Decorating and entertaining for special occasions gives me great joy. I love to share some of my more creative ideas.
Great Potluck Themes
I used to belong to a great social club. We sponsored many potlucks. The way it worked was, if you were willing to sponsor an event, you submitted a description to the newsletter coordinator. Then, your event would appear in the month's newsletter describing what you were providing and what your guests should bring to the potluck.
Sometimes it was just a dessert party in the evening and everyone brought a dessert; sometimes it was a picnic and everyone was asked to bring a side dish. Essentially, these are all forms of potlucks.
When I sponsored an event, I always had a theme to generate more interest. In this article, I am going to share the more successful themed potlucks that I sponsored, as well as some new ideas.
A lot of these are adaptable for your own celebrations. Even if you don't have a newsletter, you could write the information on an invitation.
Chocolate (aka Chocolat) Party
For Chocoholics Everywhere
This was a dessert party only, for people who had already eaten dinner. I set this potluck for 7:00 p.m.
In our newsletter blurb, I indicated that everyone should bring a chocolate item and that I would be showing the movie Chocolat.
I set it up to look sophisticated and elegant. The table was set with a nice white tablecloth and candles. My contribution was chocolate dip in a silver chafing dish surrounded by pieces of fruit for dipping. The chandelier was set to dim so the candles could sparkle. I used very pretty paper plates and my good flatware.
A coffee urn was set up in the kitchen with decaf. (I figured, there's enough caffeine in all the chocolate).
It turned out great! Everyone brought such different things, it made for a real tasting feast. Of course, someone brought brownies and there were chocolate cakes. We had a box of chocolates, moon pies, donuts, chocolate cookies and someone brought Godiva chocolate cordial.
There was only pushback from one person, who called to say that she didn't think this was a good idea so she was bringing a white cake with white frosting—there's one in every crowd! (At the end of the night, there was only one piece gone from her cake—hmmmm).
It was a great theme for socializing as everyone milled about the table, taking little taste samples and telling each other what to try.
When it seemed as if everyone had their fill, I put on a DVD of the movie Chocolat with Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, and Johnny Depp.
Chocolat Trailer on YouTube - PG 13
Afternoon Tea Party
A Tea Can Be a Potluck Party
This party was set for a Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. Everyone was asked to bring cookies, scones, biscuits, or little tea sandwiches.
In the kitchen, I had the coffee urn filled with hot water. I already had many, many boxes of herbal tea and I picked up a few more. By the coffee urn was sugar, lemons, honey, and cream.
The dining room table was set with a pink tablecloth. For extra seating, I put a tablecloth over the coffee table. In the kitchen, I set up a little round table with a pastel tablecloth.
At the time, I lived where part of my property grew wild—and it was wild rose time. I put a vase of wild roses on each table and sprinkled rose petals all over the tablecloths—the aroma was wonderful. Wild roses have a strong rose scent.
One of my friends arrived early and she suggested that I also tie the vases with pink ribbons, so I whisked out the wrapping paper box and we quickly tied pink ribbons around.
Again, it was great. The guests rallied and brought a wide assortment of homemade cookies and tiers of little tea sandwich.
A Tapas Party
So Good for Socializing
A tapas party is part of Spanish cuisine. The idea is instead of having a big meal, the guests eat appetizers and hors d'oevres. The guests go from table to table nibbling, thus circulating and socializing. There are usually fewer chairs than people to keep the party moving.
I asked that everyone bring an appetizer or hors d'oeuvre. The results were an amazing assortment: olives and cheese on toothpicks; ham and cheese wrapped around asparagus; bruchetta spread with calamata olive paste; and much, much more.
As each guest arrived, I asked them to put their creation on any table around the living room and dining room.
To give it kind of a club atmosphere, I kept my three-way lamps on low. I sprinkled metallic confetti all over my rugs and on my table cloths. In the background, I had Laura Fygi music playing to further the supper club feel.
Laura Fygi is in the genre of Diane Krall—very pleasant to listen to and singing old standards.
Cinco de Mayo Potluck Party
For this one, I asked everyone to bring a Mexican dish and to wear bright colors. I was at first fearful that everyone would bring taco chips and salsa, but that was not the case. Some people stopped at Taco Bell and picked up a dish. There was a big variety. As for the clothing, several people came in large straw hats, there were long ruffled skirts—it was so bright and cheerful.
I set up two punch bowls—one with alcohol-free sangria and one with alcohol-free margaritas. I have to tell you, they were as good as the alcohol version and I didn't have to worry about any of my guests travelling home.
At one of the local discount stores, I found inexpensive red silk roses. I had one of my male friends greet each female guest and present her with a rose.
Ahead of time, I burnt the tips of about 20 corks. I had one of my female friends greet all the male guests and use a burnt cork to draw a mustache on them.
Mariachi music was playing all the time and I handed out the words to the more common songs such as La Cucaracha and Cieto Lindo.
After dinner we all went outside to hit a piñata.
How About an Italian Dinner Potluck Theme?
This could be for Columbus Day—or any day.
Get a red and white checked table cloth. Put some drip candles in old empy wine bottles.
A nice centerpiece would be a bowl of Mediterranean fruits—oranges, tangerines, grapes—must have grapes. If figs are in season, add them. Also, add Brazil nuts and walnuts to the fruit bowl.
