How to Throw a Mardi Gras Party

Here are three easy ways to recreate the Big Easy celebration at home.

The wild partying of Mardi Gras has a religious background—it's "the feast before the fast," celebrated on the day before Ash Wednesday, that transitions people who follow Catholic traditions into the season of Lent—but it's also an excuse to indulge no matter your faith. New Orleans' famously riotous Mardi Gras parades are unparalleled, but if you're throwing your own Mardi Gras party this year, you can still take your cues from their history and tradition to replicate the Big Easy at home.

Mardi gras decorations in New Orleans
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Set the mood.

Mardi Gras is known for its bright color scheme and festive decorations. "First it is all about the colors: purple, yellow and green," says New Orleans-based event planner Michelle Norwood of Michelle Norwood Events. Add "trees filled with beads and glitter" for extra sparkle, and create a playlist of tunes associated with the holiday, including "Hey Pocky A-Way" by The Meters. "Second line music and all New Orleans jazz and bounce is all the music you will need," says Norwood. And the dress code? "Costumes," says Norwood. "Mardi Gras is basically Halloween for adults."

Serve your favorite foods.

Since the Lent tradition includes abstaining from meat—and people often give up sweets or other foods, too—laying out a huge spread of tasty treats gives everyone a chance to indulge. Serve king cake, pancakes, po' boys, or your family's other favorites. "My family would always barbecue on the parade route and after, get Popeye's for the house party," says Norwood, who recommends sipping traditional New Orleans daiquiris during your celebration.

Keep the party going all day.

Celebrating Mardi Gras should be more about the atmosphere than the specifics. "The vibe is a high-energy, all-day party," says Norwood, who notes that the parade begins at 8 a.m. "As a little girl I have the fondest memories of Mardi Gras: Walking for miles to get to the parade route and spending all day watching all the gorgeous floats go by—it was truly a time to remember. The beads, the floats, the bands, the flamethrowers. They have parades in other places but nothing like New Orleans."

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