates itself. Use bright, primary colors in your tableware, and don't forget to add some prominently displayed serapes, sombreros and piñatas to the decor. Have some mariachi music playing in the background to serenade your guests, and don't forget to serve lots of chips, salsa and guacamole. If you're taking the party outdoors, string red chili pepper lights around the perimeter of your deck or patio, and use dried chili pepper garlands and wreaths to create some visual interest on your buffet or table. Whip up a few pitchers of margaritas, too. The señors y señoritas are bound to get thirsty before the evening is over.
2: Baseball Bash
Celebrate your favorite team sport by letting your guests provide the décor. Invite them to wear their favorite baseball team's logo to the party on a T-shirt or cap. Offer some mini-wood bats as party favors, and don't forget to serve traditional stadium favorites like hot dogs and warm peanuts in the shell. Showcase the beverage of the hour -- beer. Have plenty on hand and serve it in baseball themed can coolers.
Program your doorbell to play "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" when guests arrive, and if you have a big screen television, have "Field of Dreams" or "The Natural" playing muted in the background. These baseball film classics will give anyone a nostalgic appreciation for the boys of summer.
1: Hawaiian Luau
You don't need a whole pig roasting in an underground pit to create a fun luau themed party, but it doesn't hurt. Although this may be a bit much for most casual hosts, some other traditional luau staples will work just fine. You can offer the ladies grass skirts and faux leis to wear. Both are available in bulk at reasonable prices. The men can wear leis and sport their own brightly colored Hawaiian shirts. Tropical fruits are a very nice decorative touch here, too; in large bowls, they'll contribute interest and fragrance. Filling your house or deck with ferns, bird of paradise, orchids and other exotic flowers and plants will help to create a tropical mood that's textural and dynamic.
This is another occasion where a raffia table skirt will come in handy. Ukulele music can help carry through the theme, so will bowls filled with macadamia nuts. As a novelty, display coconuts with a few cut stalks of sugar cane. They'll add an unexpected and authentic touch.
Lots More Information
- Adult Party Ideas. "Hawaiian Luau." Undated. 4/8/10.http://www.adultpartyideas.com/html/luau_parties_8.html
- Goldrich-Wolf, Laurie. "A Pool-Side Bash." Parents.com. Undated. 4/7/10.http://www.parents.com/fun/birthdays/themes/kids-pool-party/
- GrassSkirts.net."Leis & Luau." Undated. 4/7/10.http://www.grassskirts.net/
- Home Decorating Made Easy. "Homes Interior Decorating Theme Ideas." Undated. 3/7/10.http://www.home-decorating-made-easy.com/homes-interior-decorating.html
- Homer TLC, Inc. "Decorating 1-2-3." Meredith Books. 2000.
- Kennedy, Kimberly. "The Art and Craft of Entertaining." Atria Books. 2005.
- Party 411. "Baseball Can Cooler." Undated. 4/7/10.http://party411.makesparties.com/Catalog.aspx?intDisplayableCategoryID=2868&intDisplayableProductID=118397
- Party 411. "Summer Party Planning Guide." Undated. 4/7/10.http://www.party411.com/summer.html
- Resinger, Monica. "Finding a Decorating Theme." 11/22/05. 4/8/10.http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf350238.tip.html
- Teen Party Ideas. "Western Round Up." Undated. 4/8/10.http://www.teenpartyideas.com/html/western_round-up_party.html