Fight The Frost With A Luau Party

It’s fall. I get that. And while I’m loving all the Halloween costume ideas, cozy sweater pics and recipes for pumpkin everything that everyone else is posting, I’m not ready to give in to cooler weather just yet.

So I’m ignoring the impending winter and introducing you to Jessica Rask, party planner extraordinaire. Jessica is from Horace, ND and she throws a particularly legendary luau party.

She’s going to enlighten us on how to make candy kabobs and get your friends into coconut bras and tell us her handy method of calculating the number of Jell-O shots needed for any size gathering. (Where was this information when I was in college?)

Here’s how to throw a fantastic luau party, no matter the season.

How to Throw a Luau Party Dessert Tray
These candy kabobs are adorable, don’t you think?
Just pop your favorite candy on a stick and you’re good to go.
Jessica used Mounds Bars, Peeps and candied fruit. 

Invite The Most Fun People You Know:
“All that you need for a good party is good people,” says Jessica.”Inviting people who are not afraid to get into the spirit of a party and have a good time is everything.”

Even if your house is on the small side, like Jessica’s, that doesn’t mean you need to be exclusive –- let guests who already love the party spread the word to their like-minded friends.

And then relax and let the party flow. A gathering this kitschy cool should never take itself too seriously. “I have found people love a theme party if you keep it loose,” Jessica says. “If you give them all the ingredients for a good time like wonderful food, and drinks, music and something to do, the rest takes care of itself.”

Jessica suggests setting out yard games, cards and board games, plenty of versatile seating and easily accessible ice and mixers for refills and letting the party take on a life of its own.

How to Throw a Luau Party Banner
Set the Mood With Decorations:
Jessica’s home is cozy, but it was absolutely bursting with people and tropical decorations. This is one party where you don’t have to worry about being too cheesy – even the kitschiest decorations somehow look cool en masse. Look for grass skirting, tropical flower garlands, Hawaiian surf posters, tiki torches and beachy decorations all work.

“I buy supplies absolutely everywhere,” says Jessica. “I tend to find the most unique and interesting items at thrift stores and garage sales but I have also been known to frequent Party City and Oriental Trading.”

And don’t stress about placement. Jessica says that more is more with this kind of a party.

“I make most of my ideas up as I go,” she says. “When I find an item or decoration I can’t live without for a good price I don’t put a lot of thought into if I need it or where I will use it; I just buy it and worry about the details later. When it is party planning time, I break out all of the stuff I have and spread it all around the house and let the decorations tell me where they will make the most sense.”

Greet Guests With a Signature Drink:
Jessica takes her libations extremely seriously. When I crashed her party this year, she met me at the door with a cup of fantastic punch with spiked fruit. The recipe is top-secret, but she did tell me she didn’t soak the fruit as long this year because the people who were snacking on the fruit in last year’s version got a little…sleepy. To create your own signature punch, look here for a base recipe and experiement, experiment, experiment.(Who said research can’t be fun?)

I’d barely gotten a drink of the punch down when Jessica came around again with a tray of six different varieties of Jell-O Shots. Why Jell-O shots?

“Why NOT jello shots? They are one of the most creative, colorful, and fun ways to deliver liquor I have ever had and I have become known for the plethora of recipes I keep track of,” says Jessica. “My standing list is up to about 70. I have some for every occasion.”

Jessica has a system for figuring out how many shots to make. “If I am going to have 30 people then I figure every guest needs about 3 shots apiece based on past experience,” she says. “One small box of Jello-O gives 10 shots. So for the 23-30 (people) I was expecting, I made 7 batches (one flavor was a double batch because I had only the large box of strawberry Jell-O on hand).”

For a luau party, Jessica recommends serving drinks with a Malibu or clear rum base for a tropical flavor. And pay attention to your color scheme — bright green, yellow, pink, red and blue drinks work well with tropical décor.

Luau Party Leis
Embrace A Tropical Dress Code:
Let everyone know the dress code is tropical casual on the invite. Meet them at the door with a lei. If you’ve done your job right, the lei will blend right in with the rest of their outfit.

Jessica’s was the only party I’ve ever been to where everybody – and I mean everybody – respected the tropical dress code. The outfits ranged from flowered maxi dresses to bathing suits and cover-ups for the women to Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops for the guys. Guests tucked flowers behind their ears and donned hula skirts and the occasional coconut bra.

How did Jessica get such an incredible response?

“I told everyone from day one that the dress code was not optional,” says Jessica. “And then I gave them reasons (to) want to don those crazy Hawaiian shirts and hula skirts. I tell them about the wonderful food and drinks and post pictures of the previous year’s guests looking like they are loving life in their crazy costumes.”

And what if guests ignore the dress code? Here’s where things get fun.

“The first year I think we had about three people who decided they were too cool for such things and came in their regular every day clothes,” Jessica remembers. “We made a really big fun spectacle of finding them some spare hula skirts and crazy shirts in the items I have on hand and dressed them to the nines. They were really good sports about it and wore the outfits all night.”

It worked. “Now when I tell people that the clothes are more than a suggestion and that if they don’t bring their own that I will dress them they know I can and will follow through and that it may mean a hula mini skirt.”

Luau Party Food Spread

Dress Up Your Table:
“When you are having a party with a strong punch and group who loves to drink, you have to make sure the food is delicious enough to keep them eating to prevent over consuming too fast,” says Jessica.

She recommends a mix of traditional foods and basics like veggies, chips and dips will please both adventurous and picky eaters.

Jessica recommends Potato Mac Salad — it’s not a typo, it’s an actual down home Hawaiian side dish, Pineapple Upside Down Cake and traditional Kalua Pork.

If digging a pit in the backyard is too high maintenance, try this slow cooker recipe — or serve a simple ham glazed with brown sugar and pineapple instead.

I love how Jessica extends her beachy theme right down to the tabletop, serving up her salads with adorable little pails and shovels.

Luau Party Decor

According to Jessica, throwing a fabulous luau party is simple — “Be a good host or hostess. You just have to make your party a fun place to be.”

Happy party planning!

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