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How to Host a Party with Tiki Torches

Aug 5, 2008
Short of an actual vacation, nothing sets a mood quite as tropical and intimate as a backyard party complete with tiki torches. The warm, flickering light casts inviting shadows, sets a sparkle to the eye and invites close conversation and a merry, festive mood. But there's so much more to making the party something your friends will be talking about with their coworkers around the water cooler on Monday than just firing up the torches.

Precautions - Ensure that open flame tiki torches are placed far enough from flammables and guests to ensure there are no accidents. Alert guests with children in advance to keep an eye on their kids and don't let them play where they might knock over a torch. Have a fire extinguisher handy just in case.

Timing - Arrange to have guests arrive an hour or so before dusk so they have time to familiarize themselves with the setting before they have to navigate by firelight. As the sun gets lower, begin lighting the tiki torches to ease into the moment.

Themes - Basing your party around a theme helps bind the event together and tiki torches lend themselves particularly well to tropical themes. Consider settings with a Latin, Caribbean or Pacific atmosphere.

A Hawaiian luau with wicker or bamboo tiki torches is always a hit. Include palm branches or living palm and tropical plants strategically placed in the backyard setting. The more lush your garden the better, but groupings of potted flowers and plants can do in a pinch. Have your children greet guests with flower leis when they arrive and consider inviting guests to dress the part in brightly colored floral shirts and wraps.

Grilled foods with sweet glazes and fruit-based dips, glazes and salsa for sides further enhance the illusion. Table settings can include carved pineapple, tropical fruits and flower centerpieces as well as table-top tiki torches. Additional decorative touches such as seashells on the tables and hanging paper lanterns round things out nicely. Consider adding sound to the mix with ocean noise and soft tropical music playing on separate sound sources such as a boom box hidden in some plants. And don't forget to have the blender ready to mix some Pina Coladas!

A Latin theme can also be a tremendous hit. For this, bring margaritas or sangria into the mix. Keep the mood upbeat and lively. Make a decorative centerpiece for tables using a variety of colorful peppers and bright flowers. String lights, streamers or paper lanterns will add to the festive mood. Dishes should be a mix of hot and mild (for less adventurous guests). Fire up the grill and serve South American or Tex-Mex dishes. Consider a build-your-own taco and fajita bar. While you man the grill, guests can customize their favorite tortilla-wrapped foods. Cap everything off with upbeat Latin music.

For a Caribbean or tropical island theme keep the seashells and palms for ambiance. Rather than pineapples, use coconuts, bananas and other island fruit as centerpiece displays and include reggae or steel drum music. Prepare Jamaican Jerk chicken and pork and some tasty seafood recipes allowing plenty time in advance for the meat to marinade (remember to keep shellfish dishes separate for those who may have allergies). As with the Hawaiian theme, the sounds of the ocean piped over outdoor speakers will go a long way to immersing your guests in the illusion you've created.

Setting - If you have a green thumb and a garden to show off, use tiki torches to light paths that will invite your guests to explore or find a quiet sitting area where they can be alone for intimate conversation. Landscape lighting can further serve to accent the elements of your garden you would like to showcase and will set apart little islands of interest throughout your yard.

Ultimately, your budget and creativity are your only limits. As you plan for the event, think about what you associate with a vacation and include subtle hints of those things in your decoration. Remember that you are trying to create a mood and to do so you want to appeal to all the senses. Include fragrant flowers, tiki torches for the flattering lighting, sounds of water, music appropriate for your theme and tastes common to the region you are trying to capture. Then sit back and watch your guests blissfully escape into the memorable illusion you've created.
About the Author
David manages TikiTorchesGuide.com, a blog devoted enhancing outdoor experiences with the playful light from all kinds of tiki torches.
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