Who said Saturday night was the best time to party? Three of the nation’s highest-profile events, the Super Bowl, the Grammy awards and the Oscars, are all scheduled to take place on Sunday nights in February, and each one provides a great excuse to throw a fabulous themed party. You can watch all three at home with friends, serve great food and drinks, and play games to guess the winners. Invite your guests to come dressed in anything from their favorite team jersey to a ball gown worthy of the red carpet, and put together some easy decorations or centerpieces, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a fun evening.
Here are some tips for each event.
SUPER BOWL XLI, Feb. 4, 6 p.m. EST:
Decorations: With the big game being held in south Florida, why not bring a little piece of the tropics to your fiesta, no matter where you live? Skip Panse, of the Florida-based event planning company ME Productions, suggests palm-frond centerpieces on tables and exotic floral arrangements around the living room to set the mood. But don’t forget that it’s really football that’s bringing people together. The hosts, Panse says, could dress in black-and-white striped referee shirts, while encouraging guests to wear jerseys of their favorite team. Put yard markers in the front yard to recreate the field. You can create collages of crowd scenes by blowing up pictures from magazines or the Internet and placing them around the TV for a faux stadium effect.
Refreshments: Here’s where you can get creative and bring a taste of Miami straight to your living room, even in the heart of winter. Try serving finger foods with an island flair, like plantain chips (available in the ethnic food aisle of most major grocery stores), nachos, sliced mangos, cheese empanadas and crab-stuffed avocados. Even if guests aren’t familiar with those Cuban-influenced treats, they’ll surely recognize the region’s signature cocktails: the Cuba libre (rum, coke and lime), the mojito (club soda, rum and mint leaves), the Hemingway (rum, grapefruit juice and lime) and sangria. Be sure to have some good ol’ American beer, plus pretzels, wings and chips for the football purists.
Activities: On Super Bowl game day, people who haven’t watched a single kickoff all year become instant experts, and their hidden psychic abilities emerge. This simple game will let them show off their newfound knowledge, whether real or imaginary. Make up cards on which guests can fill in predictions for each of the following categories: first passing touchdown, first rushing touchdown, first field goal, first penalty, first interception, first fumble, half-time score, final score and winning team. Pass out goofy prizes to players who get each question correct as it’s completed, and award a champion prize – maybe a jersey, cap or football – to the person who guesses the most categories correctly by the end of the game.
THE 49TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS, Feb. 11, 8 p.m. EST:
Decorations: This is the least common of the three parties and planning it will take some imagination on the host’s part. “The important thing is to create an environment where there is a feeling of energy in the room,” said ME Productions President Hal Etkin. A good way to start is to pick a genre of music to organize the party around. A disco party, for example, could have a beaded curtain hung over the front entry, a disco ball and lava lamps in the main room and, of course, ’70s costumes for the partyers.
Refreshments: Sprinkle a buffet table with smiley-face confetti and provide tie-dye napkins and paper plates. Retro processed foods like macaroni and cheese (from the box, of course), Pop-tarts and Twizzlers work well with this theme. Great ’70s drinks include the tequila sunrise (tequila, orange juice and grenadine), the Harvey Wallbanger (vodka, Galliano and orange juice) and the pina colada (rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice).
Activities: During the slower parts of the ceremony, or during the endless commercials, try setting up a game of Grammy charades. Guests divide into two teams and each tries to guess as teammates silently act out the names of songs, bands or artists nominated for awards. The team that identifies the acts in the least amount of time wins. You could hand out iTunes gift certificates, CDs or music-store gift cards to the winners.
THE 79TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS, Feb. 25, 8 p.m. EST:
Decorations: Oscar parties are where hosts really get to show off their ability to throw a classy, or mock-classy, shindig. A roll of red wrapping paper spread down the hallway serves as a perfect red carpet for guests, dressed as their favorite movie stars, to step onto as they enter. The host should be ready with a camera to photograph each person as he or she arrives. Set a table with candles and a dark tablecloth for a more formal atmosphere.
Refreshments: Classic cocktail-party snacks make a suitable spread for this event. Imagine what the Kennedys might have served at Camelot – fare dainty enough to keep Jackie glamorous, but hearty enough to satisfy John. Try pigs in a blanket, Swedish meatballs, bite-sized club sandwiches, mini-quiches and pastries. For drinks, think red, to match the carpet. An “Oscar punch” of ginger ale, raspberry sherbet and Champagne is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
Activities: Another Oscar staple, now so famous it’s available for downloading from any number of Web sites, is Oscar Bingo. Make (or print out) a bingo card where each square represents a humorous incident that could happen at the Academy Awards, like “star cries while accepting award” or “walks the wrong way off stage.” To keep with the theme, use red markers to cross off each event as it happens. The first player to complete a row in any direction wins. A “dishrag,” or nice tea towel, makes a fun prize.
Here are a few suggestions for those sticky situations that can trip up even the most gracious host.
1. What do you do if the show runs so late that your guests are keeping you up past your bedtime? Adam Bluestein, author of “A Handbook for Hosts: A Practical Guide to Party Planning and Gracious Entertaining,” said, “These events always go much later than anyone expects, so if you’re hosting this type of party, you know what you’re getting into.” It’s not polite to ask people to leave early, he said, but you can get them headed out the door right when the show ends by serving coffee before it’s over and starting a subtle clean up as the night stretches on.
2. What’s a host to do when guests leave before their game cards are scored? “You want to make sure it’s fair,” Bluestein said. Hold on to the cards, score with the rest and, if necessary, distribute prizes the next time you see winners who left early.
3. How should a host accommodate both guests who want to watch the show seriously and those who’ll chat through the whole thing? If there’s space for it, setting up two viewing rooms is the easiest solution to that problem. If not, Bluestein recommends steering the talkers toward the food table or bar to help keep the space around the main event quieter.