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Luau Party Planning Tips from a Pro — Plus a Fun Tiki Cocktail Your Guests Will Love!

Take your loved ones on a tropical getaway without leaving your backyard!

A beautiful summer day is the only excuse you need to throw a tropical summer bash with friends and family — and tossing together a luau party is surprisingly simple! All you need are a few island-inspired accents, an array of sweet treats and a refreshing signature sip to serve up to party-goers. Here, we spoke to a top party planner and got all the easy tips and tricks for turning your backyard into a happy Hawaiian escape!

“When you’re planning any type of party, things will start to fall into place once you have your theme and know the colors you’d like to work with,” says party pro Laura Aguirre, founder of Laura’s Little Party. “For my luau party, I knew I wanted to use flamingos, shades of pink and green and a few yellow tissue pineapples for a little extra pop of style!”

To get the look of Aguirre’s party spread (above), simply hang a pink tablecloth on a wall and set a picnic table topped with a faux grass table cover (buy at Party City, $9) in front of it. Next, tape pink and green tissue-paper pom-poms to the wall and make a banner by taping party-store letter balloons to the wall, adding pink plastic flamingos for a fun touch. To finish, top the table with treats like popcorn, cupcakes, donuts and takeout boxes filled with candy.

Greet luau party guests with a tiki cocktail

Three tropical blue-hued cocktails garnished with cherries and pineapple slices

Traditionally, a luau is a Hawaiian party where a group of people gather to feast and celebrate an event. Whether it’s for a special occasion like a birthday, graduation or family reunion or a just-because summer luau, you’ll want to serve up a tropical signature drink for guests! And your loved ones will adore this beverage that’s as fun to look at as it is to sip! To whip up a classic Blue Hawaiian cocktail, pour 1 oz. of rum, 1 oz. of blue curaçao, 3 oz. of pineapple juice and 1 oz. of coconut-flavored syrup (like Torani, Walmart) into an ice-filled shaker. Shake until combined, strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish with a cherry and a cut pineapple wedge. (Click through for easy step-by-step instructions for cutting a pineapple perfectly!)

Beat the heat with a no-bake dessert

Marshmallow rice sweet treat desserts shaped like suns with sunglasses served on a pink pedestal dish
Laura Aguirre

Too hot to turn on the oven? No problem! Offer up Aguirre’s easy no-bake sunshine-themed treats. To do: Make Rice Krispie treats per box directions, heating the marshmallows in the microwave or on the stove. (Click through for the secret to your most delicious Rice Krispie treats.) As the treats cool, microwave yellow candy wafers according to package instructions; spread in a thin layer on top of the treats. Once cool, use a sun-shaped cookie cutter (Buy from Amazon, $7) to punch out shapes, then draw on sunglasses and a smile with black icing. Tip: Click through for tips on how to keep party food cool all day long.

Brighten the tabletop with a tropical centerpiece

Centerpiece made up of white and pink flowers, a plastic pink flamingo and a couple of pineapples on a table
Laura Aguirre

Pretty pineapples and bold flowers make for a lovely luau centerpiece like this one Aguirre created. To do: Fill a low glass vase with soaked floral foam. Then, insert a mix of pink and white supermarket roses (or use carnations for an even more budget-friendly arrangement) into the foam. Place the arrangement in a pretty gift box, inserting a pink plastic flamingo in the center. Pop on the table and surround it with a few fresh pineapples.

Create memories with a fun photo booth

Bucket filled with photo booth props like suns and sunglasses and signs that say "Fun in the Sun"
Laura Aguirre

You and your crowd will remember your luau party long after summer when you create a photo station like Aguirre’s. To do: The week of your party, cut summer shapes and thought bubbles from construction paper, glue onto skewers and pop in a bucket filled with tissue paper. No time to craft? Simply order a mix of tropical Hawaiian-style photo booth props (buy from Amazon, $8.99). When guests arrive, have them pick a prop and pose by the buffet for photos! Tip: Set out a selfie stick with a long handle to make it easier to take group photos or set your phone on a raised tabletop or shelf and use the self-timer.

Set a lively luau party atmosphere with island music and games

Looking for a couple of extra tricks to elevate your backyard luau? Aguirre says playing festive-themed games and music are two of the simplest ways to further the fun feel of your party. When conversation is at a lull, a fun Hula-Hoop contest will get everyone mixing and mingling! Stock up on colorful, inexpensive hula-hoops and see who can hula the longest. (Buy hula-hoops from Amazon, starting at $48 for 12.) The winner gets to take home the luau centerpiece!

Meanwhile, ensure all guests feel like they’re in a tropical hideaway by playing music that is perfect for luaus, like Aloha From Hawaii 2-disc set (Buy from Amazon $11.35) or Elvis’ Blue Hawaii album. If you prefer streaming music from Spotify, search for the “Luau Music” playlist for more than an hour of fun songs perfect for your party!

Portion out tasty snacks in pretty grab-and-go boxes

Striped mini boxes filled with popcorn
Laura Aguirre

Instead of serving snacks in one big bowl that everyone has to dig around in, Aguirre offered up individual portions of popcorn in pretty green striped boxes boxes (Buy from Amazon, $5.49 for 12). To make any store-bought or air-popped popcorn extra enticing, try setting out a tray filled with flavorful add-ins, like ramekins filled with Parmesan cheese, melted butter, ranch seasoning powder, chocolate chips and toffee bits, so guests can customize their snack.

Send them home smiling with flip-flop favors

White bin filled with colorful flip flops
Laura Aguirre

Display inexpensive flip-flops (available at dollar stores and drugstores) in a pretty bin or bucket for an easy, on-theme decoration. Plus, guests can slip them on when their shoes get uncomfortable—and take them home to remind them of the fun time they had!

For more ideas for party fun, check out these articles!

Party Planner Shares Her Secrets to Throwing a Lemon Party — and the Easiest Ever Lemonade Cupcakes Your Crowd Will Love!

Party Planners: Easy Tips For Creating a Grazing Board That Will Wow *Your* Crowd

Keep Your Veggies and Dip, Salad, and Other Chilled Party Foods Cool for Hours With This Genius Hack

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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