Summer parties sound like so much fun, don't they? Nights spent under the stars with good friends, laughing, imbibing and maybe a little dancing; it's the stuff truly great summers are made of. But in reality, what we work up in our heads often becomes sipping wine quietly around a patio table with our high school hits playing in the background. Or a rooftop party that turns into roughly the same thing after everyone has had their fill of burgers and dogs. You know you and your compadres can do better.
Here are seven awesome party ideas that will create memories that are worth remembering long after September. And here's the kicker: they don't require your guests to invest a lot of time planning what to bring, or showing up in an embarrassing costume. And done right, they can be organized on the cheap.
Ice Cream Social
You can never go wrong with a nostalgia themed party (which is why this isn't the only one of its type on our list). Set up a long table with its extra leaf in or push together a couple of picnic tables. Feel free to schedule the party to start at the dinner dessert hour so guests come ready to indulge their sweet tooth. Offer basic flavors of ice cream and a variety of toppings for guests to mix and match on their own. Offer over-21 guests spiked sherbet punch and adult root bear floats (put some vodka in it). For anyone who doesn't like ice cream, stock refreshing popsicles and flavored ices. People will go nuts for this in mid-August, when summer heat is simply oppressive.
The high octane color and camp of India's famed and beloved Bollywood movies offer so much party inspiration, we can hardly handle it. From a ready-made soundtrack of Bollywood music to a Bollywood dance lesson, after you see one film you'll be hooked on the notion. We love the idea of stringing up a white sheet on a clothing line to show a movie in the back or foreground, too. Google projector rentals (so you don't have to buy one) or see if your friends can borrow one from their school or office. Food? That's easy. Cater in or make batches of samosas and chicken tikka masala with mango chutney to garnish.
Camping is a time-honored weekend vacation for friends and family. But not all of us can get away to "rough it" as much as we'd like. So any friend who stages a backyard campout will be appreciated indeed. Create a fire pit in your backyard for weenie roasting and s'mores making. Prepare a scary story or two for everyone to listen to while they sip their brews, then go around the circle and see if anyone wants to share their own. If your yard has the room, invite guests to spend the night under the stars in sleeping bags or tents which, like projectors, can be rented for a lot less than they can be bought.
Margaritas and Pinatas
The Mexican themed fete is likely one you've heard of before, and perhaps attended. The commitment to the theme is what makes or breaks these parties. And we know you can commit. It's not enough to have a taco bar and wear a sombrero. Go all out, buy a couple of pinatas and have guests whack away after they've each downed some refreshing margaritas served and mixed up by you. Play fiesta music in the background and decorate in bright citrus hues. Encourage dancing by being the first one to hit the floor.
No, we don't mean a yogurt party. What we're talking about is way more fun. Think animal house, togas and that song by Otis Day & The Nights (Shout!). Serve grape leaf roll-ups, lamb kebabs, mousaka and ouzo. Then, after everyone is a little loose and sauced, bring out the sheets. A collection you've acquired from goodwill and yard sales. Have everyone tie themselves a toga and play the classic song. Recreate the Animal House dance scene everyone knows so well, crouching down as the music volume lessens, popping up at the right moment. Yours truly had the opportunity to be part of just such a scene at a club and has never forgotten it.
Remember when you got to play with super soakers and had water balloon throwing contests? Recall slip 'n slide? All of those are still things, just things adults don't usually get to indulge in. Throw a "waterworld" party, letting your guests know ahead of time so they can wear swimsuits under or in lieu of their clothes. Fill balloons up with water, have super soakers on hand and let everyone have fun being a kid again. If you can manage to get a few plastic tarps to hold piles of damp sand, have a sand castle battle too.
The Mad Hatter's Tea Table
Hold a Mad Hatters Tea Party. Tell girls to wear their most femme ensembles and show up ready to dish over tea and crumpets, literally. It'll be a welcome change from "girls' get together" expensive brunches or boring nights out at the same old bar and grill. To give it a Mad Hatter vibe, use pretty, mismatched dishes you find at yard sales and antique shops. A stuffed mouse peeking out of a teapot is a nice touch, too. Check out the menu and decor at this popular NYC eatery called Alice's Tea Cup for inspiration.