Creating an event with a strong visual theme that will inspire attendees to whip out their camera phones is a surefire way to spread like wildfire on Instagram. And with a strong social presence in your pocket, your event will enjoy reach that may have been impossible without the help of some killer photos and well-placed hashtags.
To make sure your event is all anyone talks about in 2019, we’ve put together a list of on-trend and Instagram-worthy party theme ideas to make your next event stand out from the crowd.
- Party Theme Idea #1: Inner Child
- Party Theme Idea #2. Savannah Soiree
- Party Theme Idea #3: Diet Starts Monday
- Party Theme Idea #4: Under the Sea
- Party Theme Idea #5: Nautical, But Nice
- Party Theme Idea #6: Circus Gala
- Party Theme Idea #7: Havana Nights
- Party Theme Idea #8: Rock n’ Roll Party
- Party Theme Idea #9: Ready Player One
- Party Theme Idea #10: Candy Crush
- Party Theme Idea #11: Trash TV Bash
- Party Theme Idea #12: Victorian-era Gothic
- Party Theme Idea #13: Time Travelers’ Ball
- Party Theme Idea #14: Bubbles & Bowties
- Party Theme Idea #15: Musical Magic
- Party Theme Idea #16: Hamptons Garden Party
- Party Theme Idea #17: Palm Springs Party
- Party Theme Idea #18: French-Chic Picnic
- Party Theme Idea #19: Southern BBQ
- Party Theme Idea #20: Zombie Apocalypse
- Party Theme Idea #21: Heroes & Villains
- Party Theme Idea #22: London Calling
- Party Theme Idea #23: Club Carnival
- Party Theme Idea #24: Art Attack
- Party Theme Idea #25: Ice Cream Sundae
- Party Theme Idea #26: Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
- Party Theme Idea #27: Locavore Luncheon
- Party Theme Idea #28: Tequila Tasting
- Party Theme Idea #29: Future Fête
- Party Theme Idea #30: Legoland
- Let’s make event magic
- ADULT PARTY IDEAS
- Top Adult Party Ideas
- Big List of Adult Party Ideas and Themes
- Tag…you’re it!
- Have A Great Party to Share?
- You’ll also want to see…
- Money Crashers
- Money Saving Tips for a Kid’s Birthday Party
- Fun Birthday Party Games For Kids
- Party Checklist
- How to Throw an Awesome Party in 10 Steps (With Examples)
- The Secret Magic of Dinner Parties that People Rave About
- #1: What People Remember
- #2: Your Event First Impression
- #3: Peak or Valley?
- #4: The Recency Effect
- #5: The Perfect Host
- #6: Group Think
- #7: Your Party Spot
- #8: Never Forget Names Again
- #9: The Art of the Perfect Handshake
- #10: Bottom Line
- Party Planning Checklist
Party Theme Idea #1: Inner Child
What better way to let your hair down than with a bit of childlike fun? To bring this party theme to life, think grown-up versions of your favorite childhood activities — an adult-sized ball pit, a bouncy castle, a slide, confetti, bubbles, and of course, sweet snacks galore.
Party Theme Idea #2. Savannah Soiree
The Lion King is coming back this year and we’re just a little bit excited. With the original film and musical versions both a huge success across the globe, we’re guessing that everyone will be jazzed for some Savanah appreciation in 2019. To style your safari-inspired party, look to on-trend animal prints and loads of greenery. You could also use this theme as inspiration to create an animal-lover’s twist on a masquerade ball, with animal-inspired masks.
Party Theme Idea #3: Diet Starts Monday
We all know the drill: Tomorrow, we diet. But you’re having a party, so tonight let’s go down in a blaze of glory. This event theme lets guests indulge in all the good stuff with a fun blowout before treat day ends. Catering should include decadent cocktails, donut walls, and fried food galore.
