Party Swizzle Theme Party Decorations For Adults
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Home>Cocktail Event Planning>Decorating Ideas
Cocktail Party Planning
The Party Layout
Planning Cocktails
Planning A Birthday Party
Get This Party Started
Lighting & Aroma
Mixology 101
Disaster Planning TIps
Choosing A Theme
Decorating Ideas
Serving Food
Cocktail Party Checklist
Inviting Guests
Setting Up A Bar
Making Music
Party Shopping Lists

How To Decorate For A Party: Cocktail Party Decoration Ideas

Decorations, props, and surprises are the extras that can make your cocktail party memorable.  Subtle decorations and unique accessories all centered around a cohesive theme keep your party interesting and your guests entertained.

A great rule of party decorating is:  Don't give them what they expect....surprise them!

Quality over size and quantity: Cocktail parties should be elegant and sophisticated.  Nothing cheapens a party like tawdry paper and plastic decorations, so choose quality over volume.

When decorating, plan understated and clever accents to be discovered over the duration of the party.  The surprise of finding unexpected thought-provoking treasures throughout the evening will delight your guests.  And, a cohesive theme will help partygoers recognize your nuggets of creativity as they stumble upon them.

Neutralize the backgroundMake your decorations stand out by neutralizing the background. Replace off-theme colors with neutral tones, such as beige, brown or white in areas that serve as a direct background for your party decorations. 

A prime example is to use a white tablecloth and napkins to emphasize your dinner table decorations

Colors:  Go through your closets and stored items to find everything related to the colors appropriate for your theme. Use theme-related colors on your neutralized backgrounds throughout your home

For example, use red, white and green for a Mexican Fiesta; blue and teal to represent water for an Under the Sea Theme; navy blue, red, white, and yellow for Nautical; neon pink, green, and black for Retro; and pink, naturally, for a Pink Flamingo party.

For color themed parties, use a colored bulb to light a corner of the party area or bathroom.  Buy scrapbook paper in your theme color and put in photo frames for dramatic splashes of color wherever needed.  Scrapbook paper is available at hobby stores.

Strategic placement: Achieve subtle surprises throughout your party by strategically placing tasteful decorations where they will be seen by most of your guests.  Here are the key areas that almost every guest will look:

Invitation -- Whether you are using a simple or more elaborate theme, your invitation should be the first clue.  The invitation is also an opportunity to create excitement and anticipation.

Evite offers a large selection of invitations for virtually every theme. If you do not see one you like, you can design your own. This may be the best option for basic themes, such as a color, where you simply use contrasting shades for the text and background. 

Outside Entrance – Elevate your guests’ spirits as they arrive with decorations at the entrance to the party.  Everyone has to get there, so your front entrance embellishment will be experienced by all your guests, plus it will serve as a confirmation that they are at the right place.

A yard stake can easily be placed outside at the front entrance or along the walk. Alternatively, use a potted plant outside the front door or in the party area.

Colored mini-lights will certainly be noticed and are great to reinforce a color theme.  Also quite effective as an interior decoration.

Door hangings will literally be in each guest's face when hung on the front door and are a great introduction to your party theme.  Use a wreath hanger to avoid  using nails, tacks, or glue. 

Foyer – If you really want to go all out, add a more elaborate decoration inside the entrance in the foyer.  Because of the distractions upon arrival, a decoration in the foyer should be larger and/or prominently displayed to be seen. 

You may want to create a mini-scene that is related to the theme.  For example, a  surfboard, beach chair and beach ball for a beach theme or a tree and tombstones on grass surrounded by an "iron" fence for Halloween.

BarPractically every guest will visit the bar, therefore this is a logical location for a key decoration.  A tabletop item along with a couple of votive candles will be seen without taking up too much space. Also, sprinkle theme-related confetti on the bar for an extra detail.

Drinks – Not only can you name your specialty drink according to your theme, you may also choose a cocktail of a color related to your decorations.  And regardless of what your guests are drinking, you can dress it up with theme-related cocktail accessories, such as, napkins, garnishes, toothpicks, swizzle sticks, and/or umbrellas.

Party area – With everyone packed into the party area, decorations are less likely to be noticed. For this reason, place party decorations at eye level or above in the party area.

Use votive candle holders grouped and throughout the room at a level of 6 feet. Also place a couple on the bar.

Hors d'oeuvre trays – Passing hors d'oeuvres adds a sophisticated touch and another opportunity to surprise your guest with a small, themed centerpiece on your serving tray

A unique decoration passed with each tray will add interest and show your originality.  Once the tray is passed you can strategically place the decoration in a high-visibility area.

If the centerpiece is unstable or a little tall, use double-sided tabs to stick the centerpiece to the tray.  You will need to cut a hole the size and shape of the tab in the center of the doily first.

Balloon weights are nice and stable and make much cuter hors d'oeuvre tray centerpieces than holding down another bunch of balloons.

Bathroom – The bathroom is likely to be visited by every guest and is another primary spot to showcase your festive decorations.  A tabletop display, hand towels, confetti, and soap to match your theme will certainly make a big impression when they don't expect it.

Put floating candles in your bathtub for an extra touch.  Use a single flower to reinforce a color theme.

Dining table – For a cocktail party, an accent such as a table runner is effective to add color and festivity to the dining room.  Generally the dining room is not a high traffic area during a cocktail party and the level of decorating should reflect the visibility of the table.  Also, add candlesticks to complete the setting.

Confetti -- Confetti used sparingly, in key locations, adds an extra sparkle to decorated areas.  Confetti should be used on the bar top and in the bathroom to accent these high visibility areas. Include in any thank you notes you may write afterward.

Personal attire -- Everyone will see the host, so be sure to get others into the spirit by dressing and accessorizing your outfit.   Dress appropriate to the style of your party, for super casual wear a grass skirt and coconut bra to your luau, or dress it up with a tasteful floral dress and a hibiscus for you hair.

Note:  The effort you put into "dressing the part" will set the standard and directly impact the energy your guests will put into your future parties. And, as always, apply your good taste.

-- Even if you are not using flowers, you can still fill your vases with colored rocks, marbles, candy, submersible LED lights, or colored water. Top off with a unique floral spray to match.

Accessories: Leis, beads, glow necklaces, flowers and other accessories let you decorate each guest individually.  You can also put colored beads in a bowl and set them on the bar for an attractive table-top decoration for guests to wear, if they choose.  Hang leis near the entrance to place around guests’ neck upon arrival.

Note:  You do not need a lei, necklace or other accessory for every guest, everyone will not want to wear one.

Flowers: – Flowers are a nice touch to any party setting, but not required.  Choose flowers that relate to the prominent color(s) of your decorations.  A single flower, such as a Gerbera daisy, in the bathroom is dramatic and relatively inexpensive.

Birthdays: - For birthdays add an extra show of festivity by hanging swirls or streamers from the ceiling. Also include a “Happy Birthday” banner and special, fun candles for the birthday cake or treats.  “Happy Birthday” gel letters are a unique touch for the bathroom mirror.

Balloons are overdone and unoriginal. Only use them in less traditional ways.  For example, tied to a float in the pool, without strings covering the ceiling, tied end to end to reach 100 feet into the sky, tied together into the shape of a life size palm tree, or multi-sized, multi-height white balloons to look like bubbles.  Otherwise, skip the balloons.