Decades-Themed Meeting Ideas for Your Celebrate or Network Event

The drinks, décor and music to make your next decades-themed event a hit

As we’ve highlighted before, nostalgia can have a huge positive effect on your attendees’ moods by easing tension and eliciting a flood of feel-good endorphins to the brain. But while nostalgia is typically attached to those experiences we cherished as children, the same principle applies to virtually anything that’s vintage or retro. We tend to yearn for the past, so reminiscing about the decades of yore can provide attendees a sense of comfort. 

Here, we outline some key design points, beverage ideas and playlist options to help ensure your decade-themed Celebrate or Network event brings down the house––or is a real hootenanny, depending on the era you’re targeting. 

1920s

Your Beverage of Choice: The Bee’s Knees, gin and tonic 
Your Go-To Design Scheme: Gatsby glamour
Your Perfect Playlist: New Orleans jazz and Dixieland 

Despite being named for Prohibition-era slang meaning “the best,” the Bee’s Knees cocktail really wasn’t the best-looking or most indulgent on paper, requiring only gin, lemon and honey. But the drink is still being served almost a century later, so there’s something to be said for its simple, tangy taste. 

When it comes to décor, you’re in luck. The 1920s was one of the most beautiful decades thanks to the influence of art deco, which championed geometric shapes, tubular steel and mirrored surfaces. To channel Gatsby-esque sophistication, think black-and-gold color schemes, feather accents and vintage images of luxury ocean liners and automobiles. 

1930s/1940s 

Your Beverage of Choice: Bloody Mary, daiquiri 
Your Go-To Design Scheme: Hollywood Regency
Your Perfect Playlist: Jazz and big band

Although wartime alcohol rations after Prohibition were somewhat difficult to come by, rum was still consumed in abundance––thanks to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy with Latin America, Cuba and the Caribbean. Ensure your daiquiri is quintessentially ’40s by keeping the flavor to the original lime (no strawberry or raspberry variations). 

With jazz or big band music streaming in the background, go bold in the glamorous style of Hollywood Regency, a classic design statement that still resonates today. The look was all about elegant opulence, pairing the streamlined shapes of modernism with eye-catching accents: plenty of gold, mirrored surfaces, lush textures and big statement pieces (glitzy chandeliers, massive mirrors, sculptural wall décor).

1950s

Your Beverage of Choice: The Pink Squirrel
Your Go-To Design Scheme: Midcentury modern
Your Perfect Playlist: Rock ’n’ roll and doo-wop

As rock ’n’ roll and doo-wop switched up the music scene, cocktails and design elements did the same, combining to define the ’50s-era generation. The sleek, low shapes of modernism continued, but with a twist: A playful, innocent vibe appeared, with a focus on pastel colors and kitschy ceramics. In the U.S., diners and soda shops pioneered a cheerful, checkerboard style accented by jukeboxes, road signs and Elvis posters.

Naturally, it’s hard not to associate the ’50s with frothy, sweet milkshakes. And while it’s certainly acceptable to serve up a tray or two of the classic kind, we recommend the Pink Squirrel––a rosy alternative to the green Grasshopper that swaps in almond liqueur instead of crème de menthe. The final outcome has an uncanny resemblance to a traditional diner milkshake. 

1960s

Your Beverage of Choice: Whiskey sour, Old-Fashioned 
Your Go-To Design Scheme: Swinging ’60s 
Your Perfect Playlist: “British invasion” pop and folk rock

Mimic Mad Men-era cocktails by serving up drinks with whiskey as the prime ingredient, including whiskey sours and Old-Fashioneds skewered with oranges and cherries. Futuristic, space-age design also started to take hold during this era (probably helped in part by the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969)—to capture the spirit, think rounded, modular shapes along with bright colors, psychedelic patterns and reflective surfaces. Or you can embrace a “Summer of Love” vibe, adorning the space with shag rugs, tie-dye designs, florals and paisley.

1970s

Your Beverage of Choice: Harvey Wallbanger 
Your Go-To Design Scheme: Earthy eclectic
Your Perfect Playlist: Disco and funk 

When it came to quintessential 1970s cocktails, none was more pronounced or well-known than the Harvey Wallbanger. And while cocktail historians never successfully tracked down the original Harvey, there’s no doubting the cultural impact that the combination of Galliano, O.J. and vodka made on the decade. Serve yours in the perfect 1970s ambience—the era was famous for its embrace of earthy hues like orange, terracotta, avocado and mustard, and many of its design staples are enjoying a resurgence of popularity today, from wood accents, macramé and textile wall hangings to the abundant use of indoor plants. For a nighttime event in particular, stream the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack under a disco ball.

1980s

Your Beverage of Choice: Margarita and piña colada
Your Go-To Design Scheme: Mega Memphis
Your Perfect Playlist: New wave and dance pop

Skyrocketing to fame thanks to cameos on Miami Vice and in Rupert Holmes’ classic hit, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” coconut-infused piña colada drinks hit their stride in the ’80s. And so did new wave and dance pop––the perfect background tunes for the decade’s flashy design style, which was influenced by the instantly recognizable geometric patterns, squiggles and DayGlo colors of the Memphis Group design. The 1980s was also an era of overindulgence and unabashed kitsch, so don’t be afraid to go all out with your event setup.