Pool Party Ideas
Looking for a cool solution for backyard entertaining this summer? Why not host a themed pool party for a little fun in the sun!
Here are our adult pool party ideas on how to create the perfect get together that will put you and your guests at ease, knowing you've attended to every detail.
Step 1: Pool Party Themes
Style the party by incorporating themed decorations and party supplies that will make a splash without taking a big bite out of the budget. Here are some of my favorite pool party themes...
- Beach/Surfer - Make waves with cute and beachy tabletop accents & surfer supplies that will elevate your pool party from an ordinary gathering. Add Carolina shag selections to the party music playlist to give off those good vibrations.
- Luau - Whisk away to the tropics by incorporating fruity flavors and aromas into the party palate while dancing the hula under flickering tiki torchlight.
- Nautical - Anchors aweigh with bold stripe patterns and nautical motifs scattered in unassuming places like porch pillows and side tables.
- Pink Flamingo - Have your yard properly “flocked” 24 hours before the party for classic retro-inspired fun, and personalize pink flamingo sunglasses as a cute party favor.
- Colors - Invite your guests to wear coordinated swimwear according to the theme colors, like black & white polka dots or metallic gold.
Step 2: Pool Party Invitations
- Give guests plenty of time to respond to your party invitation by sending them out via electronic media such as email/text, social media, or a verbal invite/phone call 2-3 weeks in advance.
- Also be sure to mention your party theme when inviting guests to this casual gathering. This gives them a chance to prepare for the party atmosphere, especially by being invited to wear themed swimwear.
- Specify whether children are invited to avoid potential confusion.
Step 3: Pool Party Preparation
While I’ve written up a party preparation timeline and shopping list in previous posts, three important details specific to pool party planning should be mentioned.
- Pool Chemicals: Chlorine shock your pool a week before the event so the water is clear and clean, and any potential issues have time to be worked out. In addition to having your chemicals balanced, you may want to start out with chlorine a little high on pool day, depending upon the number of swimmers you plan to invite.
- Mosquito control: I like to have my pool area sprayed twice before a party, once the week before the occasion and again the day before it. For big parties, in addition to the two rounds, I’ll add an additional spray two weeks before, since more bodies tend to attract more bugs.
- Fly control: Flies can also be a concern especially around food tables, so make sure to cover dishes, trays & condiments with lids, plastic wrap, and/or towels. You can also set potted plants like mint, lavender, and basil around the food table, not only as decorations but as naturally fragrant fly repellent.
Step 4: Pool Party Food Ideas
Here are some pool party food ideas and serving guidelines that may be helpful to keep in mind. If the party starts at...
- Noon or before: Plan to serve lunch.
- 1:00-2:00: Offer snacks and appetizers throughout, and a light meal between 4:00-5:00.
- 3:00-5:00: Serve a full dinner.
Prepare everything before the party starts, preferably several days in advance to give yourself time for last-minute details. This includes...
- Cutting garnishes/toppings and refrigerating them in individual serving dishes.
- Preparing towel-draped baskets to place bagged finger foods
- Having meats/main dishes ready to heat in serving containers.
Here are some pool party food ideas for poolside dining that are substantial without being heavy, and are convenient to serve...
- Cut fruit, vegetable trays
- Mixed nuts, shelled
- Cheese cubes
- Mini sandwiches, pinwheels
- Deviled eggs
- Brownies, cookies, cupcakes
- Taco bar, self-serve
- Deli meat sandwich rolls
- Pizza slices
- Chicken, tuna, egg salad wraps
- Baked fish, chicken
- Grilled shrimp & wedge salad
- Meat & vegetable skewers
- Crock pot chili
- Grilled burgers
Also find easy-to-eat, utensilless food ideas and recipes in our Picnic Food section here.
Step 5: Pool Party Drink Ideas
A unique signature cocktail with a fun, thematic name makes your party that much more memorable. Choose a drink that you can mix in large batches days in advance and store in the freezer.
Don’t forget to take it out the day before the party and allow it to defrost in the refrigerator; you are aiming for 50% melt, as the warm weather during the party will do the rest. Plus, you’ll be amazed at how much ice you save. Some delicious pool party drink ideas include...
- Goombay Smash
- Rum punch
- Spiked lemonade/iced tea
Of course, offer plenty of non-alcoholic, hydrating beverage selections as well!
Tips for Serving & Safety
- It’s a pool party, so use the opportunity to serve food with a bit of flair; float bowls of stemmed fruit like grapes and cherries (along with a cup for stems & pits), cheese cube skewers, and other bite-sized morsels.
