Hosting a Roaring 20s Party
Roaring 20s Party
The roaring twenties were a decadent heyday. Flappers, gangsters and speakeasies littered American landscape. The atmosphere was sensual and electric. The underground clubs pulsed with Ragtime and the music of Cab Calloway, Al Jolson and Louis Armstrong. Women were adorned in feathered headwear, pearls and mary janes, the fringes of their glimmering dresses flying as they danced. Men in pinstripes and pencil thin mustaches sipped cocktails and smoked fine cigars in spite of Prohibition.
You can recreate this fun-loving, authority dodging atmosphere in your own home for your closest friends using a few of my favorite Roaring 20s party ideas.
Your invitations are your party’s calling card. Be sure that they are unique and convey your party's theme and any expectations in advance. I prefer invitations that are either gold and silver on white, or gold and silver on black. Use plenty of feathers, sequins and/or pearls to dress them up.
In the 20s, when Prohibition was in full swing, underground clubs, known as speakeasies, and private party hosts used to require guests to know a password in order to gain entrance. This helped to keep the authorities out and the swinging partiers in. Your invitation should include an RSVP number to which guests must call to receive a password. Having a temporary cell phone designated for this purpose is a great idea. The voice mail on the phone can relay the password and ask for the guest’s name and the number in their party. I like to use “Prohibition” as the password. Since this is a costume party, be sure that guests know to wear their best 1920s attire.
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Cut a piece of black matte board to fit your front screen door. Before adhering it to the door, cut out a circle to be used as a peephole. The peephole was a common sight at Prohibition era clubs. The bouncer would look through the peephole to be sure the police weren’t as his club. Then he would ask guests for the password. When they gave it correctly, they could gain admittance. I like to feature music as guests are arriving, so I usually place an iPod player with a set playlist in an inconspicuous place. That adds to the anticipation of guests when they arrive.
I prefer to use a large tent and have my parties outdoors. It offers more flexibility and guests appreciate the fresh air. String white lights around the tents interior perimeter.
Check out shindigz.com for scene setters that will help enhance your 1920s atmosphere. They have fun, reasonably priced backdrops that are sure to add great appeal including jazz bandstands, jazz skylines and more! Add large potted plants to the corners of your tents. Best of all, they are reusable.
You can also create your own signs i.e. “Reed’s Speakeasy” and hang them at the entrance to your party.
Set round tables for 6-8 guests each with white linens and drape black linen over it to add a contrasting color. Centerpieces should include circular fish bowls with a goldfish in each, surrounded by strands of pearls. You may also keep a deck of cards and set of chips on each table so that guests can play poker or other card games of their choice. A bottle of chilled champagne on each table adds a nice touch of class. If you do this, be sure that you have each place set with a champagne flute. You don’t have to get out your best crystal. Nice plastic flutes are available in most party stores. This will help assure that you don’t have to worry about breakage.
In addition to the champagne, feature a bar area complete with a variety of liquors, beer and wine. Hiring a bartender is great idea because it keeps you from having to work your own party. If your invitation specifies a cash bar, your guests can purchase their own, making it more affordable for you. This also helps to reduce the chance of some guests overdoing it.
Having a dinner buffet is a great way to entertain and care for your guests. Dining together will give each table a chance to socialize and fill up on great food. This also reduces the chance that too many will become intoxicated. You can prepare food ahead of time and set up a buffet table with chaffing pans or hire a caterer to do the work for you. Typically, two meat choices, two starches and a variety of vegetables and other side dishes will suffice.
If you decide not to go the buffet route, you can also set up a snack bar, from which guests may choose a variety of finger foods throughout the evening.
In addition to the pick up poker, gin and rummy games that will be going on at each table, you can feature other gambling opportunities. Hiring dealers and gaming tables is a great way to keep the party going and assure that you are able to indulge as well. The dealers will take care of everything from set up to gaming and clean up. Blackjack, roulette and craps are always crowd favorites. Be sure that each guest receives plenty of playing chips when they arrive, so that they have something to gamble with.
Set up a prize bar at the back of the tent or party area from which game winners can select prizes depending on the amount of their winnings. Great ideas are bottles of liquor, six packs, or wine; chocolate cigars or chocolate guns; pearl strands or boas; gun shaped cigarette lighters; cigars; disposable cameras, etc.
Be sure that you have plenty of music and a reliable sound system on hand. Music should be from the 1920s and feature plenty of ragtime and swing tunes. If you are using a preset play list, assure that it is long enough to be continuously playing throughout the duration of your party.
Be sure to carve out an area for dancers, as flappers and their dates will definitely want to shimmy like there’s no tomorrow! You might even consider having someone on hand to give Charleston lessons.
Set up an area in front of one of your backdrops for taking photos of guests in their costumes. Now-a-days everyone has a digital camera. In case they do not, have a handful of disposable cameras available.
It's a Raid!
Having volunteers bust up your party is a fun way to signal that the event has come to an end. If your invitations indicate that your party will end at 1:00 a.m., have your volunteers, in police costume with Billy Clubs, bust in at about 12:50 a.m. and announce, “This is a raid!” This makes a fun, creative way of getting guests to gather up their belongings and head for their cars.
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