Pontoon boats are the water’s great entertainers, offering huge scope for hosing amazing parties that will live on in the memory for years to come.
With a large and open deck space, room to mingle and talk, plus the ability to customize your boat with all the latest entertainment accessories, it’s massive waste of boat if you have never put a pontoon party on. I encourage you to start planning and get those invites out now!
If you are already thinking about entertaining, then you might be stuck for ideas on how you can plan, theme, and arrange your pontoon party.
Each year I throw about 4 to 5 parties, celebrating special occasions, or public events like the 4th of July. In this guide I am going to share with you everything that I have learned over the last few years, with my pontoon party ideas and tips.
The guide starts off with some themes that you can explore, and then moves into the practicality of hosting a pontoon boat party.
Pontoon Boat Party Ideas & Themes
1. Create a Party Theme
The best parties are ones that have a theme. It gives your guests the opportunity to get into the spirit of things, perhaps with some fancy dress, your choice of boat décor, the games that are played, or with the type of food that gets served up.
Some example themes and pontoon boat party ideas include:
- 4th of July Celebration
- Beach Camping Night
- Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Graduations
- Casino Theme
- Fiesta Theme
- Floating Pontoon Boat Dinner Party
- Games Day Tournaments
- Hawaiian & Tropical
- Mardi Gras Theme
- Nautical Theme
- Pirate Theme
- Pontoon Block Party
- Romantic Meal for Two
- Water Sports Competitions & Pontoon Olympics
2. Host a Movie Night
There are a number of ways in which you can make this pontoon party idea work. You can either take a laptop or tablet onto the boat with you or go the whole hog with something a little bit more professional which would be a portable movie projector.
Outdoor movie projectors have come down in price massively over the last five years, and this portable movie projector on Amazon is just the ticket for using on a boat. You can connect it up to your smartphone or any other digital media device and project against a white sheet hung from the Bimini.
Handy Hint: This is something you will need to do once night has fallen, as otherwise you might find it hard to see the movie projecting on the screen due to the sunlight.
No matter how you decide to play your movies, if you have lots of guests on board, then make sure to give them a great audio experience as the volume might be hard to hear over the water otherwise!
If you don’t have Bluetooth speaker connectivity on board to provide sound to your movie playing device, then take a look at the AOMAIS waterproof portable speaker. It’s rugged, has great sound, and will make your movie night go off with a bang.
3. Fireworks Show
This is another party idea that takes place once night has fallen. Whether it’s a 4th of July celebration, or simply an event such as a birthday or anniversary, fireworks look awesome when set off over a lake.
You can set them off from your deck, if you are comfortable doing so, but please make sure that you point them out towards the open water.
Most people will feel a bit better setting off fireworks from land, so you could anchor down near a beach, or at the pontoon dock – and why not get other pontooners involved too? In other words, turn it into a pontoon boat block party!
The most important consideration here other than safety is to stick to the laws regarding fireworks in your state. They do differ from place to place so do your research before planning a fireworks party.
Pontoon Boat Party Tips & Advice
4. Design Your Own Themed Party Invites
Once you have settled on a theme, it’s time to send the invites out. And what better and more creative way to do so, than having your own designed invites.
One year, we had a Titanic theme, probably bad taste I know, but I designed up party invites that were meant to look like the original Titanic boarding passes, showing where the boat was departing from, and dress codes… just like the real Titanic boat had in 1912.
5. Don’t Invite the Wrong Mix of People
Be really careful about how the group dynamics can work, as once the passengers are on board and you’re in the middle of the lake, it’s probably too late to change your mind!
With my 4 or 5 annual pontoon boat parties, each one is specifically geared towards a certain sub-set of my friends and family. I certainly wouldn’t invite my college pals on the same day as I would my in-laws, as like oil and water, I know they won’t mix too well.
6. Ask Guests to Bring a Plate of Food to Share
Entertaining is hard work, especially when it comes to putting the food together. One tactic I usually use is to ask each guest to bring their own plate of food, and it’s up to them what they bring along to share.
The result is that we usually tend to have a wide selection of foods and snacks on the boat for everyone to dig into and share. If you need to give your guests and inspiration or guidance on what to bring to a pontoon boat party, take a look at these food ideas.
7. Check the Weather Forecast Beforehand
There’s nothing worse than your party getting rained off, or you have to come back to shore early with the on-set of bad weather. I always check the weather forecast the day and morning before to make sure there’s going to be no nasty surprises that are going to mean I need to cancel.
Do your due diligence and check the marine forecasts or your local news and weather channels beforehand.
8. Have a Contingency Plan Just in Case
It always pays to hand a contingency plan just in case you do get unexpected weather. If you have gone to all of the trouble of deciding on a party theme, invited your guests, and arranged food, you don’t want it to go to waste.
My back-up plan is always to have the party back at my house. Make sure that you have a similar fall-back option just in case things don’t quite go to plan.
9. Get Your Kids Involved with a Responsibility
If you have children at the party, then get them involved with the proceedings. Kids who learn to respect the water at an early age, will be far more confident in the future, as these ideas here show.
At parties, I get my kids to stand at the gate of the boat as ticket collectors when we do themed party invites. Giving them a sense or level of responsibility, no matter what it is, will stand them in great stead for the future – and will keep them busy and possibly out of your way for a while!
10. Upgrade Your Factory-Installed Sound System
You might be lucky enough to already have good sound in your pontoon boat, but many older models will come with really poor audio equipment. For a great party, it pays to have a good system on-board.