Ask everyone to bring an Italian dish. The possibilities are endless: meatballs, lasagna, crusty Italian bread, chicken parmigiana, bruschetta, garlic bread, baked ziti. If they are not gifted cooks, they can bring a pizza.
And then the desserts: canollis or spumoni.
Play some Italian music in the background: see the sample of Il Divo on YouTube below. The women will melt.
You can show a humorous movie set in Italy: Divorce Italian Style, Marriage Italian Style, or How to Murder Your Wife are some suggestions. Or, you can sit around the table after dinner for hours just talking, as they do in Italy.
Chinese New Year or Just Chinese Food Potluck
I Have Never Done It, but I Think I May
This can be so bright and colorful. Hang paper lanterns and use bright red plates. Have a pot of water so everyone can make tea.
Easy for the guests. If they want, they can just stop off at a Chinese restaurant to bring a dish. Some of the larger supermarkets also sell whole bags of fortune cookies; that's one option for someone to bring. Also, the frozen food department of the supermarket now has large portion Chinese food bags. Fried rice is relatively easy to make if someone wants to try their hand at that.
You can play the video Mulan by Disney. It's enjoyable for children and adults. Play Chinese checkers. And of course, read your fortune cookies.
© 2011 Ellen Gregory
What Do You Think? - Do You Like to Throw or Attend Parties?
Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on February 25, 2014:
I'm an incurable chocoholic!
Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on September 25, 2013:
I love these ideas especially the chocolate party!
Dancing Cowgirl Design from Texas on September 15, 2013:
Sounds like a great idea to have a theme along with the pot luck party.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 23, 2013:
I would love that tapas party.
Ellen Gregory (author) from Connecticut, USA on April 25, 2013:
@Magda2012: Yes and cleaning up the leftovers, after everyone is gone, is great!
Magda2012 on April 24, 2013:
I love your chocolate party idea :)
Sharyn Read from ... either in the kitchen or at my laptop... on February 07, 2013:
Being a crock pot cook from way back, with a number of really yummy recipes that feed a large crowd, we are frequently invited to pot luck dinners, and usually with a specific request of what to make! Love them!
anonymous on January 28, 2013:
I love pot lucks, and if you are ever inviting guests...please remember me.
Fun to stop by here again...when do we eat? :)
Melissa Miotke from Arizona on January 16, 2013:
I love the idea of a chocolate potluck!
JoleneBelmain on December 23, 2012:
If I ever threw a themed potluck... it would be bacon, no questions asked ;)
applejacking on December 21, 2012:
Festive party concepts and I'm big fans of Il Divo too :D
RinchenChodron on August 18, 2012:
Some wonderful themes! I want to come! When is the next potluck?
JuserTM on July 30, 2012:
Fantastic lens, well done!
eccles1 on July 30, 2012:
I love potlucks and I have them at my house but it has been awhile
GeekGirl1 on July 19, 2012:
Great lens. I like Tapas potluck party.
anonymous on April 10, 2012:
I love the idea of a Tapas themed party!
squid-pinkchic18 on April 02, 2012:
Love these ideas! I especially love the chocolate idea, but that's always a given. :)
anonymous on March 07, 2012:
These are marvelous ideas! I'd love to have every one of these parties! Thanks for including recipes, too!
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on February 12, 2012:
Our neighborhood hasn't had a potluck for awhile. Thanks for these great ideas. I'm pondering and may choose one soon. We had a St Patrick's potluck once. The dishes they brought did not necessarily have to be Irish. They could be green (salad, spinach pasta dish, brownies with green icing).
jlshernandez on February 02, 2012:
I like the idea of a tapas party. A little of everything brought by the guests to share. Sending an Angel blessing your way for this cool lens.
MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on January 23, 2012:
Thank you for some fabulous ideas. My favorite is the chocolate one. Now, I need to get busy planning a party. Wish me luck!
Showpup LM on December 19, 2011:
Fun ideas. We have many potlucks in our family but we've never themed them. May have to start!
Mary Crowther from Havre de Grace on November 15, 2011:
Great ideas! I like the Tapas theme!
Winter52 LM on September 28, 2011:
I was going to choose your chocolate theme first... how can you go wrong with that?? And then I spotted the little "Afternoon Tea" I must send these ideas on to my mom... her social club would love these ideas!!
anonymous on September 26, 2011:
What a wonderful idea (Themed Potluck parties). I enjoyed my visit and your lens was great. Thanks also for your visit/comment on my lens.
chgreen on September 17, 2011:
I never got to see that movie, but your lens makes me want to have a chocolat party!
Ellen Gregory (author) from Connecticut, USA on September 08, 2011:
@Commandrix: My Mom was Lutheran. They always called theirs "Smorgsbords". Maybe a Scandinavian theme, eh?
Heidi from Benson, IL on September 08, 2011:
These are some interesting ideas. As a Lutheran, potlucks are a normal part of my church life and I'll be sure to suggest a "theme" for our next one. Maybe a non-scary Halloween thing, since I think our next one is going to be in October.
anonymous on September 08, 2011:
Its been a while but I do enjoy a party and potlucks always have yummy foods because everyone brings their best. Great ideas of turning a potluck into a themed event, just adding to the fun of it all, well done!