There comes a point every summer where I forget what it’s like to be cold. Instead, I slog through the heat, almost as though I’m living my life in slow motion. Some people embrace the heat and the summer, while others find every excuse to stay inside (Netflix, and Hulu, and Prime! Oh my!). And yet, there is a singular type of event that both the outdoorsman and the homebody, the young and the old, the tan and the pasty, will come together to enjoy during peak summer days: a pool party!
A great pool party has something for everyone. The aroma of chlorine in a cool crystal blue water to escape the treacherous heat of the sun? Check. Mouthwatering food served straight from the grill with the most picture perfect char-marks? Check. The lively and engaging chatter from dear friends and family? Double check! It’s the ideal solution to break up the heat and monotony of summer while also enjoying the company of your closest companions. So let’s get to it and plan the best pool party you and your friends will ever attend.
Unlike with a graduation party, I think we have to start with the space, because with no pool there is no pool party. Hopefully, you have one in your own backyard or you know of a local pool that offers rental packages for parties. Either option has its pros and cons. At a local pool, you’re limited in setup time, decorations, and the amount or type of food. Whereas having the party in your own backyard seems like a better option, there is one glaring issue, which is the beating your house will take from the in-and-out traffic of guests.
I can see it now, trails of chlorinated water trailing throughout you home leading to the bathroom, the kitchen, you name it. For some this trail may be a short journey from your back patio and for others, the nearest bathroom requires people to almost walk through your entire house. There is a solution: consider building and designing a pool house. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. It could simply be a small room that holds your pool supplies in an organized manner that includes a small bathroom. This way it can be built to be water resistant (a huge bonus of having vinyl flooring!) and halt the traffic that would otherwise be in your home. We’ve even had clients transform their detached garage into a pool house!
If you decide to build a bigger space the added benefits are numerous. For example, at the end of the night, when your older kids don’t want the party to end, you can allow them and their closest friends to have a sleepover in the pool house. Or if you have out-of-town guests with an extensive visit, instead of adding the chaos of extra people inside your home, you can set them up in the pool house, which allows them a certain amount of freedom, and you a certain amount of sanity. The in-laws will almost become bearable.
The Practical Fun
Before we jump into the the stuff everyone loves to plan (we’re looking at you food and decorations!), we should give a little attention to the practical side of this party by brainstorming ways to keep people comfortable, relaxed, and entertained. The top of this list is finding ways to fend off those pesky, blood-sucking mosquitoes and everyone’s skin from harsh UV rays. Luckily science and consumerism has helped create bug spray and sunscreen to help with each cause, however, it’s up to you to make it accessible to your guests. Should people bring their own? Probably. Will people forget? Undoubtedly. As a good host, it’s nice to go the extra mile to help protect your guests, which is why I recommend having a couple strategic stations that hold bug spray and sunscreen. One by the door to either your home or pool house, and one closer to the pool. One user on Pinterest creatively utilized flower hanging pots, and hung a clearly labeled tin filled with bug spray and sunscreen.
Another necessity many many people will forget (trust me, this isn’t my first rodeo), is a towel. And while you could easily let your guests suffer as the shiver and drip water everywhere, that’s not the experience you want your guests to have. Instead, consider buying cabana towels in bulk. A quick search on Amazon pulls up a few options from excitedly colorful to serene, classy blues. You’re sure to find the perfect towels to let your guests borrow. Plus, if they don’t have a towel they will track excessive amounts of water into your home or pool house, making this a must for all.
On the lighter side of practicality comes the bonus fun, AKA how to keep the kids entertained when they’re not swimming or eating or wreaking havoc. First, a way to keep them entertained in the pool longer is to invest in creative pool floats. They have everything from swans to pizza slices. Not only will this be fun for the young ones to play on, but it will offer them a photo opportunity, which is sure to eat up some of their boredom time (because if it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t really happen). Of course, you should also stock up on other fun pool gear such as noodles, goggles, and ring toss diving games.
For the children less inclined to enjoy the pool, have other fun stations, such a sand pails filled with bubbles, or sidewalk chalk placed next to a lower traffic areas. Bring out the volleyball, and leave it in a grassy area so the older kids can hit it around. For thematic fun, consider creating this flamingo ring toss. All you need are some lawn ornament flamingos, sand pails, sand, and rings to toss!
