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This was actually a literary dinner party for our little book club! We normally see Gatsby parties done in an explosion of black and gold, and while those elements are fun, we were shooting for something that was a bit truer to the feel of the novel. We focused on two main scenes of the book: the party at Gatsby's mansion, and the tea at Nick's house where Gatsby arranges to meet Daisy. In both scenarios, his wealth and opulence are very much on display: through flowers, through food, and through flowing champagne.
The whole thing (including crafting, food prep, and set up) still only took about 2 hours. I had had this book on my brain for months knowing I would want to do a summer literary dinner party for it, and really do right by it since it's one of my very favorite novels. This mainly meant that I was picking up details like napkins, skewers, bits of gold fringe, etc. on clearance for the last couple months as I saw them, allowing me to spend practically nothing on decor. It came out to under $10.
The first scene we focused on was a rendering of one of Gatsby's parties, to which we were careful to incorporate specific details from the book. We created an appetizer-heavy menu of pigs in a blanket, egg salad sandwiches, melon/proscuitto/mozarella/balsamic skewers, and a fully loaded cheese and charcuterie platter alongside champagne for a cocktail hour. We were careful to focus largely on foods that were appropriate for the time period or mentioned in the book. Some candles and flowers in vessels we had around our houses completed the scene.
Behind our appetizer-laden table, I set up an outdoor bar. This is where a little crafting and attention to detail came into play. I downloaded a free font I liked to create both the "bar" sign and the cocktail menu. For the sign, I printed the letters out large, used a paper cutter to get them into even rectangles, punched holes in it, and threaded it on some, yes, black and gold twine that I had from a leftover Halloween craft. I then used some simple Elmer's glue and gold glitter (again leftover from some other craft) to make the marquee dots, and hot glued some $0.50 fringe I got on clearance at Target to the bottoms of the pieces to complete them. Some tacks in my fence set at a jaunty angle, and we were set!
For the cocktail menu, I found a free pattern online that I printed off, then used the same font to type up the menu, and the same gold glittered dots from before, and hot glued the same fringe as the "bar" sign to complete the look. Then I stuck it in a frame that I had in my house and it was done! Those two crafts took me a combined 20 minutes, and cost me $0.50.
The bar its self was an Ikea side table we had, and I just pulled out items from my home bar in my dining room, including: the champagne bucket (which was my mother's), cocktail glasses, a bottle of gin, a cocktail shaker, a shot glass, and martini glasses we filled with citrus as a nod to the book mentioning Gatsby's citrus piles at his parties. The orchid I got at Trader Joe's to invoke all the times orchids are mentioned to signal wealth in the novel, and the fairy-light lantern was something we had on hand. The stacked books are my very favorite editions of Fitzgerald's works by Alma Classics.
This quote was my biggest splurge for the party, but it's always been my favorite. It's currently available for $5 as an instant download over on Etsy. It's housed in another frame I already had, and we had the brilliant idea to lean it up against the bar on the ground!
Next it was time to make some cocktails! We focused on two that were imbibed by the characters in the book: a gin rickey and a mint julep. Like anyone else would, we took to the internet to teach us for this mini cocktail workshop and kind of just rolled with it.
After dinner and cocktails, we started imagining what it would be like to attend the afternoon tea Gatsby arranged for Daisy at Nick's. We made lemon cakes (Nick bought them at a bakery!) and piled all our flowers and candles onto the table to recreate the lush feeling that Gatsby would have devised at Nick's. Glasses of iced tea for this summer evening dessert completed the scene.
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What People Ate
Appetizer spread, cheese plate
What People Drank
gin rickeys, mint juleps, champagne
lemon cakes and iced tea
Activities / Games
book club discussion