Okay, the easy answer is “rum.” But it so happens that I throw a pirate party every year that is completely alcohol free, and it’s so popular that people start asking about it six months in advance. Whether or not you choose to add alcohol is your own business. Here’s how to do the rest of it.
First: the Decorations
It so happens that, as a professional pirate myself, I have a lot of piratical stuff. A couple of Megablocks pirate ships, Jack Sparrow posters, pirate flags, chests, and a lot of others, right down to my pirate rubber duck.
So it you love pirates, and you have this stuff, make sure it’s all out where people can see it.
If you want to buy additional stuff for decorations, go to the second-hand store. First, stock up on fabric – second hand sheets, old lace, brocade and checked table cloths, patterned curtains. These are what you will use to cover up the modern stuff in your house that you can’t hide. Modern furniture, appliances, desks, all get hidden under a couple of layers of cloth. Why a couple? Because you don’t want to be neat. Use at least two layers, and make sure they don’t match and neither one is straight. You want it to look like someone just casually threw the cloth over what-ever-it-is.
I like to light most of my house with candles for effect, and this means no exposed flames (too dangerous) so the candles need to go inside glasses, jelly jars, anything that will protect your guests. (More stuff you can find in the second hand store.)
Be careful people! And if you want the effect, but not the fire, get the fake candles that operate off a small battery.
Thrift stores are also where you get your serving trays and bowls, and the plates and cups your guests will use. Oh, sure, anyone can buy paper plates with a jolly roger on them. But when your guests are eating off a mish-mash of wooden salad bowls, fine china plates, and weird little silver or glass trays, and drinking out of beer steins, wine glasses and teacups, they’ll feel like they’re in the home of outlaws.
It’s also cheaper. I serve food off wooden cutting boards and salad bowls, glass punch bowls, cast iron pots, fine china serving pieces. All bought at next-to-nothing second hand.
I went online and printed out large (11x17) versions of various pirate pictures, and framed them before hanging them up. Fishing nets (from Michaels craft store) add a nautical touch. I fill jewelry boxes with fake gold coins (party store) and garage-sale jewelry.
I love to feed my guests, but what’s appropriate pirate food? My theory is that pirates traveled all over, so I should try to have food from all the places that pirates hung out: a mix of Chinese, Mexican, French, Irish, African and North American food, with a little tropical thrown in for fun.
If you don’t cook, it could be: mini egg rolls (China), salsa, guacamole and chips (Mexico) French silk pie,(France) potato skins (“Irish”), popcorn (North America), tropical fruit salad (you can buy this canned, if you REALLY don’t make food), coconut cookies. And my favorite pirate food: Meat on a Stick. This is just chicken or pork, threaded on wooden skewers (from the grocery store) and grilled or baked. Barbecue sauce is perfectly acceptable, since both barbecue and buccaneer come from the same root word, which also gives us “bacon.” So throw some bacon in there as well.
If you cook, you can go all out: Here 's a link to a book with real 18th century recipes!
Alcoholic punch was popular when pirates ruled the seas, so I always do punch, though mine has no alcohol. There are so many recipes you can surely find one that appeals to you. It’s different, which is what you’re aiming for here.
Pirates are exotic.
So what kind of exotic entertainments will you have at your pirate party? If you’ve got the kind of $$$$ that pays for entertainment at your events, by all means hire a belly dancer. Belly dancers and pirates are two great things that go great together.
But whatever you do, DO NOT play any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies on the TV. Even with the sound off. I’ve seen this done twice, and both times everything stopped while the guests stared at the TV.
What you might want to show, with the sound off, is some OLD pirate movies. Disney’s Treasure Island. The Black Swan. Even (heaven help us) Cut Throat Island.
I actually collect pirate music, so I play The Rambling Sailors, Irish folk music by The Chieftains and The Dubliners, and a collection of sea shanties that I got from discs at the library. If you want something a little more exciting, you might try Irish Punk by the Pogues, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys. Or go pirate punk with Alestorm. Start Googling pirate music and you’ll be surprised.
Other activities? Liar’s Dice, the game that was played in POTC Dead Man’s Chest is a possibility, and there are many other pirate themed games, from Pirate Flux to Zombie Ninja Pirates. Don’t let your guests play poker, though. It wouldn’t be invented for a couple of hundred years.
But the most favorite event at my parties is when we all sing sea shanties. It’s easy to get CD’s, or pull up some songs on YouTube. I print lyric cards and pass them out, and with a little encouragement, I’ve got a living room full of perfectly sober people singing sea shanties at the top of their lungs. And the next day everyone’s saying “I sang sea shanties at a pirate party!”
Of course, I have pirate-loving friends.
For more information about throwing a pirate party, check out Part 2 here.