The last time Dallas was in the path of totality for a solar eclipse it was 1878. It’s been even longer for Austin: 1397. So when the sun and moon align over much of the Lone Star State on April 8, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it the party of the century. And while there are plenty of places to watch the eclipse, many Texans will be able to view the phenomenon from their own backyard, making it the perfect excuse to throw a get-together for family and friends. 

We asked three professional party planners to share their event-throwing tips and favorite items from local businesses (or companies that offer quick shipping) for the ultimate celestial celebration. 

Nail down the timeline and gather the essential eyewear.

Before founding Alice Allen Events, Sarah Angell created large-scale experiences for Magnolia Market in Waco. Her best day-of advice is to plan for the unexpected. “It’s going to be crazy traffic with all of the out-of-state visitors, so be ready for your guests to arrive early and stay a little bit longer than they normally would,” she says. 

Generally, the eclipse will begin around noon and last until 3 p.m., but depending on where you are in the state, the moment of totality will vary. Check your local sources for the exact timing to ensure everyone is in prime viewing position when it starts. 

Eclipse glasses are also a must. Many cities, libraries, and other institutions are giving away glasses for free, but you can also purchase them in bulk. For aesthetically pleasing options, consider these monochromatic glasses from REI or these retro-inspired glasses that are an upgrade from the paper version.

Lean into a theme.

A space motif is the obvious choice, but you can also experiment with alternatives like a “far out” sixties theme, complete with tie-dye and tarot card readings, or cosmic cowboys (think neon or iridescent Western wear). For a more subtle nod, play with colors and shapes, like stars and half moons. 

“Colors are an instant way to lean into themes,” says Maggie Smith, director of event operations at Boxwood Hospitality, a boutique event company in Dallas. “You can bring in colors in a lot of different ways—linens, florals, candles—and for the eclipse, I would incorporate black, dark blue, purple, and magenta.” Other go-to accents include gold, silver, and white.

Build excitement with the invitation.

“This event is on a Monday and people may have work or other obligations, so it’s important to build excitement with the invitation,” says Carolina ​​Villarreal, owner of Austin-based Mint Event Design.

All three professionals recommend Canva, a mostly free online tool with customizable templates (this one is perfect if you’re going for a backyard BBQ and this one has more of a mystical feel). Keep things simple by texting out the invite or upload it to Paperless Post, which also offers funny and minimalist ready-made digital invites, and allows you to track RSVPs. The Q&A feature is especially nice for events like this where guests may be unsure of what to bring, what to wear, etc. (Hint: It’s a good idea to dress in layers and have some blankets on hand for when the temperature drops.)

Set the scene.

Once you have a theme and an invite to match, decorating is easier. For an elegant sit-down affair, design a centerpiece for the table using a vase (go geometric or opt for one that mimics the texture of the moon) and fresh flowers. The staff at Dirt Flowers in Dallas recommend easier-to-find blooms like high-contrast panda anemones, black baccara roses, or craspedia—round yellow buds that look like they belong in outer space. You can also incorporate flower picks (craft stores such as Hobby Lobby have an array of choices, from shiny tinsel to glitter starbursts) or use metallic spray paint to give plants extra luster. For the actual place settings, peruse what you already own. A simple white plate (i.e., the moon) on top of fluted gold charger (the sun) can mimic the eclipse. Top it off with celestial confetti or eclipse glasses that can double as place cards—plain glasses are easy to write on or add to with vinyl appliqués. “Those little details go a long way in making your event feel more elevated,” Angell says.

For a laid-back vibe, ​​Villarreal proposes a lounge space with outdoor furniture and cushions. Consider renting if you don’t have enough seats or want a uniform look. “There are a lot of companies doing special packages for the eclipse,” ​​Villarreal says. Loot Rentals—which has locations in Austin and Fort Worth, but delivers across Texas—has an entire solar eclipse collection to choose from, with pillows, poufs, bamboo swing chairs, and even rugs, starting at $8 a day.

And, of course, you can’t forget about the music. Spotify is home to several existing playlists, including this one that has classics like Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and modern hits like Bruno Mars’s “Talking to the Moon.”

Curate the menu.

When it comes to food and drink, several companies have special-edition culinary treats, such as Mount Gay Eclipse rum or the new intergalactic Jeni’s ice cream flavors. Texas wineries—including Farmhouse Vineyards, Brennan Vineyards, and William Chris Vineyards—are also selling limited runs of eclipse-themed red blends. Given the midday timeline, however, nonalcoholic options are the safest bet. Angell would serve “anything bubbly,” while Smith likes to jazz drinks up with edible glitter dust, cotton candy bombs, and sphere-shaped ice cubes. Or keep things simple and do as Villarreal suggests: Offer a signature cocktail or mocktail with a clever name, such as the “Here Comes the Sun.”

As for what to pair drinks with, the pros are all for finger foods, such as “half moon” cookies (also known as black-and-white cookies) or small sandwiches and fruit cut into cosmic shapes using cookie cutters. Villareal also favors a monochrome spread—think blackberry goat cheese crostini, squid ink pasta, and dark chocolate tarts with whipped meringue.

If you’d prefer to spend less time in the kitchen, look for local bakeries offering themed desserts. In Corsicana, Collin Street Bakery & Cafe is selling hand-painted cookies, cakes, and cupcakes, while Lily’s Cookies in San Antonio boasts sun and moon cupcakes in Fiesta colors and T-shirt-shaped cookies with cheeky sayings like “I was mooned in San Antonio.”

Prepare additional activities.

At most, the time of totality (when the moon is directly in front of the sun) will last around four minutes, so it’s a good idea to have other activities to keep guests entertained before and after. There’s no shortage of space-themed crafts for kids—from suncatchers to an official NASA coloring page. Favor the Kind, a Dallas gift and home decor store, has reusable, no-mess coloring cards and a memory matching game. For an activity all ages will love, set up a DIY station for decorating eclipse glasses. “It’s a fun extra and it lets adults feel like kids,” Smith says.

Other ideas include a moon-shaped piñata, a casual (or heated) game of eclipse trivia, and a photo booth, complete with printable props designed in Georgetown.

“Photo booths are always a hit,” Smith says, “but it’s especially nice to document this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with this sort of souvenir from the day.”

If a photo booth isn’t possible, you can also take candid photos and send them out later in a thank-you card. Use Canva to add a graphic with the date or simply write it on the back.

Put together a goodie bag.

Lone Chimney Mercantile’s Richardson location offers “I saw the solar eclipse” bragging rights in the form of T-shirts, stickers, and pins. For the road (and potential traffic jams), ply guests with Moon Pies, SunChips, and Eclipse gum.

“Everyone loves a car snack,” Smith says. “And Moon Pies are really making a comeback.”

Enjoy the big moment.

After all the prep, there’s only one thing left to do: enjoy the eclipse.

“This has a similar vibe to New Year’s Eve,” Angell says. “Have a countdown and a bottle of champagne or sparkling cider on hand to toast with in the moment of totality. And maybe refrain from reaching for your phone—there will be so many professional pictures of this day and it’s such a brief occasion. Just take in the mystery of it all.”