Theme parties aren’t just for kiddies

Guest post by Shelly G

Disneyland Tiki Room Shirt and Dress ReplicasWe first got into grown-up theme parties with food themes. We picked a country (like Greece) or a style (like grilled cheese sandwiches), and had a potluck with people keeping to the theme. Then came mom’s turn to host a monthly Star Trek party (a community potluck involving watching a few episodes and not dressing up) and she asked if she could have it at my house. I really did that party up — printed and laminated drink menus with such classics as Romulan Ale, Klingon Martinis, and Slug-o-Cola, hung a “Quark’s” sign over the bar, and made Quadriticale Bread, Hasperat, and my own take on Gladt (dolmas).

Since then, we’ve hosted a circus night and a Super Mario night, and I’ve realized most people see these themes as being just for kids. Here’s how to throw a themed party geared towards an older crowd:

Consider your guests

What are their interests? Do they have food or drink allergies? It’s important to pick a theme everyone can enjoy and to make sure that there is at least something that celiac friend of yours can eat. If you’ll be hosting a mixed bag of people, select an accessible them. If you’re just inviting a select group of close friends this isn’t such a problem, but when inviting a large group you don’t want to pick a theme so nerdy that your coworkers won’t get into it!

Pick your theme — and push it!

Have a lot of friends been expressing a craving for Italian? Pull up some classic Italian recipes, encourage others to make their favorites, watch a classic Italian movie. Do you have a friend who’s joining the circus? Make an adult take on corn dogs: corn bratwursts or sausages with extra spice in the batter. Add smoked turkey legs, alcoholic sno-cones, cotton candy martinis, and find new card games. Has your husband developed a recent obsession with classic video games? Plan one-up jello shots, gorgonzola-stuffed goombas, and firepower poppers, as an excellent accent to a video game tournament.

You don’t have to push costumes — unless that’s your thing. A little research online will turn up loads of ideas for food, drink, and games. And get creative! Get a keg for Greek night (frat parties — get it?). Sometimes all you need to do is rename a common finger food to get Star Fleet fare for your Star Trek party.

Talk it over

Unless it’s a surprise party. Otherwise, I’ve found people are always willing to contribute ideas, and they love to think about what they’ll bring.

Truth be told, if your friends are anything like mine, they enjoy any reason to get together and eat. They’ll have fun and will start coming to you, suggesting a Thai night, a Martini night, or a Texas Hold ‘Em night… and the themes will never stop.

Who said theme parties were just for kids? What you got, Homies? What are your best offbeat themes?

Comments on Theme parties aren’t just for kiddies

  1. Haha, this reminds me, as a 5th grader I decided I wanted my birthday party to be Hawaiian themed. But not Hawaiian punch kinda Hawaiian- I figured out how to make baked brie with macadamia nuts! Not sure the other kids got into it as much as I did, but it was good training for grown-up parties.

  2. When my partner and I were in our early 20’s, we had an underwear party. True story. Would we do it now that we’re pushing 30? Probably not. Was it an epic party at the time? Hell yea. We cranked up the heat, told everyone to come in their best skivvies or lingerie and be creative. Someone came wearing a black cardboard box around his manbits like a sensor bar.

    • We’ve hosted pantsless parties and ABC (Anything But Clothes) parties. Both of them invite people to come in their undies but also open doors to creative outlets for, “what can I wear that’s not clothes?” I wore a dress made out of tin foil and saran wrap to the ABC party, and several friends came in towels, trash bags, or scarves.

  3. I’m hosting a Mad Men cocktail (birthday) party tonight! Fabulous clothes and tasty bite-sized food (and a dangerous amount of boozeahol).

    • I’m having a Mad Men party friday or saturday for my birthday! I am so excited!!!

  4. A few years back my FH and I decided we wanted en excuse to throw a party, so we celebrated Talk Like A Pirate Day (yep, it’s a real holiday:D). We decorated the house with piraty things like skeletons, gold coins, candles and stuffed parrots. We served all kinds of piraty food and drinks like Rum Punch and Pollys Crackers(chz n crackers). All our friends got into the spirit and came in costume. It was an absolute BLAST!!!