11. Prepare Foods Beforehand
There’s lots of fun to be had a pontoon boat party, and you don’t want to be missing out while everyone else is having the time of their lives. If you’re sat under the Bimini cutting up sandwiches whilst the rest of the crew are sliding down an inflatable water slide or chatting over a beer in the sun, then you’re doing it all wrong.
My wife and I have put a list together of the best pontoon food that you can prepare before you get on board, take a look at that now and do everything the night before.
12. Keep Foods Safely Stored
I hope this goes without saying, but any food that is going to be out in the sun, or near water needs to be safely stored and protected to safeguard against food poisoning.
As well as wrapping foods in aluminum and boxing them, it also pays to have a decent marine grade cooler box which can keep foods cold (or warm). The one I own is called the Igloo Marine Ultra Cooler – go take a look at Amazon prices.
13. Use Recyclables and Non-Breakables
As a boat owner you should respect the water and tidy up for yourself. There are also safety aspects to consider. That’s why using either recyclable cups and plates, or plastic re-usable ones is preferable.
It can also mean you avoid any risk of injury as china or glass can break, get into the shallow water and cut feet, or be a hazard on the deck for passengers with no footwear on.
14. Have Safety Equipment for Everyone
You are also responsible for the safety of everyone on board your boat. That means you should have the right safety equipment on board and ensure that all passengers have a life safety vest that fits them.
If you are not sure what your boat should have, then go take a look at this pontoon boat safety checklist that contains everything that you should have as a responsible boat owner.
15. Don’t Overload Your Boat
The most important consideration for safety is to not overload your boat, as too many people on board won’t just slow down your pontoon making the party possibly less fun, but could lead to a very dangerous situation where lives are at risk.
Your pontoon boat should have a capacity plate sticker on it, which shows you just how many people it has been designed and rated to safely carry. If you don’t have this sticker in clear view of your helm, then contact the pontoon manufacturer to find out what your capacity limit is.
You can buy replacement capacity stickers online, and I tell you how you can do it elsewhere on the Pontoonopedia website – click here to find out more.
16. Make Guests Aware of the Boat Rules
And my other safety tip for your pontoon party, is to make the guests aware of the boat rules. You could have passengers on board who are not familiar with how they should behave on the water, or they might not be aware of the very basic safety tips.
You will also have your own rules as to behavior on your boat as well, so give them a full briefing once they arrive on deck. I don’t want you to come across as a party pooper, but if anything should happen, it pays to make sure your guests know the drill.
There’s a guide to pontoon boat safety rules you can read on Pontoonopedia.
17. Have the Right Party Accessories
Back onto more fun tips now, with some awesome pontoon boat party accessories and gadgets that will really make it a party to remember. There are so many things you can put on your boat to customize it, that I have put them into different guides. Click on any of the links below to find out more.
- Cool pontoon boat accessories you might never have thoughts of before
- 15 pontoon boat accessories to customize your ride
- 7 pontoon boat grill accessories you simply must have this summer
- 33 fun pontoon boat accessories you must have
18. Pop-Up Changing Room for Privacy
If you do decide to go down the themed approach to your pontoon party, at some point some of your guests might want to get changed and need some privacy. Privacy for changing of clothes is also a consideration if you have passengers on board who are taking advantage of the water, or if you are using a porta potty.
The cheapest solution is to buy a pop-up or collapsible changing room. They are designed primarily for camping, but can also be used on the pontoon deck, or in conjunction with your Bimini. I have listed a few of the best pop-up changing rooms that money can buy.
19. Don’t Forget the Inflatables!
Your party will go off with a bang (hopefully not literally) with the addition of some inflatable tubes that you can pull behind your boat. You can buy one-person inflatables, but for a great party, especially there are kids, it has to be a 4-person tube.
I have reviewed the best ones on the market, that are designed to be pulled by a pontoon boat. You can take a look at what the best ones are on my 4-person tube reviews page.
Another accessory that I have recently grown to love is our floating water mat. It’s not inflatable, but is made from sturdy foam letting you tether it up to the boat, and have loads of kids and adults have fun on it. Our dog even comes aboard sometimes!
You can read my opinions on what I believe the best floating mats are in that linked-to guide, and here’s a photo of what they look like.
20. Consider an Inflatable Water Slide
Pulling tubes behind your boat is great fun, but depending on how powerful your engine is, you might have to leave some of your passenger on shore whilst you do it. That might not be ideal in a party scenario when you want everyone to be together.
Instead, take a look at an inflatable slide that you can attach to your pontoon and use whilst the boat is static and anchored down on the water.
Admittedly they don’t come cheap, but if you own one, you’re going to be the envy of everyone else on the water, not to mention making it a party to remember for kids, and big kids alike. Here are just a few of my recommended inflatable slide kits.
21. Use LED Lighting After Dark
No party is complete with some great lights, and thankfully you can buy awesome LED lighting systems for your boat that won’t cost a lot and look very cool. In fact, some of the deck lighting you can buy will even fade and pulse to the beat of the music.
Fluorescent lighting, under deck, and above deck can really make a huge difference to the party atmosphere once it gets dark. I’ve put together a guide on some of the best LED lights you can buy to accessorize your pontoon boat. Go take a look.
Pontoon boats make for great entertainers. With just a little preparation and creativity you can host the best party on board. These pontoon boat party ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, and I would love to know from my readers what ideas and tips you might have, so please get in touch via the usual channels.
The most important consideration, other than passenger safety, is to make sure that you have fun. If you can focus on that, then everything else truly is secondary. So, get planning, get those invites out, and host a pontoon party to remember!
Handy Hint: I have also written a guide to the best fun things to do on a pontoon, including lots of great ideas for games and activities.