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How to Throw a 1980s Theme Party

Updated on May 19, 2018

Pac-Man Game

Pac-Man Picture
Pac-Man Picture | Source

1980s Party Ideas

To start with, you'll need invitations. Sure, it would be easy to email them, but that just wasn't done in the 1980s.

To keep with your theme, you'll need to send them by mail. I suggest you make your own.

Big hair bands were popular at the time as well as singers like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper.

Michael Jackson was an icon and rap music burst onto the scene. Music was listened to on cassette tapes and MTV made its way into homes.

Video games were the rage like Pac-Man and popular movies included Et-The Extraterrestrial, Gremlins, Star Wars: Episode V-The Empire Strikes Back, Flashdance and Back to the Future.

You may want to incorporate all of these into your theme or pick something in particular like 80s music or movies. Whatever you choose, find a picture of it on the internet, print out copies and make it into your invitations.

1980s Party Decorations

Party Balloons
Party Balloons | Source

Put up posters of popular music artists and movies of the time. Hang cassette tapes from the ceiling.

Boomboxes were quite popular. Try using one as the centerpiece for your table. Speaking of your table, if finances allow, place a Rubik's Cube for each guest. (You can find miniature versions of these that are inexpensive.)

Balloons are welcome at any kind of party, so have them on hand. I would recommend sticking with paper and plastic products as it make clean up so much easier.

Tri Color Pasta

Tri Color Pasta
Tri Color Pasta | Source

1980s Food Trends

Let's start with some snacks. Cool Ranch Doritos became a hit when the came out in the 80s. Reeses Pieces became very popular when they were featured in the movie ET-the Extra-Terrestrial. Add to this some fruit roll ups and you have your junk food covered for the party.

Now, let's talk other food. Quiche was the rage with yuppie folks as was sushi. Tri-colored pasta also emerged in this decade so perhaps a pasta salad made with this. If making a green salad, be sure to have some Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing.

Spinach dip in bread bowls and a 7 layer dip would certainly compliment your event. Add to this some baby back ribs, Sloppy Joes, mini meatballs, chicken wings and potato skins and your feast will be ready. Of course, pizza was also popular so if you want to keep it simple, just serve a variety of them. (Consider one vegetarian in case there are guests who don't eat mean.)

Jello Pudding Pops

Jello Pudding Pops
Jello Pudding Pops | Source

1980s Dessert

Two of the biggest dessert fads of the 1980s were frozen yogurt and Jello Pudding Pops. Jello no longer sells these desserts popularized by Bill Cosby, but fortunately, they are quite easy to make. I have a recipe below in case you're interested.

Long Island Iced Tea
Long Island Iced Tea | Source

1980s Drinks

If you're planning a kids' party, the choice of drinks is easy. Capri Sun! These made their debut in the 80s. Snapples Lemon Iced Tea also hit the market.

Should you be looking for alcoholic beverages, think Bud Light, wine coolers and Boones Farm Strawberry Hill wine.

Prefer something stronger? How about Long Island Iced Teas?

Walk This Way Run DMC and Aerosmith

1980s Music

Music is in intricate part to throwing a successful party and the 1980s had a great assortment of artists and songs. Music can be played both as background music and for dancing.

Madonna had a wealth of hits such as Material Girl, Dress You Up and Like a Virgin. Cyndi Lauper won people's hearts over with hits like Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Time After Time.

With hit after hit, Michael Jackson dazzled fans with tunes like Bad and The Way you Make me Feel.

Hair bands were all over the music charts. Some of the tops groups and songs include:

  • Jump-Van Halen
  • Paradise City-Guns N Roses
  • Nothin' But a Good Time-Poison
  • We're Not Gonna Take It-Twisted Sister
  • You Give Love A Bad Name-Bon Jovi
  • Cum On Feel The Noise-Quiet Riot
  • Pour Some Sugar On Me-Def Leppard
  • Here I Go Again-Whitesnake
  • Rock You Like A Hurricane-Scorpions
  • Round And Round-Ratt

This is a mere sampling of great hair band music and should be enough to get you started.

Don't forget to include some of the most popular rap songs of this time including Push It, by Salt "N Pepa, Wild Thing, by Tone Loc, Bust A Move, by Young MC and U Can't Touch This, by MC Hammer.

Celebration by Kool & the Gang

1980s Dance Songs

It's time for guests to get dancing with some unforgettable dance songs from the 80s. I would stick with only fast songs for a kids' party, but would throw in some slow songs for an adult gathering. Consider some of these songs:

  • 1999-Prince
  • Funkytown-Lipps Inc.
  • Mickey-Toni Basil
  • Let's Dance-David Bowie
  • Flashdance-What A Feeling-Irene Cara
  • Footloose-Kenny Loggins
  • Wake Me Up Before You Go Go-Wham
  • Lady-Kenny Rogers
  • Call Me-Blondie
  • Endless Love-Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
  • Addicted To Love-Robert Palmer
  • When I Think Of You_Janet Jackson
  • La Bamba-Los Lobos
  • (I've Had,) The Time of My Life-Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
  • Wind Beneath My Wings-Bette Midler

Once again, just a sampling of music. Feel free to throw your favorites in.