  5. I love a themed party! I had a 1950s themed wedding. I through my sister a “Real Housewife” baby shower (cocktail dresses, “tardy for the party” pins to any one who came late), I’m looking forward to throwing a doctor who party in the future, (“sonic” screwdrivers, dalek cupcakes, “ginger”bread companions). If I’m throwing a party there’s always a theme. It really helps get people excited to go I think

  6. This year for the Fall of Barad-Dur, we held a Lord of the Rings party where we watched all 3 extended edition movies, wore toe-rings of power and snacked on LotR themed foods, like ranger cookies, eye of Sauron deviled eggs and battle axe cupcakes. The whole house was decorated and it was amazing! I can’t wait to do it again next year.

  7. I love theme parties! If I’m going to throw a party, it’s got to have a theme as it makes the whole planning process way more fun.

    But “themes” can be just about anything. For our last party, the theme was simply “Awesome”. We encouraged our friends to give us their most awesome party ideas and then we tried to do them all.

    I love costumes, so I usually go all out if we’re doing a theme that calls for a special outfit, but it’s pretty easy to find themes that work for offbeat lite guests who aren’t into cosplay. Everyone should be able to pull together an 80s inspired look from the contents of their current closet, and a pirate outfit can be as easy as a bandana and striped shirt.

  8. I was in theatre in college, and theatre kids can’t seem to have a party WITHOUT a theme.

    Some of my favorites included: 90s pop icons, Celebrities that changed religion or went to jail, Rockstars and Groupies, Classic Board Games

    It’s a thrilling challenge to be working toward being something when you go to a party.

    • Likewise with Burners: Burning Man has a theme every year, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a theme-less Burner houseparty. 🙂

    • Oh, me too. That’s one thing I really miss about college – theatre parties!

      Some of our greatest hits were Heaven & Hell, Studio 54, 80’s Wall Street, 40’s Hollywood, and an annual “White Trash Christmas” in February the last day before a friend’s dead tree was thrown out. Lol.

      • I attended a white trash party once. I was pregnant with my son and wore a bikini top and cut-off jeans; my husband of the time wore an unbuttoned Schlitz beer shirt. We all ate Twinkie dogs and pork rinds and drank Teeni drinks. It was awesome.

  9. Our favorite theme party is Big Labowski night! My fiance and I host (as we have an Oriental Carpet for everyone to sit on… it really ties the room together) and we all drink white russians and call each other “dude”. It’s simple, and fantastic.

    • haha! This reminds me of the time when I first got my daughter to start sleeping through the night. I could finally drink a little without contaminating her milk! My husband would make me white russians and we would watch the Big Labowski! lol It was my party of two : )

    • LOVE, love, love The Big Lebowski! To coincide with Lebowski Fest weekend, we have a Lebowski themed party at our house; it keeps getting bigger every year! Guests mostly come wearing bathrobes in honor of His Dudeness. The playlist usually includes a lot of Creedence & songs from the film with whale sounds & bowling pins crashing in between the songs. And of course, you must have the movie playing somewhere at all times!

  10. For my 40th birthday party I threw a Pink Party. Pink has been my favorite color before I understood the “favorite color” concept, so why not celebrate 40 instead of hiding from it, right? I bought a wedding dress circa 1980’s over-the-top from a thrift store for $20, then took it home, altered it myself, removed the train and turned it into a ball gown skirt, then dyed that puppy pink in the bathtub! The cotton appliques on it turned more of a fuchsia, with the satin remaining a pale pink, and I loved it! The guests had to wear pink and the refreshments were pot luck, featuring our favorite Red Dye No. 5! That’s right, all the food must be pink! I didn’t care what it was, just make it pink and it’s all good! Party games? Yep, I bought some dollar store barbies and we aged the bitch! I got some modeling clay and we gave her multiple chins, extra bellies, everything a typically aged, childborn woman wishes, etc! I tried to dye her hair and have a “how many grey hairs does Barbie have” but you can’t dye Barbie’s hair, cuz it’s not hair! It’s plastic or some such. It was great!