Party Theme Idea #4: Under the Sea
This theme may bring up memories of school dances past, but with a few modern upgrades you can make it a hit. The Pantone 201 Color of the Year is Living Coral, which means this reef-inspired hue is set to appear everywhere in 2019 from fashion to tableware. Use the inspiration of this color to create a modern and creative party theme. Lean into the colors gold, green, coral, and white, and keep your party decorations away from anything that screams “prom.” So that means no glitter, sequins, or anything that is hard to recycle, like plastic straws. Instead of wasteful streamers, have live performances inspired by the sea or auction off ocean-inspired art to benefit a relevant charity.
Party Theme Idea #5: Nautical, But Nice
Hosting an event on a boat or by the river, but want to avoid a kitschy pirate themed event? Try a more sophisticated nautical theme — styled with crisp whites and deep navy blues. To achieve this setting, your event space should look more at home cruising the French Riviera than sailing the high seas.
Party Theme Idea #6: Circus Gala
Encourage guests to dress in their finest to attend your high-class circus, complete with live performances and audience improv actors to up the mysticism. Pass out special performance tickets or fortunes, perform skits, and offer face painting on site. Make sure to lean into the traditional circus stripe theme — no worries if you can’t finagle a tent.
Party Theme Idea #7: Havana Nights
Tropical flair is all the rage in fashion at the moment, but if you’re feeling like the beach or Hawaii theme is a bit played out, there’s a fun alternative. Take your guests to Cuba with a timeless Havana Nights theme. Think rum cocktails, latin dance music, outlandish tropical prints, and vintage resort wear.
Party Theme Idea #8: Rock n’ Roll Party
Deck out your venue in black and silver and invite guests to come dressed in their most hardcore outfits, with spikes, mohawks, and biker boots encouraged. Spin modern or classic rock hits to keep the dance floor alive and offer spray-on hair color and temporary tattoos to up the visual appeal for attendees.
Party Theme Idea #9: Ready Player One
To pull off a video-game inspired party theme, invite guests to dress as their favorite game character, past or present. Book a space that hosts retro arcade games or virtual reality headsets for gameplay entertainment.
Party Theme Idea #10: Candy Crush
The world is having a moment with all things sweet and colorful. Immersive exhibitions like The Museum of Ice Cream are insanely popular and everyone wants to fill their Instagram feeds with pops of candy color. Tap this trend for your party by styling it with all things bright and colorful, complete with a dessert table filled with sweet treats.
Party Theme Idea #11: Trash TV Bash
Who doesn’t love the guilty pleasure of reality TV? With so many shows on offer these days, there’s plenty to choose from when it comes to hosting a viewing party for a big reality show finale or premier. Make sure your decor and food is inspired by the show for extra Instagram points. Bachelor/Bachelorette lovers, get ready to call up your favorite florist and reserve all their roses.
Party Theme Idea #12: Victorian-era Gothic
For a party that is both elegant and a touch spooky, look to a Victorian-era style gothic theme. Think candles, candelabras, skulls, taxidermy, black flowers, old frames and furniture. You can ask your guests to dress up as Victorian ghosts and even have serving staff dressed as Victorian maids and butlers.
Party Theme Idea #13: Time Travelers’ Ball
This event theme is the ultimate fancy dress party: instead of limiting costumes to a single decade, your “time traveling” guests can take inspiration from a historical figure from any year, past or present. Ancient Egyptian pharaohs, famous historical figures, pop icons…the possibilities are endless.
Party Theme Idea #14: Bubbles & Bowties
For a modern take on a sophisticated black-tie soiree, try “Bubbles & Bowties.” Guests are encouraged to dress in formal wear for a champagne-filled party. Mix it up with trendy varietals like Prosecco and natural sparkling wine, Pétillant-naturel.
Party Theme Idea #15: Musical Magic
Celebrate the rich history of the silver screen with a musical-themed event, encouraging guests to dress as their favorite characters from your chosen screening. Sing-along subtitles or post-movie karaoke is a must. Look to local theaters for venues as many have event spaces available for party hire.
Party Theme Idea #16: Hamptons Garden Party
A place long associated with summertime chic, New York’s Hamptons region evokes visions of popped collars and Lamborghinis by the beach. To inject some preppy fun into your event, create a Hamptons style garden party with turf lawn, tennis whites, sneakers, and pastels. With a jug of Pimms on the side, of course.