1980s Costumes

Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper | Source

Let's start with some of the popular ladies trends. Oversized shirts and legwarmers were in. (Think Flashdance.) Fun and flirty attire such as lace shirts over other shirts, mini skirts and bustiers were the fashion rage.

Add to this lots of jewelry including long chain necklaces and giant hoop earrings. Don't forget about the fingerless gloves as well, For a more casual look, leggings were the rage.

Prefer something fancier? Then think of the styles from the TV series Dynasty which made padded shoulders popular again.

For the guys, think rock and roll with torn jeans and T-shirts, along with bandannas. Parachute pants were also the rage thanks to M. C. Hammer. Let's not forget the great fashion trends set by Michael Jackson.

If you to be more upscale, consider pastel colored blazers over plain T-shirts with loafers and no socks. (Does Miami Vice ring a bell?)

Thanks to Magnum PI, Hawaiian shirts became popular all over the United States.

Remember, too, this was the era of big hair both for guys and gals.

1980s Party Games

Trivial Pursuit
Trivial Pursuit | Source

How about a lip syncing contest? Any wanna be Milli Vanilli's out there? Have a bunch of songs ready with their names on pieces of paper. Guests can draw the papers to find out which songs they get to lip sync to.

Although predominantly popular in the 1970s, Name That Tune returned in 1984 with their $100,000 version, so how about a few rounds? Play a few notes of a song and whoever guesses correctly first gets a point. The person to answer 5 correct tunes first wins.

Got an old game system? You could play a few rounds of Pacman.

Prefer something quieter? Trivial Pursuit came out in the 1980s and if played in teams, up to 24 people can play at one time.

Want to get people up and moving? How about learning the Moonwalk? I have a video below that will teach you how. Then you can have a moonwalk contest.

How to Moonwalk

Poll Time!

Have you ever tried to Moonwalk?

See results

Party List

Be sure you have everything you need!

What would you most look forward to at a 1980s party?

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    • WriterJanis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from California

      Thank you!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Helpful partyy ideas.

    • WriterJanis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from California

      Genna, I hope they find something helping.

    • WriterJanis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from California

      Dave, Nice that you remembered the music.

    • WriterJanis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from California

      Suzanne, Good suggestion about the hair.

    • WriterJanis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from California

      Deborah-Diane, That decade had a lot of good music.

    • WriterJanis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from California

      FlourishAnyway, that hair spray wasn't just for the ladies, either!

    • WriterJanis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from California

      Alicia, I'm glad you liked them.

    • WriterJanis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from California

      Peg, you must have had so much fun working on people's hair back then.

    • WriterJanis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from California

      ologsinquito, LOL. I know what you mean.

    • WriterJanis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from California

      I appreciate that Eddy.

    • WriterJanis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from California

      word55 Thank you very much.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      My son and daughter-in-law like to give theme parties, so this is a perfect treasure trove of ideas for them. Thank you. :-)

    • DaveOnline profile image

      David Edward Lynch 

      5 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      Looks like a lot of fun. I was in my thirties in the 1980s so I remember some of the music you've mentioned in your hub!

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 

      5 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      I think the costumes and the music would be the most fun in an 80s party. Don't forget to crimp your hair! Voted interesting ;)

    • Deborah-Diane profile image


      5 years ago from Orange County, California

      What a fun article. I especially loved the list of 80's music and dances. Brought back some memories!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Loved especially the music and the hair. The used to say the smaller the town, the bigger the hair. And all that hair spray, too. We lacquered it up good. This hub brought back so many fond memories. I loved the trip down memory lane.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Your hub brought back memories for me! You have some great ideas for a fun 1980s theme party. Thanks for all the interesting suggestions.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      5 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      The eighties, wow, it seems like it was just the other day. You've really covered the bases for making it come alive once again. I loved the big hair and worked in a salon as a stylist while going to college part-time. What fun the music was during the 80s, too.

    • ologsinquito profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      I remember the quiche and potato skins. The 80's were such a crazy time. I look back on them, and just shake my head. What were we thinking?

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      A great hub and full of great info to get that party going.


    • word55 profile image

      Al Wordlaw 

      5 years ago from Chicago

      Good to wonderful hub here Janis, Partaying was the thing in the 80s also. Happening songs here. Do more. Thanks for sharing!


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