Roll out the carpet…a magic carpet, that is!…and prepare to transport your wedding shower guests to an exotic place and time. Think desert oasis or luxurious harem, a la Arabian Nights. We have just the ideas for pulling this look together in a surprisingly doable way. Simply draw up a small guest list of your closest female friends and family members to keep the gathering intimate and fun. Then, draw inspiration from our suggested party elements—from the invitations, to the sumptuous food and drinks, all the way to the richly-textured table, floor, and even ceiling decorations. Be prepared, though. Your guests may be so enamored by this “feast for the senses” that this could even turn into a sleep-over bridal shower for some who refuse to leave!
Rich fabrics, warm hues, varied textures, intricate patterns, and touches of beadwork and gemstones all bathed in candleglow! The total effect is one of a luxurious Arabian harem.
Fabrics – No strict matching here! Find a variety of throw pillows in an eclectic mix of fabric covers—from smooth satin, to rich brocade, to raw silk, to textured velvet; from plain to printed, to embroidered, to bejeweled. Start with what you already have or can borrow from family and friends. Then, check out your local flea markets and antique stores, as well as home accessories outlets like Pier One® or Cost Plus World Market®. Use these pillows as seating for this Arabian-inspired gathering—perfect for lounging around, eating, and chatting the evening away!
For a more lavish treatment, consider using lengths of these exotic textiles to be draped from the ceiling, to line the walls, or to simply be tossed over the throw pillows for a stylish touch. Complement these with floor rugs (authentic Persian, if you can find one!), colorful shawls or scarves, and embroidered table linens finished with glittery beads and sequins.
Accents and objects – When adding décor elements throughout the party venue, select distinctive accent pieces to support the theme. Look for brass lanterns, oil lamps, jeweled votives, fancy candelabra, and shapely glass decanters. Again, thrift shops, flea markets, and antique stores are treasure troves of such finds, so be sure to check them out. Who knows, you may discover a quaint Arabian hookah (water pipe), embroidered and beaded Moroccan slippers, or a silk-tasseled fez or two! Oh, and don’t forget you can also surf for unusual decor items on web auction sites like Ebay.com.
Wow your guests with an authentic Moroccan tea service—an ornate silver teapot and gold-rimmed tea glasses—traditionally used to serve the famed mint tea. Rhinestone votive holders and a silver and brass inlaid box complete the fabulous setting.
Furniture – Almost none needed! Since the whole idea is to make guests feel relaxed, Middle Eastern style, just a few low tables for laying out the food and drinks would suffice. The rest would be pillows of different sizes, plus some poufs, and maybe a side table for the guest favors. Hint: If the idea of sitting on the floor while eating doesn’t exactly thrill you, you can cheat a little by having a couple of ottomans or cozy bean bags on hand.
MUST-SEE PARTY THEME IDEAS
Irresistible Party Invitations
Set the Middle Eastern vibe of your party as early as the invites. Here are some creative invitation ideas that are sure to have your guests looking forward to the fun event:
Scrolled invitations – Cut mini sheets of ivory parchment and inscribe them with your bridal shower details in a graceful font. For effect, use a calligraphy pen with gold or copper-colored ink. You could even add a witty teaser, like “A Night of Enchantment Awaits You at My Bridal Shower.” Then, roll each sheet up scroll-style and secure it with a pretty beaded tassel.
Bottled invitations – Mimic the look of magic potions or genie bottles by using recycled perfume or lotion containers as invitation “props.” You could look in flea markets and thrift shops for those that come in unusual shapes and pretty jewel tones. Simply write the party details on gold card stock and attach one to each bottle with a string of faux gemstones. Or roll up the cards and pop them into the containers, using glitter-covered mini corks as bottle stoppers.
Exotic e-vites – If you want an eco-friendly and hassle-free option, electronic invitations are the way to go! Plus they can be made to suit every conceivable theme. Start with a striking graphic to highlight your party info—a Persian carpet pattern perhaps, an intricate mosaic, or a scenic desert photo. You can download these from copyright-free sites on the web, or you may create your own artwork using a graphics program such as Photoshop®. Then post your online invitation on your Facebook® profile and send it out to your intended guests.
