Party planning guide and ideas for an adult barn dance

Written by sarah york
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A barn dance is a playful and active party idea, whether traditional and authentic or contemporary and inventive. Host a Scottish or Irish ceilidh, English country dance, square dance or American hoedown for a casual night of rustic fun. From invitations to last call, enjoy a pastoral night in any season or setting.

Invitations, Decoration and Costume

Create fun, bold and agricultural invitations. Use bright colours, country textures and playful language. Witty or campy invitations work well. Include a carte blanche, a blank dance card that guests can bring along. Decorate the card with straw or a picture of a large silver belt buckle.

Use authentic but casual decorations. If you do not have a real barn, decorate the room with hay bales, and table cloths in prints like gingham, plaid or cherries. Have plenty of outdoor and indoor lighting. Tack up quilts, oil lanterns and old drink ads to the wall, or securely mount wagon wheels. Aim for a country atmosphere. Add shell peanuts, rocking chairs or dried corn stalks. Create room both to sit and to dance.

For costume, try traditional with a modern or rockabilly twist. Women might wear peasant dresses with red lipstick and ribbons or knotted shirts over leather trousers, cut jeans or flowing skirts. Fitted cottons and denims are the norm for men. Sport country boots, Scottish caps or cowboy hats. Leave the rubber boots and spurs at home.

Music and Activities

Music choices depend on the crowd and on the host's budget. A live band is energising but requires a stage, players, lights and equipment. Hire a simple fiddler, DJ or karaoke machine instead, or play a stereo with loudspeakers. Playlists should blend peppy, danceable tunes with slow songs for later in the night. Keep it celebratory, romantic and barn-inspired. You do not have to play all folk songs, country, rockabilly or swing.

Traditional and innocent activities include various dance forms like two-step, line or square dancing, singalongs and feasting. Offer short dance lessons to loosen up the crowd. Between songs, ask ladies and gentlemen to spend ten minutes filling their dance cards and collecting as many names as they can. This will encourage socialising among strangers. For a break, guests can take cuddly night walks to enjoy the beautiful stars. Provide hay or horse rides if possible. Include blankets and hot drinks in cold weather.

Racier activities meet your adult-only theme. Encourage a seductive atmosphere by having one or more performers lead a rousing song or dance. Turn up the heat with flirty outfits or mechanical bull rides. Plan tame activities also, like bobbing for spiked apples.

Make a memorable evening with games and contests. Host a talent show. Let the crowd vote by cheering, and reward the winner with a homemade prize or crown. Start a comic or nostalgic singalong complete with a lyric screen. Declare a dance-off or amateur stack-the-most-hay farmhand competition.

Food and Drink

For a country or folk barn dance, BBQ pulled pork, slaw and beans are expected, or a vegetarian substitute. Set up a convenient corner buffet with napkins and disposable plates, cutlery and cups. Include at least one bread dish such as cornbread for hungry or tipsy guests. Remember to put out dustbins.

An adult barn dance is a social mixer that typically involves drinking. The alcohol of choice is beer. Offer harvested or seasonally appropriate alternatives like mulled cider, too. Be sure you know the rules and laws about liquor licenses in your area if you plan to sell drinks. Remember to provide lots of water for hot and tired dancers.

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