Everything you need to throw an amazing Oscars party
Celebrities not included
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Next to Halloween, Oscars season is my favorite time to throw a party. These celebrations have more in common than you might think: thematic libations, lots of movies, and endless opportunities for hyper-specific costumes.
Whether you are, like me, unhealthily invested in the Academy Awards and prepared to spend the night shouting at the TV, or if you’re just looking for an excuse to dress up and hang out with your friends, I’ve got you covered. Now is a great time to start planning for a night full of glitter, friends, and an excessive number of references to the best picture nominees.
For the ambiance
Just because you’re not at the actual Academy Awards doesn’t mean you can’t play pretend. Stock up on these tech and decor suggestions to set the mood and make your guests feel like they’re attending the actual event.
1. A swanky portable projector to stream the event
What’s an Oscars party if you can’t actually watch the Oscars? Yes, you can always crowd everyone around the TV, but my favorite way to host a watch party is to bring out a projector. My projector has been an absolute hosting game-changer. I use it for movie nights with friends, for throwing music videos on the wall during house parties, and sometimes just to add a little drama to watching TV. We’ve already reviewed the best portable projectors of the year and named Anker Nebula Mars II the champion, but the Asus ZenBeam E1 is also a great option if you’re looking for something a little more affordable.
Once you’ve got your projector set up, don’t skimp on the audio. Our favorite bluetooth speaker of the year will have you covered for a durable, portable speaker that packs in a lot of sound.
- Get the Anker Nebula Mars II from Amazon for $484.99
- Get the Asus ZenBeam E1 from Amazon for $269
- Get the JBL Flip 4 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker from Walmart for $75
2. Invitations that elevate the occasion
You’ve got the house Oscars-ready—now it’s time to make the guest list! I’m not usually one for formal invitations, but this is the perfect opportunity to turn up the fanciness. Give your guests a taste of what’s to come with some flashy invites. I love these glittery ones from Walmart.
Reviewers appreciate how professional they look, but also note that the invitations come in two pieces so you can put the cardstock through a printer (you can certainly also hand letter them if you’re so inclined). If you’re not up to a little assembly, skip these ones.
3. This curtain that serves as the perfect photo spot
If you can’t get glitzy at an Oscars party, when can you? Encourage your guests to arrive red-carpet ready, and meet them with a photo booth station where they can capture their looks. Photo booths are always a hit, and surprisingly easy to put together. All you need is a backdrop, a few props, and a willingness to get silly. I love this sparkly backdrop from Walmart, that reviewers say is pretty in person and arrives in good condition—plus it’s less than $10.
4. Gold and white balloons to line the walls
With customizable letter balloons, you can add a pretty banner that says “Oscars 2020,” or anything you want. Reviewer Sailor Laney loves these balloons, saying they are "beautiful, awesome quality, and cheaper than Party City."
5. Props to bring the party to life
For props, offer your guests some Oscars-style trophies, like this 12-pack from Amazon. They’re not as heavy as the actual Oscars, but if you squint, they look nearly identical.
For the party itself, pick up a white board where your guests can write in their winning category. Feel free to pen in the awards you wish the Academy gave out.
- Get the Prextex Gold 6'' Award Trophies (12 Pack) from Amazon for $11.99
- Get the 11" x 14" U Brands Contempo Magnetic Dry Erase Board from Amazon for $7.49
6. Our favorite instant camera of the year
There’s nothing wrong with snapping pics on your phone, but if you want to give your guests a sweet keepsake, consider adding a polaroid camera to the mix. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is our pick for the best value instant camera. It’s simple, high quality, and easy enough to use after a few glasses of champagne. Use that saved cash to buy some extra film!
7. A literal red carpet—because you need it
To add even more glamor to the night, lay down the red carpet for your guests—literally. This carpet is marketed for weddings, but one reviewer notes that it worked great for their fashion project, and I personally believe its true calling is to lead the way into your Oscars party.
For the food and drink
Figuring out the menu is my favorite part of throwing an Oscars party. There are so many ways to incorporate references to your favorite films of the year. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
8. Dinnerware for your standout snacks
First of all, make sure you have all the dinnerware you need. If you’re going to go with disposable plates and utensils, you can make a more eco-friendly choice by buying a biodegradable set. Many reviewers were delighted by how unusually sturdy these plates turned out to be, on top of being more eco-friendly.
9. Menu items based on the top nominees
In “The Irishman,” Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro talk business over Italian bread dipped in red wine. The bread was probably lard bread (also known as prosciutto bread), a type of bread with meat baked directly into the loaf. Sadly for many of us (me), lard bread can be tough to find in the states, outside of New York and New Jersey. Take on a new baking adventure and try your hand at making your own loaf. This cookbook comes highly rated among reviewers and even won a James Beard award. It has a nearly perfect 5-star rating on Amazon and almost 2,000 reviews.
10. An incredible drink for the night
Luckily, the wine is easier. The prop team working on “The Irishman” decided that their central characters would enjoy, among other selections, an unpretentious Gabbiano Chianti and a Charles Krug Cabernet. While the prop department painstakingly created the wine bottles in the film with an eye for historical accuracy, you can still grab a couple thematically appropriate bottles of red. Our resident wine expert Alicia Cypress recommends shopping for wine at Trader Joe’s, but Target’s online shop has a wide selection of wines, as well.
11. Snacks that are sure to be crowd-pleasers
I’ve never felt more aware of the subjectivity of taste than when listening to Amy from “Little Women” desperately coveting pickled limes. While that pungent snack might not sound so appealing nowadays, you can still toast Florence Pugh’s best supporting actress nomination with a slice of candy lime. Reviewer George R. Brown says these fruit candy slices are the best he’s ever had. Arrange them alongside currant jelly, tea, and bread rolls, and you’ve got a spread worthy of the March family.