Fabulous Food with a Taste of Middle Eastern Cuisine
Set out a tempting array of Middle Eastern dishes and appetizers, such as herb-infused kofta meatballs, wedges of warm pita bread, and falafel.
Arab cuisine is all about hospitality via food! So, since this bridal shower is a relaxed and intimate gathering, we suggest serving an array of exotic and flavorful dishes buffet style—within arm’s reach of the “lounging area.” Popular choices would be shawarma, kebabs of lamb and grilled vegetables, tabouleh, kofta meatballs, couscous, and hummus.
Not too familiar with these dishes—and overwhelmed by the thought of trying to prepare them yourself? No need to worry! You can always lift menu ideas from references like this book. Then simply order your party fare from a local Middle Eastern restaurant.
For dessert, treat your guests to the famous baklava, Turkish delight, and bouzat haleeb (Arab ice cream) in flavors like pistachio. You can also offer a platter of Arabic sweets such as candied fruits, cashew cookies, and dried figs and dates.
With such a captivating party ambiance, your food presentation should be just as eye-catching. Use attractive containers with interesting shapes, finishes, and/or motifs. Some ideas? Ceramic bowls finished with a filigree trim, dinner plates with an arabesque design, and serving trays with a mosaic finish.
If you opt to go beyond just buffet fare, you may take a more elaborate approach. For main courses, consider serving these on fancy footed platters. Then, combine brilliant gold chargers and decorative glass plates together with gold flatware. How’s that for stunning!
Delicious Drinks in Exotic Flavors
A true Middle Eastern classic, piping hot mint tea, is properly served in gilt-edged tea glasses finished with a sprig of fresh mint.
Continue the authentic adventure with your guests by serving beverages with a definite Middle Eastern flavor. Mostly, these would be traditional teas—led by the classic mint-infused variety—which you can complement with other tea choices such as jasmine, black, and cardamom with cinnamon. On the side, offer syrup shots for tea like vanilla and even hibiscus.
What about coffee, you ask? There is Qahwa Arabeya, an Arabic coffee featuring coarsely ground cardamom, saffron, and sesame seeds. But should you choose to offer non-Arabic teas and coffee instead, do maintain the exotic presentation by using ornate serving pots and trays in sterling silver.
For cold beverages, include refreshing Middle Eastern lemonade made with orange blossom water and (more!) mint. And as for wine, a good syrah or zinfandel is a wonderful choice when serving up beef or lamb kebabs, shawarma, and other flavorful dishes. Present it in shapely glass decanters or simply offer it right out of its bottle.
Should time permit—amidst all the eating and reminiscing—why not throw in some fun Arabian-inspired activities? Stage an impromptu henna painting session, with each of you painting a design on someone else’s hand, ankle, shoulder, back, or belly. And speaking of belly, do we hear the jingle of belly dancer bells? You could prepare scarves with little bells attached, tie one around each lady’s waist, and try your hand (or should we say, hips?) at belly dancing!If you prefer more subdued fun, you could all curl up and watch a home movie “rerun” of Aladdin, Arabian Nights, or The English Patient. Or for the ultimate in relaxation, you could recreate a mini spa amidst all those pillows—treating yourselves to home facials and soothing aromatherapy. With the wedding coming up, this is an ideal time for you, the bride, to be pampered like an Arabian princess. So enjoy!
Dazzling Party Favors
Make guests feel special by displaying the favors in baskets! Talk about extra special pampering.
Thrill your guests with bridal shower favors that feel like special souvenirs from an Arabian souk. Think of cashmere shawls or authentic tea glasses wrapped in organza and filled with candies! Gifts fit for an Arabian Princess!
Like treasures found at an Arabian souk (marketplace), consider giving traditional accessories such as decorative slippers.
In keeping with the notion of a feast for the senses, you could opt to prepare a variety of gift items to appeal to all five:
- Spices, tea leaves, dried fruits or candy – presented in authentic tea glasses and packaged in beautiful fabric, and finished with embellishments inspired by Bedouin jewelry. See related post for giving spices as favors.
- Cashmere shawls or scarves – packaged as part of special gift baskets
- Slippers – tucked into tulle and tied with a satin ribbon
- Jeweled votive holders – starting off as party decor, then going home as guest favors
- Boxes of incense sticks – wrapped in jewel-toned organza rounds