Austin knows how to party. Good weather, great food, and endless live music make it a mecca for the party-minded. Whether you’re a local—or just looking to party like one, Tammara Harrington of Everlasting Moments and Theresa Claiborne, an Austin-based party planner (and both highly-rated pros on Thumbtack) talk the styles and traditions behind Austin’s shindigs.
What defines an Austin party?
In Austin, we love to emphasize local flair, says Theresa. Anytime we get a chance, we work with local vendors, local bands, and local businesses. Austin is all about unique foods and indie style.
Tammara agrees, saying Austin is eccentric and has room for just about every lifestyle—and the party that goes with it. Some parties feature big, vibrant colors, others want an authentic downtown Austin 6th Street party feel, and some want that down home country style. The one thing that defines Austin parties, says Tammara, is that they are wildly diverse.
What are the must-haves for an Austin party?
Live music, proclaims Theresa. This is the live music capitol of the world, she says, so an iPod just won’t do the job. Quirkiness or an artsy flair are also essential to a good Austin party. Whether it’s a massive ‘80s prom re-do or a quaint house party, it’s got to be unique, fun, and have that indie vibe.
Beyond music and vibe, it’s important to know your budget, Tammara says. Especially for big wedding receptions she plans, she wants the couples to remember it’s only one day, and they don’t need to start off life in debt. Logistically, make sure you have the right venue for your event. If the venue you booked doesn’t allow outside catering, make sure it won’t conflict with your plans for the doughnut truck to come at midnight.
What are common Austin party traditions?
Common traditions are hard to pinpoint, because the city is so diverse and each scene has its own special flair, explains Theresa. You can usually count on good music and good BBQ, though.
This city’s been doing rustic long before it was a national trend. Clients love the burlap and mason jars of this relaxed look, says Tammara.
What Theresa loves about planning Austin parties is although there are so many scenes, people really like to support local arts and businesses. Even corporate conferences she plans want to showcase things like local dance performances.
What are common party themes in Austin?
Most clients don’t have a big, huge theme in mind, says Theresa. More frequently she has people come to the table with a style in mind: indie modern, traditional elegance, or quirky playful. The style people want varies with age and interests. Austin is a sophisticated, urban city, but it’s also got that down home country love. That’s part of the reason Austin is so appealing, this endearing mix.
It all depends on the party, agrees Tammara. It’s hot here, so for kids’ parties, all the parents want something themed around water. Wedding parties tend toward simple elegance, something that doesn’t distract from the couple. Or for a party of recent graduates of LBJ High School, the parents wanted full school color themes.
When in doubt, rustic country decor is always a decor, shares Tammara. Something as simple as a mason jars wrapped with burlap holding a pink rose can complete your look. It’s simple and charming.
What kind of music makes it an Austin party?
Tammara started laughing, asking, “Really?” There’s no one type of music that parties adhere to around here.
Swing dance, two-step, country rock, rockabilly, rock and roll—there is so much music here, says Theresa. If any band can get the party dancing, it’s going to be a successful evening. For wedding parties, she recommends younger generations balance their fresh indie music with tunes that also have universal appeal so the grandparents still have a good time.
The last big event Tammara planned, the client wanted country western and hip-hop, plus a little reggae on the side. She works with a great local DJ who creates specialized playlists for each event. A trend she’s seeing for Austin wedding receptions is people are getting married later in life, and their party music reflects that—they want to get down to ‘90s hip hop and dance music. Pretty much Austin music is as eclectic as the city, and each client brings their own personality to steer the tunes.
What are people eating and drinking at Austin parties?
BBQ. It’s a way of life around Austin. You’ll actually be hard pressed to find a big party or wedding that doesn’t serve BBQ. Theresa adds that Austin is a really healthy city, and it’s kind of frowned upon to forget about providing vegetarian options.
There’s always iced tea and always lemonade, says Tammara. And of course, she says, there’s always a bar because we’re a party city. She coordinates with party clients beforehand to accommodate for safe rides home, encouraging the hosts to set-up an account with a driving service for the night, or provide some sort of alternative transportation. It’s all about getting home safe and keeping other safe.
What’s one of your favorite all-time Austin parties?
A Michael Jackson-themed party for a friend’s 30th birthday was Tammara’s favorite so far. Everyone wore black and white with rhinestones, and each guest had their own white glove. The party was held on the rooftop and the feeling of freedom and camaraderie was so strong. “The feeling was like ‘there is nothing to worry about when you leave here,’ because we were having such a good time with our friends.”
An American Bandstand-themed party was the event Theresa loved planning most. They had giant movie screens all around and video cameras capturing the live action and playing it back on the screens. They had a fabulous emcee with the most perfectly flamboyant personality playing Dick Clark who really energized the crowd. Everyone had a blast, dancing in full show-off mode.
Are you ready to throw a party, Austin-style? All you need is some good tunes, great BBQ, and a whole lot of heart.