For another easy snack, put out a bowl of these cheddar bunny crackers. Just like all bunnies, including Jojo Rabbit himself, they are brave, sneaky, and strong (and, at least for me, super nostalgic). While you’re at it, take a leaf out of Jojo’s book and remind your guests how important it is to recycle their beer cans!
- Get Annie’s Extra Cheesy Cheddar Bunnies from Walmart for $3.99
- Get the Lime Jelly Fruit Slices from Amazon for $11.99
- Get Tiptree Red Currant Jelly from Walmart for $10.55
12. A movie-inspired cocktail to impress your guests
For a quick and delicious cocktail that salutes a critical peach-related plot point in “Parasite,” mix “fresh” and “perfect” peach juice with vodka and ginger ale. Garnish with a few peach ring candies, and voila! Just be sure to vet your guests for allergies first. (Quick confession: I’ve used this exact recipe at an Oscars party before. I’ll stop when the Academy stops nominating films that heavily feature peaches, and when peaches stops being the best fruit in the world.)
It’s not quite a martini, but for optimal viewing pleasure, serve your signature cocktail in fancy barware to ensure your guests know this is a fancy occasion (despite the fact that there are gummies on the ring). This set comes with four glasses and has rave reviews, with one customer even saying she used the glasses for a party and received several compliments from guests about their appearance.
- Get the Libbey Cosmopolitan Martini Glasses from Amazon for $8.69
- Get Knudsen Peach Nectar Juice from Amazon for $3.04
- Get 80 oz Trolli Peachie O's Sour Gummy Rings Candy from Amazon for $14.54
13. Meals inspired by this year’s nominees
You want something more substantial? Tell your guests to arrive hungry, and make a pan full of Kraft mac and cheese. Pair it with some cheap beer, and you’re halfway to becoming a Hollywood stuntman with a mysterious past. No, it’s not fancy, but thanks to Brad Pitt in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” it is on theme. And really, it’s what you’re in the mood for. Admit it.
And, of course, there’s only one dish you need when prepping your food—a dutch oven. We feel strongly about dutch ovens, and if you’ve been meaning to splurge, it’s time you got a Staub. But if you’re looking to stay within your reasonably set budget for the party, we recommend picking up a Lodge dutch oven from Amazon.
- Get Kraft Easy Mac Original Flavor Single Serve Pouches, 18 ct from Amazon for $7.92
- Get the Lodge 4.6-Quart Round Dutch Oven from Amazon for $54.90
14. Labels for each of your clever dishes
Now that you’ve put this much thought into your food selection, it would be a shame if it wasn’t recognized. With the help of these toothpick flags that reviewers say are sturdy, cute, and affordable, you can label the food with the name of the movie that inspired it!
For the attire
Dress is another category where the opportunities are truly unlimited. The most obvious option is just to dress fancy. Pull out your old prom dress, locate an underutilized bowtie, and just go with it.
But that’s not the only option. You can also show your dedication to your favorite nominees by arriving in character.
15. A pajama-themed party to embrace comfort and coziness
If you want to go comfy-chic and stay on theme, make like the Park family in “Parasite” and spend the night lounging in a pair of luxurious, white-trimmed pajamas. If you want to really lean into the high-scale comfort of the “Parasite” house, there are plenty of amazing blankets on the market that are big enough to cover a whole couch of friends. We love the Big Blanket for its softness, warmth, and, of course, size—and, in its classic Smoke color, it looks right out of the Park family’s home.
16. A dress code that turns guests into characters
Scarlett Johansson wore some of the most incredible looks of the year in “Jojo Rabbit.” If you aren’t emotionally prepared to pay homage to this character, I understand, but if you are, check out this hat that comes close to her amazing feathered fedora. Reviewers say it’s high quality, and looks much more expensive than it is. Pair it with a bright button-down and a bright cardigan to slip into the role of Jojo’s vibrant, politically engaged mother.
If you want to step into one of the year’s most iconic looks, you can always go the prepackaged costume route and arrive in an already assembled Joker costume. I did the math, and it’s way more affordable to go with this complete costume than trying to piece together the suit, vest, and button-down separately (unless you can find these pieces at a local thrift store, in which case, good for you!). Based on the enthusiastic reviews from fans of the movie, this costume is accurate enough to impress.
- Get the Janetshats Unisex Classic Felt Trilby Hat with Bowknot Feather from Amazon for $31.99
- Get the Sinastar Joker 2019 Costume Suit Halloween Cosplay from Amazon for $69
For the entertainment
You can’t be expected to watch every single award with the same wide-eyed reverence. Sometimes, you need to take a break. All the more reason to have some extra activities scattered around the party!
17. An arts-and-crafts corner
In “Parasite,” young Da-song’s mother believes that he’s an artistic prodigy, even when Ki-woo mistakes his self-portrait for a chimpanzee. Celebrate that energy with a painting station, where your guests can compete to create the most dubious self-portrait—just be sure to throw down a drop cloth and save your furniture!
- Get the Crayola 18 Count Paint Pot Set from Walmart for $3.97
- Get the 12 Pack of U.S. Art Supply 4" x 6" Professional Quality Canvas Panels from Walmart for $12.96
- Get the 25-Piece Horizon Group USA Assorted Paint Brushes from Walmart for $4.00
- Get the Husky Plastic Drop Cloth from Walmart for $3.54
18. This party game perfect for long speeches
Not excited to sit through three hours of pre-Oscar coverage? Well I am, but I respect people who don’t want to gawk over red carpet sightings. Set up a game your guests can play during down times, like this card game filled with movie trivia for all people, from those who consider themselves film novices to those who call themselves cinephiles.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.