Two words that will make a tiki lover shudder: PARTY CITY. Ughgahgahgah… see, it just happened. The party supply megacorp for years has been synonymous with garish, neon-clad tikis that are all cartoon and no class—a nightmare rendered in plastic. But where can you turn when you need party decorations with some style? When you want tropical elegance without going broke? Your party doesn’t have to look like it’s for little kids. Step away from the mylar palm tree, help is here:
Sophistakites: party decorations by Sophista-tiki
Seattle-based tiki artist Sophista-tiki (a.k.a. Dawn Frasier) applies her talents to all sorts of varied projects, and it was only a matter of time before she started making tiki party decorations. And they’re wonderful, of course! No cheese here, these are beautiful decorations to add a touch of instant tiki to your room. She has a garland of Papua New Guinea masks, a garland of jade tiles and Chinese lanterns, or classic garlands of good, old-fashioned floats, coconut monkeys, or, of course, tikis.
Big tropical leaves
Buy a bunch of these super-inexpensive faux split philodendron leaves, and presto, you’ve got the perfect table covering for your food spread. Or go a step better: buy large banana leaves or ti leaves through your florist.
There’s nothing like the scent of fresh gardenias. You only need a few to make your whole room smell divine. Call your florist a week before your party to arrange to buy a few gardenias.
How about more flowers? How about ONE HUNDRED FLOWERS! For just 16 bucks, you can have a bucketload of gorgeous faux plumeria blooms. They’re sturdy, you’ll be able to use them again and again. They’re great for garnish, you can sprinkle them around your tables, punch a thin wire through them and you can attach them anywhere you want. They come in a few colors, I like the elegance of plain white. If you want to be extra fancy and don’t mind that you’ll only have one shot to use them, you can get 100 real, fresh orchids for only a few dollars more.
Bamboo straws in green and brown
These green “bamboo” paper straws started showing up a few years ago, and now they’re everywhere, and people love them. If you want to try something a little different and are willing to spend a bit more, you can also find them in a more rare brown bamboo color. You can also find straws that are made out of actual bamboo, but in my experience they’re too chunky, and feel weird to use.
Wooden compostable serving boats
While you’re on a compostable kick (which sure makes cleanup simple!), why not try serving food in these little compostable serving boats? They come in many sizes. My favorite kind, made from super-thin strips of wood, has stylish angles but is not watertight. Another style is made from pressed palm leaves, and it is watertight, but looks a little less chic.
Vintage wood serving platters
Going thrifting looking to find something specific is a fool’s errand… unless the thing you’re looking for is a vintage wooden serving platter. These things are EVERYWHERE, every thrift store has them, but don’t take them for granted. Stock up on a few. They’re great. While you’re there, keep your eyes out for bamboo placemats. You can put a few of them together into a table runner. Another tip: I pick up inexpensive brown woven baskets with flat bottoms at thrift stores (if they’re bamboo, even better). You can turn them upside down and use them as stands for your food platters.
Silk flower leis
Every now and then I go looking, and I’m sad to report I have not yet found a really good-quality silk flower lei. But at least you can do better than those scratchy plastic things. Though I haven’t bought them yet myself, these leis look promising, with nice full blooms and bright colors. Probably more than you’re used to spending on a fake lei, but I’d rather pay a bit extra for something that’s worth reusing. (UPDATE: I’ve now bought these and they’re nothing special, can’t really recommend them. The search continues.)
Now that you’re all set with some decorating ideas, don’t miss my 7 tips for throwing a great tiki party at home! And when you’re really ready to level up your hosting game, read my guide to getting your very own custom glassware.