- Really wow your guest with a remote-controlled drink & snack float. Also use floating drink holders, free-standing or attached to pool rafts.
- Plan on providing at least 2lb. of ice per adult for a 3 hour party, more if longer; starting 2 weeks before the party, empty your ice maker into trash bags to keep it in the freezer for backup.
- Heavy-duty, hard plastic freezable drink dispensers should be used for signature cocktails so guests can self-serve.
- Have a hidden out-of-the way location for trash cans and dirty dishes to keep things tidy during your event.
- Unbreakable drink & tableware that aren't made of paper make for a better presentation and won’t blow away. Good quality plastics, metal, or Corel glassware can also be used for future outdoor parties.
- Keep cool foods over ice or in ice chests and hot foods over a burner or in a crock pot.
- Choose foods that won’t spoil in outdoor temperatures for selections not served in temperature-controlled containers.
Step 6: Pool Party Decoration Ideas
Now for the fun stuff! Let’s talk pool party decoration ideas: where to, what kind, and how much. You may be familiar with my so-called “Party Zones” from previous posts, but I’ll briefly rehash them if you need a quick refresher.
For a more detailed description, check out my suggestions for an Outdoor Party Setup.
Welcome your guests to the event by directing them to the pool party area with pennants, streamers or signage that pave the way to fun. One of my fave new ideas is to use sidewalk chalk to draw creative designs on the driveway and garden paths to direct guests to the desired entrance.
For late evening parties, themed electric string lights and glow sticks make a fabulous impression.
If you happen to have a swim-up bar, your work here is done. Others should plan to set up a self-serve drink station within the party area but away from food tables so that each guest circulates through the party area.
Add a smattering of flower blossoms to a thematic clothed or skirted table and arrange garnishes, ice, as well as themed skewers and swizzle sticks so they readily available. Small knickknacks featuring motifs or icons related to the theme as well as hanging decorations will spruce up the party atmosphere.
A day of hanging out by the pool necessitates ample lounge space, but keep the furniture arranged in small groups of three or four spaced around the pool perimeter for maximum interaction.
Use coordinated slipcovers and tabletop decorations for extra details to emphasize your theme. A mixture of shady and sunny seating will ensure that sun-worshipers and hot-blooded guests alike can find a comfortable space.
If partying into the evening, be sure to plan lighting accordingly by incorporating votive candles, tiki torches, and electric string lights to illuminate conversational spaces without the need for harsh flood lights.
In addition to the floating food and drink trays mentioned earlier, having other pool toys like squishy water bombs, inflatable beach balls, and themed rubber duckies will add unexpected elements of fun to ensure that everyone stays entertained.
Potted palms and plants can give the pool area an exotic appeal. Colored submersible LED accent lights and floating candles lit as night falls are sure to make a lasting impression.
When serving a full meal, create a separate venue for dining and a change in scenery that will mix up your guests and keep your party interesting. If not using a banquet table, place smaller tables in close proximity and tie them together, visually, with identical centerpieces.
Serving/buffet tables featuring accent decor should be set up outside of the seating area to avoid creating barriers between guests. For daytime parties offering lighter fare, set up serving tables in the mingling area as a welcome retreat without disrupting the party flow.
Add themed placecard holders to the food table that identify covered dishes, condiments, and drink names.
Choose an area some distance from the pool as your dance floor to be on the safe side. Outline the area with flower petals, hang paper lanterns, and light it up with themed string lights and tiki torches.
Communicate which guest bathroom dripping party guests can use by incorporating themed decor on the door and counter space, and signage if needed.
Themed hand towels, fun shaped soap bars, and attractive votive candle holders are all great and inexpensive ideas to perpetuate the theme. Make sure to maintain the walkway with absorbent mats and rugs to prevent falls from slippery surfaces.
Changing RoomProvide a changing area separate from the bathroom that can also accommodate wet swimsuits. Extra towels, hair ties, and a hairdryer are thoughtful elements that show your hospitality as much as the stylish tabletop decorations you’ll likely want to display.
Keep the music happy and upbeat, and incorporate songs that correspond with the theme if possible. For tips on making a playlist, check out How to Make A Party Music Playlist.
Pool Party Extras
Here are a few other things a diligent and capable host might keep on hand to make your pool party flow more smoothly just in case the need arises...
- Bug spray
- Flip flops
- First aid kit
- Beach towels
- Citronella candles
- Box fans