Apart from the obvious Hawaiian music and food, the main factor that sets a Luau apart from a normal party or celebration is the plentiful use of colour. As well as in the food and punches, this vibrancy of colour is expressed through clothing and decoration and is a natural reflection of the Hawaiian islands where the luau was originally conceived.
So you definitely fancy holding your own Luau and need some tips, read on;
Pick a location: Obviously, the location will depend on the number of guests you want to invite, but in most instances, Luau's are held outdoors and work especially well when there is a pool available. This would generally make it a summer party although there is nothing in the rule book to say it can't be indoors during deepest winter and this maybe when a colourful Luau would be most appreciated.
Invitations: Be bold and creative when sending your invitations. Make them fun and get people into the party spirit from the first moment. Good, imaginative invitations build the expectation of the party itself and get your guest eager for the enjoyment to follow. You could use a 'message in a bottle' approach or what about printing your invite using a computer and sticking it on a bottle of sun-cream, or printing on a luggage label and attaching that to a cheap pair of sunglasses. More cheaply, you could print your invitation and then dress it with fabrics, sand, seashells - anything that implies Hawaii.
As mention in another article, make sure you identify any requirements to your guests, if you want them to dress in fancy dress - and there is a great selection available, you will have to tell them - obvious but often overlooked.
Themed Decorations: There is a huge array of Hawaiian themed party decorations available and these can be supplemented by items you probably already have in the garden.
One of the best ways of lighting your garden will be by candles, garden flares and oil lamps. I bought some cheap floor standing candelabras and these have been allowed to rust and tarnish naturally, each holding six candles, they look fantastic when placed amongst the flower boarders with candles lit. They offer a more natural and softer light, but safety is clearly a big issue and positioning critical to avoid injury.
When creating an outdoor buffet table, make sure that this is in easy reach of the kitchen so that food, hot or cold, can be delivered fresh to the table. If catering for a large Luau, it would be good practice to duplicate the layout from either end to the centre so that two lines can form doubling throughput, for smaller gatherings this is less of a problem. Make sure that the buffet table is well lit. Using candles here may not be such a good idea as the buffet table is susceptible to being bumped. There is a wide range of inexpensive table skirts that can be used to accent the buffet or drinks tables.
Select party tableware to compliment the theme and colours you have chosen. There are some fantastic ranges either floral or plain in a variety of colours that will really finish the buffet table. If you can, use wicker baskets - in keeping with the straw them, and use freely colourful party picks and drinking straws and martini umbrellas to add to the atmosphere.
Inexpensive table centerpieces such as honeycomb pineapples, hula girls, flamingos or palm trees offer instant colour and importantly height and balance to your buffet table and any of these themes. Alternatives to this would be; sand and sea shells, sand and pebbles, tropical and exotic flower arrangement (orchids or large lilies work well), helium filled balloons tied to colourful balloon weights.
Don't forget to decorate the actual table cover (if plain) using either flower petals of inexpensive table confetti which is now available in a number of colours, shapes and sizes or available tropical greenery (palm leaves).
Having decorated the table and lit the Luau location, use bright bold colours to complete the decoration of the raining space. Remember, keep most of it high so that it can be seen when guests are milling around - if it is too low it will be seen only by a few. Tropical flowers - repeat the colours and types used in the table decoration, if applicable. Fishing nets with outdoor lights threaded through can be applied to fences, ensure electrical safety is observed. In addition to lights, string Hawaiian leis into the nets or tie on some cheap straw hats etc.
Locate a inflatable dinghy - size depends on number of guests, looks best if made to look like it's just been beached (sand, driftwood and palm leaves), fill with ice and very cold water and then us this as a beer and cold drinks location for guests to help them selves.
Finishing Touch: floral leis are worn during special events or to welcome guests. Larger leis are worn around the neck (half to the front, half to the back), and smaller ones on the head, wrists and ankles. These are available in fabric and plastic and either as individual pieces or as complete colour coordinated sets. Why not welcome your guests by placing a leis around their neck and getting someone to take a photograph of your typical Hawaiian welcoming ceremony.