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. There’s so many good ideas in these replies, it makes me want to throw a party. I’ve never hosted a party, but me and my husband help some friends of ours host their new years party so I’ll share our experiences. We’ve done this for the last 3 years, we play party games until midnight and have 2 teams, members of which are sorted by playing a wii minigame (couples usually get split up, so it can provide a good competitive atmosphere) it’s such good fun, and we stay overnight to help set up during the day and then clear up after.

    Only over the last 2 years have they added the dressing up element, in 2009 it was a James Bond/Casino theme, we played poker and had james bond music on all night, I went as Blowfelds cat *squee* I got to dress up as a cat! In 2010 it was good vs evil I went as a weeping angel from Dr Who and my husband went as the Dr (as we have sonic screwdrivers etc), one couple came as Darth Vader and the Emperor!

    Our friends have also done murder mystery nights which revolve around a 3 course meal (as she’s an amazing cook!) the best one was a casablanca style mystery, which was so much fun, we had a script to read and we all dressed the part according the role we had to play, totally loved it. I’d like to do some parties like these, but my friend is such a good host I’d feel under loads of pressure.

    • don’t compare yourself to other people in your circle. if you’re just starting out hosting parties you’ll be making a new name for what *you* do, not trying to show up your friend. i’m sure she’d be happy to help you with tips, etc. my biggest advice for your first party: keep it small so it’s manageable and plan well in advance. hosting is a skill it takes years to get good at. there’s lots of details you wont think about till you’re doing it. remember that it’s supposed to be fun, not stressful, and your friends will love you no matter how it turns out.

  2. Two good friends of mine do theme parties about every 2-3 months. Last one was Moulin Rouge! Before that was Outer Space. They have also done Super Heroes, Villians, and Presidents and Rulers. Next one I am holding since my fiance and I have a bigger place and more appropriate setting: Victorian Tea Party. Less alcohol this time around. The fall one is going to be Mythology thanks to Thor coming out. XD

  3. um… i’m not sure if it’s just me, or australia in general… but i thought theme parties were an adult thing…

    the only theme party i ever heard of when i was a kid, was that my sister once went to a fairy party… as an adult (18+) i think i’ve only ever been to maybe 2 non-themed parties…..

  4. I haven’t had a good theme party for a while, but some favorites from the past were a “holiday” party where guests were encouraged to come dressed as their favorite holidays– some were tame and cute, and then there was my friend who came in drag with a house dress, kerchief and pregnancy pad as “Labor Day”. (the night ended with him pretending to give birth on our kitchen floor.) Other classics were an absurdist party (we’d just done an Ionesco play), and a Beatles party where everyone had to come as their favorite Beatles song. A friend wore yellow flippers and a snorkel and was “Yellow Submarine”, and a few people came with ripped-our calendar pages from the previous day taped to their shirts. Good times!

  5. My friends and I LOVE having themed parties. My birthday party a few weeks ago was Mad Men, and I supplied classic cocktails, 60s foot, Utz’s potato chips, 60s records and a limbo stick! Everyone dressed up and got very into it, with martini glasses and fake cigarettes. It was a lot of fun.

    Other parties we do…we have an annual Good Will party right around Christmas, when everyone can ONLY wear clothes they bought THAT DAY at Goodwill or Salvation Army or similar thrift stores. A friend had a Minute to Win It birthday party in February which was a lot of fun; he provided “household materials” and a posterboard score board and we did all sorts of challenges. My sister and her friends have pretty regular Robot Dance Parties, and the robot outfits get pretty elaborate. Theme parties are the best!

  6. Ha, I have a tendency to ‘theme’ my parties according to what season it is. It’s always a celebration of the season, regardless of when it is. It’s quite broad, and seems kinda lame compared to some of these awesome ideas! Perhaps I will try narrowing-down the theme sometime!

  7. A few years ago we moved out of the basement suite that we had lived in for 5 years, and into a lovely above ground apartment in the city. We were most impressed with the head room that the extra-tall ceilings allowed for, so naturally our house-warming theme was Tall Hats. My husband made a papier mache viking helmet with extra long horns. I made a miniature top hat with a ridiculously tall plume of ostrich feathers. Other people showed up in silly hats, some tall, some short, but it was just a good time all around!

  8. A few years ago a group of my (Nor Cal Burner) friends had a Pole Party, where the host had a pole and stage installed in his living room (very securely). Guys and girls were there, total of about 15-20.

    A girl who was taking pole classes taught us all a bunch of moves and we tried them for a few hours,just in our underthangs.(Sounds awkward but it really was totally fun and a safe environment.) Then we spent a few more hours performing in costume to music we each had brought.

    There was not a lot of alcohol consumption and no nudity, it was more about fitness and fun and being comfortable enough to show your sassy side to your friends; many people by the end of the night were doing really complex, inverted stuff, and it was one of the most unique, fun, and memorable parties I’ve attended. (It was also my birthday, woot!)

    (Needless to say, we were all comparing bruises the next day.)

  9. i’m going to be starting a sideline of party planning so you are all giving me lots of great inspiration! i’m celebrating my 26th birthday this year with a 2-day over-the-top harry potter movie marathon complete with a potions table full of booze, butterbeer based on my homebrewed cider, tons of props and decorations, british food, and of course candy galore. there will be a trivia game and dragon egg favors and parchment scroll spanikopita and much merriment. i’m so excited!

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