Party Theme Idea #17: Palm Springs Party
With mid-century modern coming back into vogue, host a Palm Springs inspired party. Channel vintage summer glam and classic styling from the 50’s and 60’s.
Party Theme Idea #18: French-Chic Picnic
If you’re hosting an event in spring or summer, try a French themed outdoor picnic. Think red-checkered picnic blankets, baguettes, cheese, and champagne.
Party Theme Idea #19: Southern BBQ
If you’re looking to keep your outdoor theme closer to home, try an old-school BBQ with Southern classics like cornbread and baked beans and friendly games of summer and state fair classics like Frisbee or Cornhole.
Party Theme Idea #20: Zombie Apocalypse
If you’ve found yourself a warehouse venue or a location that is a little bit creepy (like old jails or nearby cemeteries), play up to the mood with an end of days themed event.
Party Theme Idea #21: Heroes & Villains
An oldie but a goodie. With the non-stop release of superhero movies, comic books are on-trend again and provide great costume choices for themed parties and events. Time your party around a movie release for extra relevancy.
Party Theme Idea #22: London Calling
With a new royal baby here, it’s the perfect time to host a British-themed party. Decorations for such an event should include British flags, ‘Keep Calm’ posters, and plenty of traditional pub foods (or a tea party fit for a Queen).
Party Theme Idea #23: Club Carnival
Rides, amusements, games of chance, sugary treats, show bags, and eclectic prizes — a homespun carnival can be a colorful affair for a party if you have the budget and space to recreate the experience.
Party Theme Idea #24: Art Attack
Get your guests involved in an art project at your next party by creating a giant interactive canvas wall. Invite guests to write, draw, or graffiti your wall live at the party and give participants fun projects like “write a poem in under one minute” or “draw a selfie.” This can be done with large poster paper, or the walls themselves, if you can get your hands on a venue that will soon be repainted or torn down,
Party Theme Idea #25: Ice Cream Sundae
An instant hit and sure-fire way to draw a crowd in the summer months: an ice-cream social. In addition to lots of delicious icy treats, this party theme should be paired with crisp whites and playful pops of pastel to evoke nostalgic memories of ice-cream vans and summers passed. Ideal for sunny Sunday afternoon events.
Party Theme Idea #26: Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
The whimsical world of Alice in Wonderland is always a classic and allows you to really bend the rules when it comes to creative styling for a party. Serve trendy ice tea cocktails (or mocktails) in teacups and mini bottles with ‘drink me’ labels.
Party Theme Idea #27: Locavore Luncheon
Craft a foodie event focused exclusively on local farmers, chefs, and vendors. To theme this party, look to the local season for clues on what guests can expect such as “Summer Picnic”, “Autumn Harvest”, “Spring Garden Soiree”, or “Winter Warmers.”
Party Theme Idea #28: Tequila Tasting
While it’s always fun to don a sombrero and drink fishbowl margaritas, there’s a lot more inspiration from down south that can fuel a great fiesta. For a more modern take, opt for high-end tequila tastings (no lemon or salt required!), refreshing palomas, quality micheladas, and authentic street tacos fit for a night in trendy Tulum.
Party Theme Idea #29: Future Fête
For a party theme with a hint of mystery and magic, enlist tarot card readers, clairvoyants, or vintage-style fortune-telling machines to tell the rich futures of your party guests.
Party Theme Idea #30: Legoland
Lego is trending in 2019, with exhibitions, bars, and pop-ups booming in popularity with both adults and kids alike. To create a lego-themed party, procure giant Legos from a party supplier and enlist the help of an expert Lego builder to create unique party styling.
Let’s make event magic
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ADULT PARTY IDEAS
- Easy Party Ideas
- Adult Party Ideas
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Here are some of our favorite adult party ideas and themes that can be used for almost any occasion! As a matter of fact, there are over 60 adult party themes listed below!
