{ La Dolce Vita }

[dawl-che vee-tah; English dohl-chey veetuh]

1. sweet life; the good life perceived as one of physical pleasure and 
self-indulgence (usually preceded by la).
…And that is what you go to Italy for. To enjoy good food, wine, bellinis, postal perfect views, and guilty pleasures.
As I walked through the narrow alleys of Venice last spring, I kept bumping into the indulgent, over-the-top, in-your-face fabulousness of the Dolce & Gabbana window displays. I don’t know if it was that or the effect of my Aperol Spritz but I knew right then and there that I wanted to host a party that celebrated life just like their gorgeous printed, ridiculously expensive midi dresses did.
Inspired by a mix of Italian indulgences,  and a celebration of life, I hosted a small party with the theme La Dolce Vita back home to celebrate my last twenties birthday. Here is some of the inspiration behind the event as well as some behind the scenes pointers.
> Basics : Once you figure out the number of guests, add 15% to that number and work out logistics. I rented basic natural resin chairs from a local business, as well as accompanying rectangular tables and white tablecloths. I’d say stay away from using cheap folding chairs if budget allows, resin chairs are quite cheap too and they make the event look more put together. If you get the tablecloths and tables from the same place they might give you a bundle discount.  Make sure you also have/rent a table where you will put your food and desserts.
> Invitations : Whether you go for an electronic invite (Facebook event, E-vite, e-mail, etc) or have enough time to craft a beautiful invitation, you want to clearly define your theme. Include visual pointers, such as lemons (which are all the rage now), in a formal invite or go for simply adding a few theme pictures (see above) so guests know what to expect and can dress properly. ALWAYS let them know the setting of the event : garden (think NO stilettos), indoor/outdoor, and obviously time.


> Food: A good thing about hosting italian themed parties is that food is relatively easy and most people like it.

  • Appetizers> I went for a traditional cheese table but added a couple of touches for the theme. Find rustic elements you can use to hold the snacks, such as wooden boxes, baskets, wooden planks and trays or snack plates. Here is a list of my appetizer table:
    1. Seedless grapes
    2. Nuts
    3. Cheese variety: I recommend Trader Joes since they have good cheeses at great prices. I went for a blueberry goat cheese (a hit!), brie, and fontina.
    4. Peach bellini jam (from Trader Joe’s) but you can go with honey or any other fruity complementary food.
    5. Olives
    6. Sliced bread loaf (buy same day for freshness) with accompanying olive oil and balsamic vinegar
    7. Decor elements: Sunflowers, lemons, basil plants, giant artichokes; either sprinkled around to fill white space, in a clear cylinder vase with water (loved how this came out), rustic/Italian ceramic vases, wood baskets (all from various sources)
    8. Don’t forget snack sized plates and napkins placed nearby IMG_1471
  • Dinner> I offered 3 varieties of spaghetti (green pepper, alfredo, and traditional) along with 7 pizzas, 4 of them cheese-only and 3 of them with meat from my favorite local pizza place. IMG_1480
  • Dessert> My favorite! A lemon bundt tower from Nothing Bundt Cakes. Everyone had some so not only was the lemon flavor very aligned with the theme, it was also easy on everyone’s palate. NBC will add a flower on top for $10 (expensive, but you can save it for future events) and they had the perfect sunflower to go with it. Coffee was also served but it was improv, since I did not expect guests to be in the mood for coffee, which they were to go along with their dessert.
  • Drinks > We overestimated the amount of alcohol and drinks guests would have. For a total of about 25, we had about 6 bellinis bottles, 2 wine bottles, a gallon of a homemade lavender gin cocktail, lemon flavored sparkling water, and lots of water bottles. A month later, I still have a lot of drinks left because guests gifted me wine bottles and champagne. Keep this in mind.. although extra bottles are never a problem! I’d recommend you offer at least one Italian traditional such as bellini or limoncello (recipes bellow).

> Mood: Setting the mood was important for the theme. After all, it is all about pleasure, and feeling that you are ‘indulging in the sweet life’. I pretty much curated a Pandora station for a week, skipping through songs I didn’t want and liking those I wanted for sure. I wanted a good balance of traditional but happy Italian music, and today’s hits in both English and Spanish. I believe the station was Italian Traditional/ Despacito/ Today’s Hits. I ended up enjoying it quite a lot.

Italian Dolce Vita music must-haves:

  • That’s Amore- The Rat Pack
  • Volare- Dean Martin
  • Lazy Mary
  • L’Americano- The Gypsy Queens
  • Bella Notte- Lou Monte
  • Angelina- Harry Belafonte
  • Papa Loves Mambo- Perry Como
  • Buona Sera- Louis Prima
  • Mambo Italiano- Enoch Light

IMG_1469My event started at 4pm, so we had plenty of daylight. When it started getting darker, I made sure I had string lights here and there, an actual light (it was actually a construction light that works pretty well at night in the outdoors), and lots of candles (go to Dollar Tree or Walmart for the tea candles and candle holders).

> Decor: My big thing was and always will be having a lot of flowers. Parties for me are great excuses to buy a bunch of beautiful florals and have fun putting them together, which I wish I could do everyday. I had to do my research if I wanted to keep it within budget, as well as plan ahead so that the flowers were all perky the day of the event.

  • Flowers: Sunflowers (about 40) and mixed greens from Trader Joes. Greens are the cheapest, and they fill out a lot of space, mostly eucalyptus. I purchased  a few hydrangeas, ornamental cabbage, and baby’s breath all from a wholesale flowers place in San Diego (note: you actually need to be a member of the place to get the good prices, but their variety was tough to beat). Beyond the plants I got a bunch of accessories including floral foam cages to create an arch, flower food, flower hydrator, and floral wire. All flowers were purchased the night before, cut, hydrated, and ready to go in the morning. This was the most time consuming piece. Putting together the arch took some time since the super cheap frame could not hold too much weight. I used floral cages to keep flowers moisturized and perky but would probably steer away from that next time and just get to it the day of the event so they look good.
  • Picture spot: With Instagram, you want to ensure there is a focal point for people to take pictures that represents your them well and is out of the way of guests. Besides a floral arch, I took my vintage-looking bicycle, put some hydrangeas in its basket, added a floppy hat and voila! It was an unexpected, cute focus point.
  • Bar cart: My drinks were all in a bar cart area, with champagne glasses, cocktail napkins, straws, and ice filled with edible flowers (note: not ALL flowers are edible, you need to buy actual edible flowers!)
  • Table tops: I had 3 tables, all decorated differently. I used a mix of candle holders, flowers, empty bottles, etc. to create the center pieces. I threw lemons here and there in the tables as well. For my paper plates, I actually had them printed with a design that mimicked a Sicilian ceramic plate.


Floppy hat: @hatsbyolivia
> #OOTD: My mind was all in Dolce and Gabbana without the price tag. I kept thinking Monica Bellucci, italian feminine women, and found a great pair of enormous golden cross earrings on eBay and a great black eyelet ruffled dress, paired with platforms and a messy bun (tutorial here). I did not tell guests to wear anything in particular, but let them know it is outdoors and in a garden setting, recommending day dresses for girls.

Things to think about:

  • Keeping bugs away
  • Weather cooling at night
  • I would have liked to include adult games (like Cards Against Humanity), but never got to it



 If you are planning an event soon, I assure you will have fun with this theme that goes with pretty much any event! Some more pictures (not mine) for inspiration:

3 thoughts on “{ La Dolce Vita }

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