Is there anything sweeter than summer? The sun’s shining, the birds are chirping, and event planners have more options at their disposal than arguably any other season.
After all, there’s the heightened possibility of holding events outdoors, a heaping helping of rich, colorful palettes to play with, and endless summer event themes that promise to surprise and delight attendees.
We’ve rounded up 18 of those innovative event theme ideas here, so you can spice up corporate events and social get-togethers alike — all summer long.
Choosing a theme for corporate events?
Corporate meetings such as conferences, trade shows, and other professional networking events are far from stuffy these days. In fact, with leading events like Dreamforce, C2 Montréal, and Cvent Connect leading the charge, it’s the area where we’re arguably seeing the most creativity across the board.
And while your event doesn’t necessarily need to go so far as hanging trapeze chairs for meetings (we see you C2), today’s meeting does need to transport attendees to a whole new world.
The best corporate event themes will do just that, offering up an escape where attendees can engage, interact, and network — all the while staying true to event objectives.
Looking for summer party ideas for social events?
On the social side of things, the stakes are high too. In a modern world of minimalist decor, pulling off a full-blown event theme without taking things too far (or making them tacky!) is an art in itself.
Just as with corporate planners, the first step is to look at the attendee list and try to predict expectations. The second is to ask yourself what’s possible in your event space. Realistically, the whole world isn’t at your disposal, and you already have an idea of where the limits lie when it comes to venues.
So what’s going to work in your venue? Which theme is going to feel the most cohesive with the surroundings and take you the least elbow grease (and money!) to pull off?
These summer event themes bring the heat!
1. Island Luau
Attendees can have a lot of fun dressing up, and a luau party is one of the best themes to get everyone in costume — without making them spend too much on their outfit. (Your classic thrift store beach shirt will do!)
Fake foliage, big tropical flowers, and all things tiki are in order for this one. Have your bartenders mixing sweet tropical drinks like pina coladas and serve up tasty foods like plantains, pineapple, and a pig roast.
2. Summer of Sustainability
Make a positive difference and leave an equally positive impression on attendees by making “reduce, reuse, recycle” more than just the mantra of your event. Upcycle to create one-of-a-kind decor and furnishings, diminish throw-away items, and trade in the useless swag for something that reduces waste instead of creates it.
Bring your guests together in breakout activities like tree planting or community clean-up. If you’ll be making money on the event, donate proceeds to an environmental nonprofit. And when it comes to the catering, work with local homeless shelters to make sure that zero food from your event is wasted.
3. Derby Days
An early-summer classic, derby days capitalizes on the pleasant temps of early summer. Not to mention it brings out the best in everyone’s hat collection! Set the event in a grassy outdoor area and let your decor take a hint from old-time southern charm. Serve up some tasty mint juleps, appetizers like pimento cheese, and bring out those checkered linens. (Don’t forget the roses!)
4. Summer Olympics
A great theme to get people moving and interacting, what could scream summer more than the summer olympics? One of our favorites for all-hands team-building events and networking breakouts alike, this theme presents a great opportunity to team groups up and get them working together towards a common goal.
Think: tiny bicycle races, human pyramids, photo prop contests, and other activities that are sure to spur more laughter than serious competition.
5. Pantone Color of the Year
Pantone’s Color of the Year has been a major influence in industries ranging from fashion and furnishings to packaging and graphic design. A color of the year theme gives planners a great excuse to run wild with one color family and create an immersive visual experience that defies expectations and makes attendees take note.
Worried you might have trouble finding furnishings in tones like “Ultraviolet” or “Living Coral?” Don’t fret! The right shade of lighting can transform the entire room. Just check out the example below where the lighting really brought 2017’s COY Ultraviolet to life.
6. Scavenger Hunt
This one’s especially good for team-building and networking events. It’s a great way to get attendees interacting authentically with their host cities, and simple for larger events to incorporate as just one of the many activities they offer.
The best part? It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the space in your venue to pull it off! By spreading your scavenger hunt throughout the city, you’ll get attendees out of the four walls of the ballroom, stretching their legs and their social muscles simultaneously.
7. Glow in the Park
Or anywhere, really! Large, light-up elements can help set the mood and add visual interest for just about any indoor or outdoor event. In fact, they’re some of the hottest decor in outdoor event trends right now.
When placed well, these elements attract so much attention that you can get away with scaling back your decor elsewhere. Use them to create killer dance parties, ethereal lighting for elevated dining, or to draw attention to specific areas or installments.
8. Summer Speakeasy
Recreate the glitz & glam of the roaring ‘20s by bringing a prohibition-era staple to life! Speakeasies are taking the bar scene by storm in the past few years, playing on nostalgia and exclusivity to appeal to patrons. Take advantage of the resurgence as a creative event theme, and do the same for attendees.