After you pick your theme, add a party game or two. This will help make your event even more memorable!
Are you celebrating a birthday? If so, you’ll want to visit our list of adult birthday ideas.
We’ve also compiled a complete list of adult parties and adult games found on this website – just another way to search for the easy party ideas are looking for, all in one place.
After your party, come back and tell us how it went – share your photos and your own party ideas for adults and we’ll add them to the site.
Top Adult Party Ideas
We’ve compiled a list of the most popular party ideas, based on visitors to our website:
Big List of Adult Party Ideas and Themes
20’s Party The Roaring Twenties are alive and well! This great adult party theme isn’t used that often, but it sure does have a lot of fun party decorating possibilities!
40’s Party Great nostalgia of the “greatest generation”. This is particularly great for a birthday party of people who were born in that era, or for folks in the military.
50’s Party Get out your poodle skirt and get ready for some 1950’s fun! The Fabulous 50’s Party is always a favorite, whether you were around for them or not.
60’s Party The decade of change…the Sixties brought us the Beatles and Woodstock. Groovy! This is a fun one too for bright colorful (and sometimes tie-dye) decorations.
70’s Party The age of Disco is alive and well! Check out these fun ideas for a Swinging 70’s Party.
80’s Party Big Hair, big shoulder pads and big dreams…celebrate the decade of excess with a 80’s bash! One of the most popular adult party ideas at the moment – really fun!
Afternoon Tea Party
Around the World Party A great party theme!! Pick your favorite countries and celebrate them in decorations, food and drink! Some ideas to get you started…
Backwards Party A fun party where everything happens backwards! It is really popular as kid and teen party, but we thought it was something the right mix of adults could have fun with too, so we added to the list.
Adult Birthday Party Ideas Celebrate Adult Birthdays with lots of ideas for any age…from Over the Hill to 100th Birthday Celebrations! We’ve got a list of party ideas, birthday party games, and even special ways to mark the occasion.
Beer Tasting Fun adult party ideas that are a great alternative to a wine tasting (and fun for an Oktoberfest party too! Somehow the guys never mind going to this one!
Black and White Party Who doesn’t just love decorating with black and white? very easy to create a dramatic, elegant evening. Have your own version of Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball,which was known as the “party of the century”!
Breakfast at Tiffany’s Party Cocktails, Mocktails, and all the 60’s glamour. Add a movie-watching for a fun “girls night” in honor of one the greatest chick-flicks of all time.
Bunco or Bunko…it doesn’t matter how you spell it…the points just add up to fun!! Often played as a girl’s night out, this is a dice game that is easy to plan and a fun night for everyone! Here is everything you need to know about how to play bunco including free bunco scoresheets. Pass the M&M’s…
Candy Party Who says that candy is just for kids! We adults like sweet stuff too so we’re adding it to the adult party ideas list! Bring it on!!
Card Party When you want to have party, but can’t because of health, distance or other factors, this is a great way to honor someone! With email, it is easy to spread the word and make this one happen.
Cartoon Party What adult doesn’t love a good excuse to dress up as Speed Racer, Batman, or Wonder Woman? This themed costume party is fun when it isn’t Halloween but you still want to do a costume.
Casino Party Ideas that will help you create a very elegant, Let’s go to Monaco – James Bond style casino party, or a fun night in Las Vegas…complete with Elvis impersonators. No need to hop on a plane. Plan your casino night at home with our adult party ideas.
Champagne Tasting Party Could there be anything other adult party ideas that sound so elegant?
Cocktail Party A fun “list” for you of what is involved with planning a great cocktail party!
Come as You Were Party I found this one in a book of vintage party ideas. I thought it was something that would still be fun today. What do you think?
Decade Party Why limit yourself to a party theme about the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, etc.? Celebrate several decades! Works great for a birthday!
Dessert Party Yum!
Dinner Party All you need to know to throw a classic dinner party, along with links to some fun theme dinner parties, such as a Mexican Dinner, a cookout, or BBQ.
Dog Party Ideas Celebrate man’s best friend with a party for your pooch.