  11. We threw a James Bond themed party. It was such an easy theme to pull off. We made a playlist of all the Bond theme songs and some other “secret agent songs” and asked everyone to bring an appetizer. Everyone dressed up in suits or fancy dresses, drank martinis, played poker, had secret hidden weapons (fake, of course), pretended to have silly names, and it was a lot of fun.

    • My bachelorette party theme was Bond Girls. It was a total surprise for me, and it was a blast! We each chose a persona (I was Plenty O’Toole). The night started out at a martini bar called Shaken not Stirred. It was an epic night! And we all had the concealed wepons of course!

  12. For my birthday last year we had a board game party. I decorated my cake like a board game and we played a lot of board games. XD If we had time I would have watched Clue also.

  13. Please remember the celiac and other food allergy people in your circle of friends especially if your having a food based theme nothing sucks like going to a part and eating only veggies and plain chip all night while your friends eat cupcakes and deep fried/baked/BBQ’d goodness if your not familiar with their dietary restrictions invite them to bring something. Also having a separate dip vessel can make our night!

  14. When I was in college, a friend of mine had an 80s themed birthday party. Everyone hit the Salvation Army the week before and found the most awfully awesome costumes. One girl wore a wife beater upon which she had written “I <3 Billy Idol" and dusted the underside of her nose with confectioner's sugar to complete the 80's look.

  15. Recently two friends of mine had a joint birthday tea party. Everyone was asked to dress up as their favourite kind of tea! It was definitely creative as some thought in the box (me wearing grey for Lady Grey) and others thought outside the box (my friend wore a camouflage hat and a 1 mile sign, get it?)

  16. We throw pretty epic Halloween parties and two years ago we themed it – it was Zombie Halloween! We Zombified all the food and drink and there was a sign on the door that said “Safe House” and there were some Zombie themed video games going on in the den. And, the best part was that we made everyone Zombify their costumes. So whatever they were going to come as, turn it into a Zombie. At the climax of the evening, we had a Zombie walk-off and our Zombie southern belle and Union soldier won it. We also had Zombie Legolas, Zombie Housewife, a Stepford Wife (a zombie in and of itself) Zombie Star Trek Redshirt and Zombie Osama Bin Laden.

    It was epic.

  17. I went to a rubics cube party once… you turned up wearing items of the 6 different colours, and the dubious aim of the evening was to be in one colour at the end. It was all done in good drunken fun with uni friends, and of course all the guys ended up wearing the skirts.

  18. I’m really excited for my Tony Awards Party. Come dressed as your favorite Broadway star. Be prepared to sing.

  19. We love our midnight showings so usually have a party leading up to going to the midnight preview. A big hit was our TRON:Legacy party… we rocked the house with glow in the dark everything, I made vegan cakes with the light cycles on them, we put blue food coloring in water bottles as “ENERGY”, we raffled off some action figures as “door prizes,” watched the original, and had people show up in TRONesque outfits if they were so inclined. It was a blast!

  20. My 21st Birthday party was Moroccan themed. We had pillows and throws all over the floor, tagines (a moroccan cooking vessel – chuck everything in and leave for 2 hours. Done!), yummy salads and cous cous. Sangria and tea for beverages, with turkish delight for sugar. By all accounts it was a complete success!

  21. I had a series of epic costume parties in college. The best were a series of three: Superheroes, Super Villains, and Expendable Extras.

  22. A friend of mine throws costume parties every year for his birthday. Last year was “game characters” (I went as Carmen Sandiego), this year (his 30th) was “We Love The Thirties” – turn up in 30’s attire or as something from the thirties – so we had a bunch of flappers, PI’s with fedoras, Indiana Jones, two Scarlett O’Haras, King Kong… it was a fantastic night! And our social circle believes in pot-luck, so that everyone has something they can eat.

  23. as soon as we own a house with a yard of our own, i’m gonna start throwing fabulous tea parties. and we’re gonna wear big dresses and hats and have awesome british conversations and it will be fabulous. oh yes.

    other theme party plans include enchanted fairy forest (which we’ll have at our wedding), care bears, and pirates. 😀

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