How to Decide on a Party Theme

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When anything under the sun can be a party theme, how on earth do you decide which one is THE ONE for you and your set of guests? Here are our tips to help you decide on a party theme that will thrill & excite.

Congratulations on trying to decide on a party theme. That means you’re planning a party that goes to the next level to wow the crowd.

The party theme creates the ambiance, the illusion that you’ve stepped into a magical world for awhile. It’s reflected in every aspect of the party, making your decisions easier.

  • venue
  • decorations
  • food
  • entertainment
  • apparel

If the party is for your child, ask them what theme they’d like for their birthday party and be ready with suggestions that you’re willing to do as well.

Before you go ahead with your fantastic theme, think for one more moment. Is it going to be a blast or are the participants going to whine and complain about the party theme you’ve chosen? What excites you might not work so well when you bring a group together.

(For instance, if your child wants a craft party and invites kids who hate arts & crafts, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on the craft supplies – the party will bomb because they’ll be done in 30 seconds asking for a game. If you want to have a karoake party and invite people who hate to sing, the party will end early. Or they’ll all stand around talking so loudly you can’t hear the one singing. It’s happened. Many a time.)

There are so many themes out there. The goal is to choose the perfect one for your group.

But there are times when:

  • you have a limited budget
  • you have no time or energy to prepare
  • or you want to go BIG for an extra special occasion

Every party theme allows you to make choices according to your needs. Don’t feel constrained when deciding the theme. How you implement the theme will depend on your resources. The sky’s the limit!

Why are you having this party?

The first thing to consider when choosing a party theme is the reason for the party.

  • a birthday party where the guest of honor needs to be consulted on the theme
  • a calendar holiday (Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day)
  • a milestone like an anniversary, years in a career, specific age
  • a celebration like an engagement, wedding, bon voyage, new home or baby shower
  • or a “just because” you want to get your friends together

The reason for the party helps narrow down the choices, but there are still a million Christmas or birthday party themes. And this is a great thing! It means you can plan a party that’s uniquely yours.

What style of party do you, the guest of honor and your guests prefer?

When you’re planning a party it’s tempting to go big & elegant but if the people who are attending the party feel uncomfortable in those surroundings, it’s not going to work.

Be realistic.

  1. What style does the guest of honor prefer? This dictates the choices. If your mother-in-law is chic, don’t plan a backyard cookout for her birthday party just because it’s the easiest. The party style should reflect her.
  2. What style do you prefer? If there’s no guest of honor, the style of the party should reflect you, and how you’re feeling at the moment.
  3. What style would be best for the people on your guest list? This is where the rubber meets the road. If you choose a party theme that doesn’t excite the guests – or worse, offends them – there will be a lot of no-shows. If the guests who do come aren’t really into it, they won’t be impressed enough to share photos on social media, participate in games or entertainment and will leave early. If the guests don’t have a relationship already and you’re depending on casual conversation for the party’s success, that’s not going to happen either.

When we say “style”, what do we mean?

  • elegant & chic vs casual
  • active vs sit-down
  • fun & energetic vs more staid
  • games vs discussion
  • indoor vs outdoors

None of the styles are “bad” or “wrong”. You need to know the people at the party and what they’d think is fun.

I went to a party once planned by someone new at my church designed to get to know everyone. It was a Christmas party in her home and she worked very hard planning awesome themed food, pen & paper games with prizes and beautiful decorations. But one guest declared, “We don’t play games.” She took over the party and turned it into a discussion period by asking life questions and going around the circle for the answers. As it turned out it was a great party with everyone going home knowing each other a little better and bonding the group. BUT the woman who was the hostess was insulted and deeply hurt. So much so that she stopped spending time with the group of ladies and in a month moved to another city to be close to family.

What is your goal for the party?

  • make the guest of honor happy & feel celebrated
  • celebrate a holiday
  • get your best friends together for fun or relaxation
  • for a change of pace in your life
  • introduce two groups of friends (college buddies & co-workers)
  • learn something new or create something with people you know well

This decision helps narrow down your choice of theme and the style of party. (You’re not going to plan a thrilling fiesta theme when you really need a spa theme to relax. And vice versa.)

The Big Question: what do you want the guests and the guest of honor to go home with?

What is your goal for the guests besides being happy that they were at your party?

  • feel closer to the guest of honor
  • bond with the other guests they already knew
  • know more about a certain topic
  • connect with new people
  • create fantastic memories that will last a lifetime
  • have a creative experience writing, painting, baking, making a craft

As you plan the other areas of your party, keep this ultimate goal in mind.

(If your goal is for them to feel closer to other people, sitting and watching a movie together probably isn’t going to accomplish that goal unless you make it interactive in some way. But playing team games is a great idea whether its Pictionary or capture the flag.)

The best party theme reflects the reason for the party, the preferred style and the goal.

Now that you’ve laid the foundation it’s time to brainstorm.

Make a free-flow list and then cross off things later.

  • Think about the guest of honor (or your) favorite things: colors, pastimes, books, movies, sports, food, animal, things they talk about.
  • Reflect on a time period that would be interesting to the guests: 50s, 70s, 90s, futuristic. Would they love to dance or dress up from that era?
  • What would they love to wear: costumes, suits & fancy dresses, plush animal onesies or themed like Sesame Street, shorts, swimwear, jeans?
  • What has been happening in the news, trends, new TV shows that could be a party theme?
  • Is there a cause that everyone is concerned about: save the earth, famine, children in other countries, animal shelters.
  • Are there places that you’ve visited or would love to visit together: not just specific countries, but cabin in the woods, waterfall, museum.
  • If the guests are all family or friends who know each other: recreate a time or a place that you all loved. Christmas can be celebrated anytime!

Want more ideas?

Test your party theme ideas.

A great idea is only great if it can be implemented. Can you really carry this party theme off? Time for a little research.

  • Can you find decorations for this theme? At a reasonable price?
  • If you’re planning on costumes is it something that people could readily do, without great cost?
  • Are the necessary venues available?
  • Search for themed menu ideas that you can make yourself unless you’re hiring a caterer.
  • Does the entertainment required fall within your budget?
  • Can you find games and music that fit the theme?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, it’s time to re-think your choice of party theme.

The pre-event events:

If you can’t decide between a couple of party themes, invite your closest friends for a mini-party that showcases your ideas for the themes and get their input.

Pump up the excitement for the party using social media. Keep your goal for the party in mind as you choose keywords and hastags.

Step 3 in party planning is deciding on the entertainment.

How to choose Party entertainment

The different types of entertainment you can plan for your party, and how to choose.

Or start party planning from the beginning if you arrived here.

Party Planning 101 for best party ever

Party Planning 101: what to do when & how. Here’s how to plan a party that runs smoothly, thrills your guests and amazes even you! This step-by-step party guide goes beyond the what-to-do-when reminder & helps you add wow to create a party they’ll never forget. (And one you can afford without regret when the credit card statement comes.)

Or jump ahead to the party planning idea that interests you.

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