Whether it’s the brassy sound of a Big Band or the cool tones of a solo saxophone, there’s nothing quite like vintage jazz. What better way, then, to relive your fondest memories of the ’50s than with a jazz-themed party for your 60th birthday! For even more fun, we suggest a Latin twist to the occasion. Guests—from your contemporaries to your grand kids—will have that much more to enjoy.
Wondering how to recreate the right ambiance? That’s what we’re here for! Take some cues from our decorating and favor ideas below. Then, get ready to party and enjoy the music with your fellow jazz lovers—or dance the night away to your favorite jazz rhythms. Our best wishes on your 60th!
Recapture the Look and Feel of the Jazz Era
Stage a grand entrance
Want to wow guests and set the distinct mood for the party? Greet them at the venue entrance with a snazzy, jazzy decor set-up. It could be something as simple as a saxophone, a vintage gramophone, and a fedora hat or two stylishly displayed on a leather couch or even at the foot of a staircase—dramatically lighted by a ’50s style lampstand.
Decorating tip: If you don’t already own items that can be used as vintage props, ask around among your friends or scour thrift shops and flea markets in your area. You may discover other brass instruments or perhaps some vinyl LP records by jazz greats that would make great display pieces, too.
Once suitably intrigued, guests can then be led to the actual area you’ve set up for the party. Here the fun begins!
Create a Latin vibe
We did suggest a Latin spin to this celebration, right? So, we created the look of a jazz club someplace like old Havana, Rio de Janeiro, or Puerto Rico—but infused with splashes of hip color and fun Latin-inspired decorations.
Decorating tip: The key to making this look work is finding even just a few accent pieces to serve as ‘visual hooks’ for the jazz era. Aside from those already mentioned, you could try sourcing a vintage stand fan or a wood-and-brass ceiling fan, Cuban cigar boxes, empty wine magnums, sheet music of jazz classics, and the like.
Special touches: Plan extra details that will make the party really fun and memorable. For example, have a dance floor with themed decorations and mood lighting—plus a live jazz ensemble supplying the music!
Liven Up the Tables with Color
The overall look may be that of a vintage Latin cafe, but your party tables can be inviting islands of color with fun decorative accents. We suggest intimate tables for four to allow guests to chat, and to move easily to and from the buffet table and beverage bar.
Table cloths in a breezy aqua set a light mood, while crisp white dinnerware gives a clean, fresh look. For splashes of color, we crafted paper flower napkin rings in cheery red and orange. Our unique table centerpieces combined bird-of-paradise blooms with a stylish fedora!
Decorating tip: Using basic solid colors makes it easy to mix and match the elements on your party tablescape. So investing in classic white dinnerware, non-print tablecloths (don’t be afraid of bold colors, they can make a table display really pop!), solid color fabric napkins, and plain chargers and placemats is a wise move. Then, you can dress these up as needed, depending on your party theme.
Craft a Fun Welcome Sign Display
A customized sign is always a great way to welcome party guests. Create one specially for this jazz-themed occasion by painting a caricature style music graphic and mounting it in a large, fancy frame. Display this at the entrance to the party venue, surrounded by an array of hats for guests to choose from. A clear signal that “the fun starts here!” And if you attach personalized favor tags, the hats become great mementos of how you marked your 60th birthday in jazzy Latin style.
Decorating tip: If you’re worried that your painting skills leave much to be desired, you can always cheat a little in creating your welcome signage. Keep your eye out for old music and/or Latin themed posters at yard sales or thrift shops. If you find one that’s already mounted, you can even skip the frame. Just attach the word “Welcome” in cut-out letters or add a witty line like “Jazzin’ Up My 60th!” Then, as guests leave the party, they write their greetings on the poster—leaving you with a giant birthday card!
Give Jazzy Party Favors and Gifts
The gift of music is always appreciated. So treat your guests to CDs as party favors! If you’d like to go really authentic, choose from among the Latin jazz greats of the ’40s and ’50s like Cuban band leader Machito Grillo, trumpet player Mario Bauza, or Latin orchestra founder Tito Puente.
Favor shopping tip: CDs of contemporary jazz artists and American jazz greats should be quite easy to find. But if you’re unsure which Latin jazz CDs to purchase, we suggest you visit online music sites like Putumayo World Music to hear a sampling of artists that you might consider. Once you’ve decided which ones grab you, you can look for these in the jazz section of a large record bar or music store.
Food and Drinks? Think Flavor, Flavor, Flavor!
Since your 60th birthday is a true milestone, go for a full and flavorful dinner menu with a Latin flair. Shrimp appetizers are a great way to start, followed by Pan-roasted Garlic Soup and a Cabbage and Corn Salad. For the main entrees, consider Latin Chicken and Rice Pot, Country-style Meat Stew, or, for some extra special, Latin-American Filet Mignon with Avocado and Jicama Salsa! For dessert, serve the popular Tres Leches (Three Milks) Cake, accompanied by freshly-brewed Brazilian coffee. Then, to get people in the mood for after-dinner dancing, have a bottle or two of “birthday bubbly” and some South American cocktails like margaritas and mojitos and on the side!
(Recipes for the yummy Latin dishes above, courtesy of The Food Network.)
Attire for a Latin-Inspired Jazz Party
If you really want a fun event, “require” guests to come dressed in Latin-inspired attire—or at least with a Latin-style accessory. You’ll provide the hats! Alert them via e-vite or the more traditional invitation cards several weeks before the big day, so they have time to prepare. As guests arrive at the party, have someone click away with a camera to capture all the fun attire. Then, you can hold an impromptu contest to give out a “Most Snazzy, Jazzy Look” prize!