How To: Throw A Themed Party

I love themed parties. As a girl, my parents threw an annual Hat Party, where, as you guessed, invitees were required to wear a hat to get into the event. Guests were creative, and I remember one year a friend of theirs came wearing nothing but a hat. There were prizes for the best cap in show, and the whole night seemed so lively and full of fun. Unlike a more traditional gathering, no one seemed to drift into a confined group or feel awkward around new people. Everyone had the shared experience of wearing a goofy hat, and that created an instant sense of community and participation.

Those early experiences influenced my own grown-up gatherings, and nowadays, I’m known for throwing a great party. I love the planning and execution (yes, I’m one of those ladies) and the smiles on friends’ faces when they have a fantastic time. Want to throw a great themed party, too? Here are a few ideas to get you started. Do you have other tips? Share them below. I’m always looking for new, creative ideas.

Go Global. I love this idea and have used it many times to bring new friends into the fold. You can host global parties in two ways, either as an event dedicated to one foreign culture, or an event dedicated to every guest’s heritage.

For a one-culture global gathering: I recently threw a Bollywood Nights party, and prepared several delicious curries, brought out a few sweets from India, had Bollywood music playing when guests arrived, and finished the night with hot homemade chai and a viewing of one of my favorite Bollywood films, Devdas. There was some sari dress-up involved, and even some fun with henna tattoos. The guests had a blast and learned so much about Indian culture. To have your own soiree, use the five senses (taste, touch, scent, sight and sound) to help you pick elements that will make the party come to life. Food, beverages, music, fragrances, fabrics, movies etc. make a themed party feel like an adventure.

For a world-wide gala: A few years ago, I invited fifty or so of my closest friends over for an Around the World party. I asked guests to come dressed in their native ancestral clothing, and to bring a dish that represented their cultural heritage. There were so many beautiful costumes, and amazing food in my house. We even hired a belly dancer to come and teach the guests how to shimmy and shake their waists, and had prizes for the best dish and best costume of the night. That party is still talked about to this day. To throw your own soiree: encourage guests to get in touch with their roots. Once guests understand the concept, and have their dishes and costumes ready, your job is to create a multi-ethnic environment. Globes, pictures of maps, and posters with common phrases in multiple languages all serve to set the mood. Music should be a variety of upbeat rhythms from around the world.

Host a Dining-In. Inspired by the incredible organization, Dining for Women which organizes chapters across the US to join in a pot-luck dinner event and donate the money they would have spent eating at a restaurant to programs that seek to educate and transform the lives of women and girls worldwide living in extreme poverty. I love this idea, and realized that this can be done for any agreed-upon charitable organization. The host and the guests would have to pre-agree on which organization they wanted to donate to, and elect a treasurer to collect the funds at the party. Each guest would bring a dish to share, and the host would share important information about the programs and services that their chosen organization operates. Not only would guests have a wonderful time together, they would know they were doing something positive to help others. That’s a win-win in my book.

Start a Book Club. This is another favorite. I recently moved across-country and found myself wanting in the friend department. I love books, and love discussions that involve wine, and good food, so I started a neighborhood book club by advertising online. Our first discussion was in October, and was an absolute success. Everyone brought food, a few good women brought wine, and we had a few hours of nerdy-fun talking about the characters, plot, theme and significance of the book we’d read. We are already reading our second book (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a great read by the way), and have a grand holiday party in the works. It feels like the party that keeps on giving.

There are so many fun ways to host a themed party, from the traditional Ugly Sweater Party, to the tried and true Christmas Cookie Swap; themed parties are a fantastic way to get guests talking by sharing in a common goal. Have a cool themed party idea? Post it below for the rest of us. Imitation is the best form of flattery – and I would love to learn how you throw a fabulous get-together!

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