How To Host The Perfect Speakeasy Party

DianaBirthdays, Crafts, Decoration, Handmade Gifts, Party decorations, Projects17 Comments

Speakeasy Party Tips and Ideas to Steal

This weekend Mr PaintSewGlueChew and I hosted a joint 50th to celebrate our 50th birthdays. The perfect opportunity to go all out and create the perfect speakeasy party. I am not posting any ‘instructions’ here, as the post is already very long. But if you want details on how I made anything, please feel free to get in touch.

Im also apologising in advance for the ridiculous length of this post. (It may well crash my site). Feel free to skip the words, and just peruse the photos. And don’t forget to drop me a line to let me know what you think.

Hidden speakeasy doorway

Last week I posted about our speakeasy invitations, where we set the scene: It’s 1922. Our house, (The 49 club and local gin joint) has been raided by the cops. Using our criminal network, we have managed to set up a new 50 Club in a secret venue. (Spoiler alert. It’s in our house!)

Needless to say, some of our guests didn’t realise that the new venue was our back entry. And many didn’t get my ‘pun’ on us leaving 49 and turning 50. I think I need new friends!

The 49 Club is Closed

Luckily we have a back entrance to the garden, that will serve as the entrance to the new club. So the first thing to do is block off the main entrance to the house. (Because of course it’s been closed by the cops). A 1920s car covers up our car in the driveway. Signs for the old 49 club with closed posters block the gate and doorway. Chalk stencils on the pavement direct guests to the new ‘secret’ venue.

Speakeasy front idea
Speakeasy Entrance with closed sign
Speakeasy chalk template on pavement

Entrance to the secret 50 Club

The invitation directs our guests to the side road where we have the back entrance to our garden.

We share the passage with our neighbours. Luckily they are very relaxed, and amenable to it becoming an illicit drinking den for the evening.

Speakeasy hidden entrance with body outline

Our cover story for guests is that the new club will be masquerading as a Temperance Society meeting. An A-frame advertising the meeting masks the venues true purpose.

The year is 1922, and the streets are a dangerous place. Guests have to navigate past a chalk outline of a body and crime scene tape.

Chalk outline for dead body

The Keystone cops will be kept busy. (They may also share their insignia with Surrey police).

keystone Cops logo

Every speakeasy party needs a secret doorway….

Our back gate is normally just a metal gate. We transformed it into a sleazy underground drinking den with a sheet of plywood painted to look like a speakeasy door.

We added a £10 wireless buzzer so guests arriving late could still get in. The gate was so effective that the following night we had a couple out for a walk ring the buzzer and try and come in for a couple of GnT’s. How sad is it, that this made my night!

Speakeasy door with peephole

And every speakeasy door needs a peephole…

Any self respecting speakeasy entrance needs a peephole. This one was available on amazon for around £25, and was easy to fit.

My son and a friend of his acted as bouncers in peaky blinders hats and braces They are unfortunately camera shy so no pictures.

Closeup of speakeasy door peephole

In The Garden

Inside the garden, continuing the ladies temperance theme, We laid out groups of chairs and tables in clusters.

Speakeasy party Garden layout
Gangster on backdrop at speakeasy party

We put a coffee table with each cluster of chairs. Each table had a selection of old bibles, as well as a book with a hidden compartment for booze and money. I found these at the craft shop, and painted them in suitable lettering.

Each table also has a hardback book made into a bible hiding the food and drink menu for the night. This was my favourite prop of the night.

Speakeasy party decorations and menu

Around the garden…..

Large cardboard posters painted with Temperance Society Slogans and photos are placed around the fence.

Temperance Society Banners for speakeasy party decorations
Temperance society banner for speakeasy party decor

And the eyes of Dr TJ Eckleburg (for any Great Gatsby Fans) stare down at us.

The eyes of Dr TJ Eckleburg Ocultist at Speakeasy Party

Posters ask guest to leave their Tommy Guns at the door.

Poster with Please leave your Tommy Guns at the door. Speakeasy party decorations

I made a selection of ‘gun cases’ filled with plastic blow up guns, that are only a few pounds each on amazon. The boxes are fruit and vegetable boxes – free from Sainsbury. I added some hand made gun labels stained with tea.

handmade gun boxes and toys guns as speakeasy decorations

A bunch of temperance adverts downloaded and doused in tea then pinned to a cork board, make a great notice board.

Temperance society adverts and posters as speakeasy party decor

And finally in the garden some placards demanding repeal of the prohibition laws.

prohibition placards as speakeasy party decor

We were incredibly lucky with the weather on the night.

We borrowed a few garden heaters and a gazebo, from friends. Our guests were able spread out into the garden.

Guests in 1920s dress at speakeasy party

The Speakeasy Bar

The entrance / garden is a temperance ladies society meeting. In the kitchen however, it’s all action.