Feel free to dabble with other great yard games, like a spray painted twister, or creative pool games, just be sure to be thinking about all ages and all ways of entertainment
Perhaps the best part of any party is the food and drinks. Usually, there is something for everyone, and you may walk away feeling stuffed from mini desserts and appetizers that added up to be five main courses, but you know what? It’s a party, so take one more mini cupcake on your way out. When you’re crafting your pool party menu, it’s important to consider stocking up on foods that can satisfy the appetites of ravished swimmers while also maintaining the taste and atmosphere of summer. For main course, we recommend grilling burgers, hot dogs and chicken. Here are some of our favorite grilling recipes. If you don’t want the hassle, a great alternative for a quick, easy, and filling snack, would be a walking taco bar. Buy bags of chips in bulk, prepare a large amount of taco meat, and serve up common taco sides. People can then fix their bag of chips with whatever topping they want. Another delightfully playful dish would be to serve a tray of crabwiches (which despite the name, don’t have to include crab, though I’m sure you can make an iteration that does). Basically, they’re croissants sandwiches, with eyes, which you can see much better here.
As for what to serve for dessert of for a side dish? Start simple with some watermelon, because no summer party or bbq is complete without the sweet fruit. You can serve it in a variety of ways, such as little triangles stuck on skewers or the ever famous watermelon “basket” where you use the rind as the serving bowl. Of course, if you’re lazy like I sometimes tend to be, you can just cut up the watermelon.
Another sweet treat to serve up would be one that you scream for, I scream for, we all scream for: Ice Cream! Create a sundae bar with different ice cream options and toppings. Store them in little mason jars to create a down-to-earth look, while also keeping it classier than putting toppings in paper bowls. Here are some great topping and cone ideas for your party! While we’re on the subject of ice treats, don't forget the freeze pops. Grab a couple sand pails, tie a scissors on a string to one end of the pail for easy cutting access, and a garbage bag nearby so the annoying plastic ends don’t end up scattered on the ground. Then place an assortment of freeze pops in the sand pails. Not only is it cute, but it's a hassle free, affordable option.
Finally, you can’t have ice cream without cake… and yet, a traditional cake might feel out of place with the rest of the grab and good food options. Which is why these “Sno Cone” cupcakes are the perfect solution! They will blend in with the other treat, but provide a different dessert method.
When I began researching pool party treats, I didn’t realize what a treasure trove of sugary drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) I would find, but apparently, people love to drink at pool parties. First, I am going to steal an idea from Cheryl’s graduation party article, because I thought it was GENIUS. Buy a kiddie pool, fill it with ice, and throw in bottles of water, pop, or juice boxes, for easy access. It will serve the masses well, and will create the least effort possible.Other timeless beverages you should serve up in beverage dispensers include lemonade, Hawaiian Punch, or water with fruit in it. The water especially, because everyone needs to stay hydrated in the heat.
Then come the drinks with a little twist. For example, some people made a blue lemonade and labeled it “Pool Water”, which, come on, how cute is that? My favorite, however, has got to be this signature punch that can be made with or without alcohol and sounds like a sugary overload of goodness either way. Find that recipe here.
There are many looks you could go with. You could do bohemian, island paradise, or beach day. I love them all and think there are great ideas any route you choose. If you go with beach day, it tends to be very kid friendly and involves an exorbitant amount of beach balls. One decorator used blue tool and hung it like waves on her fence, and attached beachballs throughout. With this theme, it would be cute to create this popsicle garland using pool noodles and hang it above the ice cream station.
If you attempt the island paradise theme, which may be the easiest, invest in a lot of palm tree greenery and spread it tastefully on every surface. On food tables, weave it throughout different dishes and sprinkle carnation petals to add a pop of vibrant color. With this theme, when you serve your signature punch you can set up a table and and decorate it to look like a tiki bar with bamboo paneling and more palm branches. Complete the look by ordering these pineapple cups in bulk, so everyone can have a festive beverage holder.
The ideas for decorations are boundless and can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like. For more inspiration, visit our pool party Pinterest board, or check out this House Beautiful article. Ultimately, craft a party you know you’ll have fun at. Besides, the summer, sun, and pool will do most of the work for you.