I could offer you a comfortable home, a sunny garden, a congenial atmosphere, my cherry pies…
An inspired party theme is like a good glass of giggle water. Both incorporate quality ingredients, showcase creativity, have layers of complexity, appeal to the senses, and whet the appetite. Ready to imbibe? Read on for five chic, historically themed parties that are sure to intoxicate your guests this spring and summer.
A Game Night Inspired by Dorothy Parker
Gregory Peck and Polly Bergen
Dorothy Parker’s Algonquin Round Table brought together New York’s wittiest writers, critics, and actors for a daily dose of great food and clever conversation. But during the warmer months, the group would head to Neshobe Island, an island in the middle of Lake Bomoseen in Vermont, for game-filled days and evenings. Play up the theme by inviting a small group of friends over to enjoy an evening playing the classic party games Dorothy and her pals played: sunset croquet, cribbage, poker, classic charades, “Wink Murder,” “Twenty Questions,” and the “I-Can-Give-You-a-Sentence Game,” which involved guests taking a multi-syllabic word and turning it into a pun within 10 seconds. For example, for “horticulture”, Dorothy Parker came up with, “You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.”
A 1970s Pool Party
Photo: Slim Aarons
Recreate the retro-chic appeal of the summer of 1970 by hosting a pool party inspired by photographer Slim Aarons’ famous “Poolside Party” photograph. Shot at a Richard Neutra-designed house in Palm Springs, California, this iconic work perfectly captures the 70s vibe that’s back en vogue today. Request cabana-chic attire, slip on a pair of white lace palazzo pants, and serve Harvey Wallbangers and pineapple-chicken skewers to the sounds of The Carpenters, Tom Jones, and the 5th Dimension.
A Classic New England Clambake
Clambakes originated in North America more than 2,000 years ago when Native American tribes in New England cooked lobsters and clams in sand pits lined with seaweed and hot rocks. While there is nothing as special as a clambake on the beach, backyard clambakes at sunset can be just as delightful. Serve a traditional menu of lobster, mussels, crabs, and corn on the cob and add seaside touches like nautical rope, driftwood, shells, a sandy-textured burlap tablecloth, and cotton napkins like these.
A Regency Picnic Party
Salmagundi, the “chef’s salad” of the Regency era
Nothing says warm-weather entertaining like a picnic, and few picnics are as famous as the picnic on Box Hill in Jane Austen’s novel, Emma. Picnicking was a fashionable pastime in early 19th-century England, and a Regency picnic is a fun way to celebrate spring and summer. Invite your guests to wear pastel colors and serve Regent’s Punch (one of Prince George IV—The Regent’s—favorite drinks), tea sandwiches, chicken baskets, salmagundi, berries, scones, jam, and clotted cream. Decorate your outdoor space with an authentic British picnic rug like this one or this one, lace touches like these luncheon napkins, and a large, traditional wicker hamper like this vintage gem or this one that comes pre-stocked with British goodies.
An Ice Cream Garden Party
Ice cream gardens were fanciful restaurants in 19th-century New York that served sweet and savory ice creams, as well as other treats, lemonades, and wine. With their elaborate floral displays and festive musical entertainment, they became the place for New York ladies to see and be seen. For your ice cream party, offer a variety of sweet and savory scoops, like cinnamon, bergamot, rose petal, Parmesan cheese, and asparagus, which were all popular flavors of the day, or whip up a batch of former First Lady Dolley Madison’s favorite flavor: oyster. Serve your crème glacée in small cordial glasses so your guests can try them all, and bring in a local chamber-music group to set the perfect party tone.
And here are a few more story topics that we think you’ll enjoy:
Party theme ideas to inspire your next party
How to throw an Arbor Day dinner party
The 10 most stylish party games
Spring and Summer Party Themes
Welcome Photo and Quote Mashup
Welcome photo: Lauren Bacall
Welcome quote: Lolita, 1962