Theme Parties: Convenient and Cheap
Congratulations! You’ve just gotten a new house, baby, job, degree, puppy, cat, fish, promotion, car, age, address, or are about to embark on a whirlwind tour of Outer Mongolia… time to party! If you want to indulge your flair for the dramatic, and save yourself some stress and cash on planning, throw a theme party.
A theme party is a celebration where a specific theme is reflected in all aspects of the gathering. Things to consider when planning a theme party include decoration, food, personal and guest attire, music, entertainment, etc. The themes chosen by the host can be… well, just about anything. For example, some popular choices are Swashbuckler Soirees, Western Hoedowns, Casino Nights, and Intergalactic Get-Downs. Theme parties are fun and very memorable, but they can also be used for promoting specific events or causes. For example, a library that wishes to raise funds for new books can throw a literature-themed party where the guests attend as famous authors or literary characters.
How to Choose a Good Theme
The most important thing to keep in mind when deciding on a theme is how well you can apply that theme to the various aspects of your party. Is there some type of dish that you can serve that relates to your theme and that your guests will eat? How will you keep your guests entertained? Will your guests stress over finding suitable attire for your party, or will they be able to put together something that is simple and inexpensive? Does the theme appeal to anyone besides you?
Once you’ve chosen a theme that satisfies your criteria, determine exactly what you’ll need, and don’t forget to give your guests plenty of preparation time.
Everybody loves a potluck, and theme parties are no exception. By having your guests bring food/drink to a party, you make them feel more involved and save yourself some time and cash on the cooking. However, in order to avoid people feaking out about what dishes “fit” the theme, make sure you list plenty of ideas on your invitations.
The most important rule when planning/throwing a theme party is USE WHAT YOU HAVE… and if you don’t have something, know some thrifty way of finding it.
Ideally, a party should be a joyous occasion, a temporary escape from the pressures of everyday life where friends can come together and have a good time... so the last thing you want to do is cause every to panic over the small stuff.
For costume ideas, look through books or online for inspiration. Then, go into your own closet and start playing around with what you have. Men, if you’re invited to a pirate party and need some sort of bandana for your head, check out your local dollar or thrift store. If all you can find is your girlfriend’s flowery scarf, show no fear, and go as “Carnation Jimmy,” the cruel buccaneer who’ll gut ye’ like a fish if ye’ dare speak ill of his mother’s handkerchief, which he wears in her memory.
If you can’t find something in your closet or at the thrift store, ask around. The odd knick-knacks that people keep tucked away will surprise you.
The same advice applies for any decorating you, as the host, may want to do. Hunt around your house for things you already have, and head to the dollar store for everything else. For example, if you want to throw a casino night, use old decks of playing cards as signs to indicate the different games, or as place markers for your high-rollin’ guests at dinner.
A good party needs happy guests, and happy guests usually need things to do. Again, keep it simple. Start with the drinks and games/activities to get the conversations started. In this way, no one is left standing awkwardly in the corner. About midway through, serve the major meal; don’t forget to thank your guests for coming and bringing food. Finally, end the evening with a movie. The film will not only allow your guests to rest after enjoying a hearty meal, but it also brings everyone’s energy down so your party will end on a calm, peaceful note rather than you having to shove everyone out the door.
Lead by Example
Here’s how I would plan for a party with a Broadway/Theatre theme…
Food: This one is easy. Either you can ask your guests to bring dishes that would be served in any New York restaurant, or, you can serve dishes inspired by specific shows like “Sweeney Todd Meat Pies” or “Oliver Poor-Boy Sandwiches.”
Dress: Feel free to dress as any character from any show. For your ultimate convenience- Ladies, wear cat ears or a witch hat (Cats or Wicked); Gentlemen, wear a mask (The Phantom of the Opera) … you can even make one out of a paper/Styrofoam plate at the party!
Decoration: Tape paper/cardboard stars around the room, similar to those found on the doors of the theatre’s leading players. Print out show logos and line the walls with them to evoke the feel of the marquees of 42nd Street.
Entertainment: Have a karaoke corner where people can sing show tunes, play charades, or other theatrical games. Serve the food, and end with a movie of any play or musical you desire.
Above all, remember the immortal words of Lord Byron: “Let joy be unconfined!”