But we want the inside to look more like a bar. Business at the front. Party in the back.

We splurged with professional mixologists and a temporary cocktail bar. But you could achieve the same without this bar, using a kitchen table or kitchen counter if your budget didnt stretch to this.

The cocktail guys installed these foldable bar units in under an hour.

Bar at speakeasy party

Fortuitously they are the perfect size for the space between our kitchen and the kitchen table.

This also blocked the kitchen off from our party guests too, so the bar guys could wash glasses and get access to the sink easily.

Decorate decorate decorate.

I added lots of photos of us, and also our ‘partners in crime’ over the years. I tried to get a picture of almost all of our guests on there somewhere.

Booze crates made from cardboard boxes decorated with fake vintage liquor labels make great speakeasy props. We had around 30 dotted around the room.

Bar with booze crate decorations at speakeasy party

Serve cocktails in unusual vessels for maximum effect.

Our Speakeasy Party theme had a ladies temperance society vibe. We wanted to make cocktails that were ‘masquerading’ as something else.

Serve cocktails in unusual containers to achieve this effect. Think milk bottles, flower pots, jam jars, tin cans and vintage tea cups.

The charity shop is your friend….

Charity shops are a great place for tea cups.

My daughter and I hunted for months before the party to get 40 mismatched tea cups for our Gee n Tea. (we sold them to the cocktail guys at the end of the party).

And I made labels on jam jars. It was round £20 for 48 jam jars from a craft shop. The tin cans are special cocktail tins at £1 each. They have a non jagged edge specifically for drinking out of. I designed and printed bespoke vodka soup labels to go round them.

Campbells soup can cocktails tins at speakeasy party

Lots of 50 Club logo posters were put up. I found a company on line that prints A2 for £4 a pop, and A1 for £7. Needless to say I went a bit mad as a result!.

speakeasy decorations
U

Us gangsters like to flash the cash.

So we filled the fireplace with fake $100 bills.

money in a fireplace

Boxes boxes and more boxes. Plus more posters and some wanted posters using images of our friends that I ‘aged’ in photoshop.

Speakeasy Party decorations

It helps to have friends who like their booze….

Over the last 6 months, I have been collecting gin bottles from friends. I had intended to make funky labels. However I ran out of time. In fact these looked better without any labels, and some christmas tree lights strung in between. Wine crates were scavenged from a local wine shop for a small charity donation.

I like this so much, I may keep it up for a while.

Gin Bottle decorations with lights at speakeasy party

Pretty much on any spare wall got the treatment. I added a few more booze or gambling related posters.

Giggle water served here poster at speakeasy party

Including around 20 or so wanted posters with our friends as the suspects.

handmade Wanter posters on the wall of speakeasy party

The cocktail bar guys were amazing. They completely entered into the spirit of what we were doing.

They dressed in costume, and didn’t stop making really delicious cocktails all night.

My daughter and her friend took orders, and bussed drinks around.

Cocktail bar at speakeasy party

Food & Drink

One of the giant posters I made was of the signature cocktails. We chose 6, which was quite ambitious, unless you have people mixing for you. I will do another post in the future about the cocktails that we chose, along with downloads to printables of some of the labels and stickers that I made.

Cocktail menu poster at speakeasy party

As well as the giant posters. I made half a dozen menus ‘hidden’ in the bibles on the coffee tables. These book menus had details of the food we were passing round, and all the drinks, so that guests could order from my daughter and her friend without coming inside. These book menus would be great for a seated dinner or wedding, particularly if it had a literary theme. They are easy to make, and very effective, so I’ll post a separate instruction for them in due course.

menu hidden in a book at speak easy party
menu hidden in a book on the bar at speak easy party

Food….

Our food was out sourced to another amazing company.

They handed round a selection of canapes including meatballs in a bourbon glaze and mini bowls of food like the house steak pie (with a 50 in the pastry lid). To be honest though, I chose food I thought my guests would like best, so wasn’t a slave to the Speakeasy Party theme.

Obviously having caterers is a bit of a luxury, and not essential for an amazing speakeasy party. Unless budget allows, set up a buffet and let your friends graze at will.

Drink….

Serve beerwrapped in brown bags.

Brown unbranded baguette bags, with a few inches chopped off the top are the perfect size.

me dressed in 1920s clothed with beer in brown bags

All of the cocktails were very popular. I went with 3 gin based (they used similar mixers to make it easier for the cocktail staff). We had 1 vodka based, 1 tequila based and 1 brandy based.

My favourite was ‘The Floradora’. Served in bespoke vodka soup cans. The Southwest Fizz was also very popular. I provided the cocktails guys with the list of cocktails that I wanted, but the recipes were all theirs.

Campbells soup can cocktails at speak easy party

Our brandy based cocktail was called a ‘smoking gun’.

