How to throw a tropical themed party

A couple of weeks ago it was my birthday. As it was the beginning of May, I wanted to have a party that was a good way to kick off the summer. I figured a tropical theme would fit perfectly! Here's the process I went through to plan a tropical themed party.

Create a guest list & invite them

The first thing I did was create a guest list to make sure that I had a good idea of how many people could potentially come. Especially as this was a house party, I wanted to make sure that there was enough space to fit the amount of people. A good rule of thumb is that usually 1/3 to 1/4 of your guest list will actually attend (depending on how dedicated your friends are!). 

I then chose to invite everyone through a Facebook event so that I could get a hold of everyone while still keeping track of who could come and who could not. The first way I introduced the theme was through the event page. I created a banner on for free! Here are a few ideas I had created:

Bird A Tropical Twenty Two.png
A Tropical Twenty Two.png
Copy of A Tropical Twenty Two.png

I ended up choosing the third option as I felt that it matched my decor more closely. Since the Facebook event page is going to be what the guests are basing their idea of the party off of, it's important that it also follows your theme! In the description of the event I made sure to reference that attendees could wear tropical-themed clothing and used the flower, pineapple, palm tree, lemon and other fruit emojis to spice it up!

Food for thought

As a university student, it would be super expensive for me to provide a lot of food and alcohol for guests. Meet in the middle! I chose to provide snacks and two mixed drinks for guests, and let them know that they could bring their own alcohol or snacks as well. I chose to keep things simple and get inexpensive snacks that are still delicious. Here's what I provided:

  • Fruit shaped candies ($5.00)
  • 1 party sized bag of chips ($3.00)
  • 1 bowl of popcorn (on hand, but not used. $2.00 for kernels)
  • 1 bowl of pretzels (Provided by a friend)
  • 1 bowl of snap peas (Provided by a friend)
  • Prosecco gummy bears (A gift)

I think the best way to go about this is to shop in bulk. Hit up your local Costco or Bulk Barn and you'll find great prices. Also, asking your guests to bring something shouldn't be frowned upon! Let them know that they can bring a snack item if they would like. I find that most of my friends will contribute something regardless.

I also spent some time making two mixed drinks. One was champaign-based and one was vodka-based. Now, alcohol is obviously expensive so I did some comparisons between alcohol brands and types and opted for the least expensive for the most alcohol content. I am in university after all! #BangForYourBuck

Decorations are key!

I knew in order to pull off a tropical themed party, I would need to make sure my decorations were on point. Although I did DIY many of them, I wanted include ones that we're purchased and how you can tie everything into your theme.

I think it is underestimated how you can continuously apply your theme throughout the whole party. One huge way I did this was keeping all of my food vessels on theme. For instance, my napkins were designed like orange slices, I used colourful bowls and plates and purchased drink dispensers that matched. This way, it looks as though you've decorated a lot more than you actually have - just by using things that you need to! 

One purchase I made was some artificial palm leaves. They came in a pack of 30 on Amazon. I figured this would be a good purchase because I could make a banner out of the leaves, place them on tables, or scatter them around the room as a way to make the space look cohesive. I thought these really tied the room together!

DIY is your friend


As I mentioned, taking some time to make your own decorations is a great way to make your party fit your theme while not breaking the bank. The first decoration I made was a banner. I simply designed it using by using a bunting shape, filling in the background with a stock image of a tropical scene and adding text to spell out "Happy Birthday." Hang it up with some ribbon or twine and you're done!

Another way to use technology to your advantage is to look into getting a Snapchat filter. For only a few dollars you can create your own design to fit your theme. This is a great way to have your nigh immortalized with all of the photos you'll take! 

Ensure that you use what you have to your advantage. My friends Bei and Matt were gracious enough to lend me a pineapple banner that also added a fun tropical feel to the scene. Using what you've already got is essential to staying budget-friendly. In the same vein, my siblings and I all brought our Instax polaroid cameras that we already owned. This way we could take a bunch of photos that people could take home with them. This added a decoration element by having the cameras displayed but also was a way to use what we already had.

Think outside of the box when planning to decorate - stick with a few key colours, symbols or styles and it'll all come together.

Have fun!

A huge part of having a party is running around and getting things set up. But once you're done let everything fall into place and enjoy yourself! I used to be so consumed with hosting I wouldn't have a good time. Now, I prepare everything in advance in hopes that there won't be any issues throughout the night. Enjoy your party and have a great time!

Cover photo credit: Sabrina Zafar