Have bartenders dress up in vests and suspenders, hide the party in the most unsuspecting of places, and give it that ‘20s feel by using studded leather couches, brick walls, and rustic wood decor. Then, play with attendees’ expectations by creating a boring and even off putting welcome room. Little will they know they’re about to get their Gatsby on.
9. Wild Wild West
Say howdy to the old west with a saloon-centric summer event theme that even John Wayne would be proud of. Bandanas, wooden barrels, and a few swinging saloon doors should do just the trick!
Serve up some whiskey-based cocktails, tee up some classic texas fair, and offer up fun activities like square dance lessons or a mechanical bull. All that’s left is to let the good times ensue.
Performers, games, and out-of-the-box decor? Few event themes are more fun than a carnival for summer. Rent out large tents for an outdoor carnival or set things up indoors with a large space for the main event and breakout spaces for activities.
Photo stations, trapeze performers, ring toss, and classic carnival games are all in order to keep attendees engaged. And for food? It wouldn’t be a carnival party without corn dogs and funnel cake. (But don’t worry — there are plenty of ways to class these foods up if you’re looking for a little more sophistication.)
11. Magic Garden
A summer garden is one thing, but a garden that makes attendees feel like they’re in a magical world? That’s taking it to the next level! By using giant garden props, flowers in unexpected colors, bubble machines, fairies, gnomes, and other fun props, event planners can turn this theme into a magical reality. Put your Fern Gully hat on and let your imagination run wild!
12. Summer Campout
Don’t worry — no sleepover required to create an awesome campout theme. Perfect for nighttime events, all you need is a few campfires (fake or real!) and props like pine trees, tents, and bears (definitely fake this time!). Serve drinks in tin camping mugs and set up campground benches for some authentic seating. Top it all off with a “make your own smores” stand!
Does your summer event or party have to be indoors? Then take your attendees underwater! Easier to pull of indoors than out, underwater themes don’t take real fish or even water to pull off.
Some smart blue lighting, blue and white decor, and props like coral, starfish, and seashells can set the right mood. Then queue an ethereal playlist and put everyone in the snorkel spirit!
14. Picnic in the Park
There’s nothing more classic (or cost-effective!) than your traditional summertime BBQ. Take the party to the park, fire up the grills, and set up activities like slacklines and volleyball nets for some friendly competition.
If it’s a corporate event, flip the script and get company leadership behind the grills and serving up food. After all, anyone can grill burgers, dogs, and corn on the cob right?
15. Bold & Beautiful
Summer calls for color! But unlike spring, the time for pastels is behind. Summer opens up the opportunity to play with bold, rich palettes that feel out of place in any other season.
Capture that sweet summer energy by incorporating big, beautiful flowers into your setup along with colorful table settings. We’re drawing our inspiration from the awesome example below.
16. Drive-in Movie
Have an event that’s going to be heavy in presentations? Take the mundane out of things by moving the event outside and turning it into a drive-in or outdoor movie screening.
Your attendees are less likely to feel stir-crazy if they’re not trapped indoors and that means they’ll be more likely to engage with the content. You can even give your sessions, fun movie-esque titles to lighten up the event agenda.
17. Block Party
Who needs a venue when you can take the party to the streets? A block party can be a great idea for larger events with several attendees, vendors, and performances. Though it will call for working with the host city to secure permits & permissions, and potentially working with local police to work through security logistics.
Still, there’s an element that comes with a block party that makes events feel less generic and more connected to host cities. (Especially when events showcase local vendors!) Attendees pick up on that sort of connection and it can make for an elevated experience.
18. Top of the World
If you have the opportunity to secure a rooftop venue in the summer, then you have a great chance to make that rooftop feel like the top of the world! Set up cloud props that make guests feel like they’re way up high, and, if possible, hang the sun, moon, and some planets as well. It’s a thoughtful way to connect your venue with the event theme.
Now bring it all to life!
Now that you have a few summer event themes in mind, it’s time to narrow things down and start planning. Your theme likely has plenty of moving pieces and requires working with at least a couple of suppliers.
Social Tables free event planning tools can help you map it all out with drag-and-drop diagramming that allows partners and suppliers to jump in and work with you in real-time!
Looking for more creative event themes? Check out our roundups for other seasons & more!
The Social Tables team has eight years of experience covering event news. The award-winning software platform has been used to source, plan, and execute nearly 5 million events since 2011. The company has 5,000 customers. Social Tables has won numerous recognitions, including Best Industry Innovation from the International Live Events Association and one of the most innovative companies in live events by Fast Company.