I made labels to go round the jam jars with the name of the cocktail and a gun pointing upwards. The mixologists infused with smoke before serving.

For pure theatre alone, I loved these. Safer, cheaper and easier than dry ice.

Smoking Gun cocktail at speakeasy party

We also served Gin and tonic as ‘Gee n Tea’. Earl grey infused gin served from tea pots into vintage mismatched teacups.

Gangster and gansters moll drinking gin from tea cups at speakeasy party

My daughter and her friend also passed round some ‘off menu’ items.

Fruit (skittles) vodka ‘shots’ and salted caramel moonshine shots. Needless to say all went down very well. These were all preprepared and stuck in the freezer, so no effort at all on the night.

Skittles vodka shots and moonshine shots at speakeasy party

Casino

We set up a casino in our dining room. Mainly we did this as as way of distributing people through the ground floor in case of bad weather. I didn’t necessarily expect many people to use it. I was wrong.

casino within speakeasy party

Our Ingo Maurer light fitting, is usually decorated with hand drawn doodles.

I changed it up by replacing with fake $100 bills and some beautiful playing cards with art deco illustrations.

casino decorations at speakeasy party

Bunting was made from gold playing cards and more of the fake money sewn with silver thread.

money and playing card bunting for casino at speakeasy party

I bought a giant set of poker chips and gave each person 4-5 chips each.

poker chips for casino at speakeasy party

I found tiny hessian bags on amazon for a few pounds, and decorated them with $ in puffy paint.

Bags of poker chips were handed round to guests once the boys had let everyone in, and the casino was open for business.

Money bags filled with poker chips and decorated with dollar signs for casino at speakeasy party

I decorated the room with loads of bottles of booze in brown bags.

Liquor bottles in brown bags and gin light fitting for speakeasy party

And a few posters.

beware poker players and loose women poster at speakeasy party

I put the instructions for roulette in a prominent spot (though I now see its a bit drunk itself).

Roulette rules for speakeasy party

The roulette table was very popular.

People in 1920s clothes playing roulette in a casino at speakeasy party

We also ran a black jack table.

people in 1920s clothes playing blackjack in casino at speakeasy party.

My son and his friend tried to persuade our friends to part with real cash. Unsurprisingly they were not very successful. Not even a tip, despite a well placed and overflowing tip jar!

Tip jar in casino at speakeasy party.

Toilets

I delegated our downstairs loo to the gents, and directed the ladies to the bathrooms upstairs. I put signs on each of the loos.

The designs were copied from some fancy invitations I saw on line.

Toilet door signs at speakeasy party

What self respecting bar wouldn’t have its own toiletries. Aldi does look a like Jo Malone scents that I rebranded in each of the toilets.

jo malone look a like aldi branded toiletries in toilets at speakeasy party

Setting The Scene

Music

So we had the food, drink and decorations all set to go. I added a soundtrack of 1920s tunes from Spotify. This added great atmosphere when guests first arrived.

Video

One other incredibly effective thing to provide atmosphere, was a video of 1920s dancing cut from movies. I played this on a loop and projected it onto the wall beside the bar. It was quite a convoluted process, so I’ll write a blog post with instructions in due course.

The Party

One of my favourite things was the effort everyone made to dress up and get in character.

Every single one of our guests came in fancy dress. The different interpretations led to great costumes.

Dont forget to take plenty of photos…..

I asked one of my friends to take photos for me on the night, and she did an amazing job. She arrived right at the start and took pictures of our guests before they became too inebriated. She’s a fantastic photographer. As a result I have great photos of nearly all of my guests. I managed 3 photos on the night, so its well worth delegating this role.

A Speakeasy Party is a brilliant party theme. Girls can throw on a sparkly frock, or a simple tea dress, while men can go open collar shirt and flat cap, or go to town. The range of outfits at our party was amazing. We even had a cross dressing couple (who kind of stole the show!).

1920s gangster drinking beer in brown bottle at speakeasy party

We had friends we have known for 30+ years mingling with newer friends. Fancy dress is a great ice breaker, as its easy to start up a conversation

Flappers in 1920s dresses at speakeasy party.
1920s golfer and show shine boy with beer in brown bags at speakeasy party
Flappers and 1920s gent in top hat and tails at prohibition party
Gangsters moll with cigarette in holder at speakeasy party.
Party guests in 1920s clothes at prohibition party
waitress taking orders from hidden book menu
party guests in 1920 outfits at prohibition party
Party guests in 1920s outfits at speakeasy party
gangsters and molls at speakeasy party
Gangster in 1920s dress up

The 50 Club finally closed its doors at around 3.30am in the morning.

This was such a fun party. I had so much fun both prepping for it and hosting it. Who knows maybe it will resurface in a few years as the 52 club!

