How to Throw a '50s-Era Dinner Party on a Small Budget

Written by debra rigas
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How to Throw a '50s-Era Dinner Party on a Small Budget
The fun of the 1950s makes it a great party theme. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

The 1950s were a rockin' time. Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson topped the charts, and Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando swept into the suburbs through cinema. Poodle skirts reigned for high school girls, and boys wore slicked-back hair with leather jackets. The good times certainly rolled, and you can celebrate them by throwing your own '50s-era party. Decide whether you're going '50s glam or soda-shop simple. Make your guest list, send out the invites and ask everyone to dress appropriately in '50s garb.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Guest list
  • Invitations
  • 1950s decorations, costumes and music
  • Food and drinks
  • Serving plates and utensils
  • Drinking cups
  • Ice
  • Games (optional)
  • Jukebox (optional)

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  1. 1

    Choose your '50s focus -- one of the easiest dinner parties to create is the burger joint or soda shop theme. Otherwise, '50s glam, sock hop, or celebrities all make great themes.

  2. 2

    Print or purchase '50s-themed invitations. Look for images with old 45 RPM records, poodle skirts, greasers and so forth. Make sure everyone knows in advance to dress appropriately for your chosen theme. If you want to lower food costs, ask your guests to bring a '50s food item or divvy up the list. For example, someone can bring the popular tuna noodle casserole, another can bring banana pudding made with vanilla wafers, and so on. Others can bring Jello with fruit cocktail in it, pigs-in-blankets (small hot dogs wrapped in dough), clam dip or fruit ambrosia for a period-correct feast.

  3. 3

    Use your printer to print out photographs of the stars of the times, such as James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn, Natalie Wood and Spencer Tracy. Print other photos and decorations to suit your precise theme's focus.

  4. 4

    Organise the food elements. Purchase the items you'll need to prepare your main dish, such as burgers or luau chicken for the grill beside a pool. If you're doing a potluck, ask one or two people to bring the appropriate condiments, and others to bring side dishes. For a soda shop, you'll need root beer and ice cream or cokes and cherries to make floats and soda fountain style beverages.

  5. 5

    Decorate the house according to the focus you've chosen. Do as much as you can the day before the party. Hang your fuzzy dice, tape up the '50s photos, set up umbrellas and tiki torches for the Annette and Frankie-style beach party, or roll out some red fabric leading to your front door.

  6. 6

    Bake any cakes and cookies the evening before the party. Chiffon and sponge cakes were popular in the 1950s, but you can add a variety of treats to your liking.

  7. 7

    Set up the dishes, glassware and serving platters early on party day. Then focus on the cooking and getting yourself into costume and make-up. Have the music playing when guests arrive to set off the festive atmosphere.

Tips and warnings

  • Watch films or TV programs like Happy Days and Grease to get some costume ideas. Or check out '50s images from history pages on various websites.
  • Having a few '50s movie posters can be fun if you can afford them. You can find these at novelty shops or online through movie poster sites.
  • Games are optional at any party, but if you're doing the beach party theme, have at least one hula hoop, and maybe a limbo pole. You can use a long-handled broom, too. Research '50s-era games for more ideas.
  • If you're doing goody bags, make sure everyone has chewing gum, especially if they're coming as Pink Ladies and their greaser cohorts.

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