DianaHow To Host The Perfect Speakeasy Party

17 Comments on “How To Host The Perfect Speakeasy Party”

  1. Danielle

    I love this!!!! With this pandemic this seems a perfect fit for my 40th birthday. You made all these posters?? What do you have templates for? I’d love to use anything you have. I didnt see invitations but I saw everyone mention them. Can you send a pic?
    Thanks!
    Danielle

  2. Shan

    Hi Diana,

    You mentioned that you put together a background video for your party. Do you have instructions on hand to share so I can (try to) duplicate one for our upcoming event?

    Thanks!

    1. Diana

      Hi Shan

      Yes we ran a background video against the kitchen wall where we had our bar set up, and the same one on the ceiling. It created lots of atmosphere, especially before the place became quite busy. I wanted lots of short clips of girls doing the charlston. I had planned to play the Baz Lhurman Great Gatsby video on a loop, and although I purchsed it on DVD and a digital copy, there must be too many restrictions in place, and I just couldn’t get it to work. Instead what I did (was quite laborious i’m afraid):

      1) Googled lots of YouTube videos of charlston dancers and dancing, gangsters etc and movies of that era that had dancing in them. The trailer for the great gatsby has some great scenes of partying that I used too.

      2) Played them in full screen on my computer, and screen shot while I was doing this.

      3) I then put all of these clips into a movie maker app (I use final cut pro) but imovie should work just as well.

      4) I then had an hour longish clip of lots of charlston dancing and gangsters driving fast / shooting things up etc.

      I am assuming you know how to project from your laptop to projector screen, and your setup will be specific to your kit. But if you need me to point you in the right direction

      5) Playing this through itunes, I was never able to get it playing in a loop, which is what I wanted. Apparently if you change the movie to a pop video in the setting it should loop, but as I said, I was never able to.

      6) Play your video through Quicktime player app instead, and select the loop option.

      Unfortunately I dont think I kept any of the clips or the final video, as they tool up a lot of space on my computer – or I would send them/it to you. Hope this helps, and feel free to shout if you need any clarification / help on any other
      items.

      If this explanation helpe, I would really appreciate it if you could subscibe for future posts on my blog.

      All the best, and hope it works out.

      Diana xx

  3. Keenan

    So beautiful! Thank you for sharing! Do you sale the posters you made? I love the giggle water and bathroom posters! Thanks

    1. Diana

      Hi Keenan – Thanks so much for your message. I would be happy to sell any of the printable s. I’ve sent you an email, if you want to check your inbox. Xx

  4. Nicole Miller

    Hi Diana

    I am planning this very type of party for my 20th anniversary and would love your invitations. I saw you were offering to make them for others and would like to know if you can make me some. Please contact me.

    1. Diana

      Thanks for your comment Pamella. Glad you like it. Hopefully it will inspire you to make some of the items for your party

  5. Petronella

    Hi Diana,
    My name is Petronella Hallberg. I am 29 years old and I live in Sweden. I found your blog while searching for inspiration to my 30th birthday party which will be a “Speakeasy Party” (leaving my roaring 20’s behind me).

    Internet is full with Great Gatsby inspired glamorous party-inspiration, which i not what I am going for. Than I found your amazing Speakeasy newspaper invitation and the post from your birthday party. It just blow my mind. That style is exactly what I’m going for! Your posts gave me so much inspiration for my party. I will definitely use the note board with all posters, the “giggle water” and the brown paper bags around the beer 🙂 The save the date card and the invitation were amazing and full of so many wonderful details. Now to my questions, do you share your templates for invitation or is it possible to purchase them? I would so much like to use the same invitation template for my party.

    Kind regards,
    Petronella

    1. Diana

      Petronella

      Thankyou for your really lovely message. This was a fabulous party theme, and we had such a great birthday. I’m
      sure you will have an amazing time. I dont have templates as such to share but I have done a couple of modified personalised versions for people like you that have asked for copies. I can then change the details to make them specific to you. I would provide digital copies for printing of the save the date telegram, the newspaper and the temperance cards. The total cost would depend on the specific modifications you wanted.

      I will drop you an email with some ideas of the changes and what they would cost. You can let me know if this is something you would be interested in.

      I would share any of the other digital posters etc included in the price if you do decide to go ahead.

  6. Deb Kessler

    This is amazing! I am turning 50 in September and thinking about a speakeasy theme for a couple of months now. Finally started searching online and I think I found everything I need–you did an incredible job and I may be stealing all of your ideas and recreating your event 6000 miles away : ). Thank you for sharing and for being so creative and inspiring.

    1. Diana

      Hi Deb, sorry for the delay in replying to this. It seems to have slipped through the net! It is so lovely to hear that people are planning to use some of my ideas – steal away!. If you need any clarification / more information on how I did anything, just give me a shout. Have an awesome time, and please do send me some photos of your party, im sure you will have a blast!

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