Election Day Party Watching the election returns has never been so fun! No matter what party you are routing for, you can turn your election party into more than just waiting for results.
Flower Power Brunch or Luncheon For a brunch or luncheon, flowers are always in style…so make them your theme!
Fundraising Party Seems like everyone is a member of a group that is looking for a way to do some fundraising – or perhaps you have a cause in mind that you want to support. Here are some ideas to make your fundraiser fun!
Gilligan’s Island Party I once heard that Gilligan’s Island is shown somewhere in the world, every minute of every day. Everyone knows who Gilligan is, and it makes fun adult party ideas!
Golden Girls Party Have a party and help your friends go home with a little cash!
Holiday Adult Party Ideas Whether you are planning for a Halloween Party, Christmas Party, Easter, New Years or even Fourth of July, we’ve got you covered!
Printable Games for Holidays and Parties!
Hollywood Party Lights! Camera! Action! Your friends will think you are the star when you throw a Hollywood Party! Use this party plan for your Oscar Watching Party too.
Ice Cream Social One of those that has been around for years and years and years.
Kids Party for Adults This party is for the young at heart. Great for celebrating an adult birthday!
Luau Party Ideas for your next luau, beach or tropical themed event! And you can even add some great homemade party decorations!
Magic Party A magic party isn’t just for little kids. Have a grown up magic party and prepare to be amazed.
Mardi Gras Party Plan a night in the Big Easy! Mardi Gras is the ultimate party, with everything geared to having a good time! Beads, Doubloons, Hurricanes…and Dixieland!
Margaritaville Party…Wastin’ away in Margaritaville…a fun theme that always draws a crowd! Every summer, this is consistently rated one of the top adult party ideas on our website.
Medieval Party Hear Ye, Hear Ye, calling all Lords and Ladies to this Royal Event…Who says that knights, princesses and castles are just for kids?
Muffin Madness A favorite for groups and meetings.
Murder Mystery Party Who done it? Information about how murder mystery parties work.
New York, New York Party Love New York? Celebrate this iconic city and way of life. A fun theme with lots of possibilities! Broadway, here we come!
Night under the Stars Party A Night Under the Stars, outdoors or indoors (hang the stars from the ceiling!) is a beautiful theme with lots of elegant and fun decorating possibilities. Could be a great theme for a “remember when” prom party…
Office Party So, you’re probably the one in charge of planning the office party if you’re the one reading this, right? Here are some ideas to get create when you are trying to throw a budget office party.
Oscar Party It is fun to watch the Oscars or any awards show with friends!
Over the Hill Party A very popular birthday party theme, especially when the person isn’t really over the hill!
Picnic Games for Adults – Add some fun to your picnic with these games at PrintGamesNow.com!
Pink Party One of my favorite parties that I have thrown for my friends. Maybe this celebration of all things pink will give you some good ideas of things you plan with your own friends.
Reunion- Whether you are planning a class reunion, family reunion, or other type of reunion, we can get you started on the right path.
Showers Whether it be a baby shower, wedding shower, or bachelorette party, we’ve got you covered with themes, games and ideas! You’ll also find links to all the printable games you’ll ever need.
Slumber Parties That is right – adult slumber parties. You are never too old! Bachelorette parties, spa nights, scrapbooking nights, or just a girls sleepover to spend time with your friends.
Spa Party Ahhhh. Everyone loves a trip to a spa. So will your guests! Great for a girls night out or adult slumber party.
Sports Party Whether celebrating a specific team or sport, the Olympics or sports in general, a sports party is a winning theme! Love of sports unifies a lot of people, and makes for fun decorating too.
Super Bowl Party Ideas to celebrate a super bowl or for any football watching party.
Tacky Party When is it proper to be tacky? At a Tacky Party, of course! Set your imagination to work on this one…it’s a favorite adult party idea!
Tequila Tasting Party Another variation of a tasting party – this time with Tequila.
This is Your Life Party A great way to celebrate someone!!
Toga Party Need we say more?
Vodka Tasting Party A unique and fun idea, and a great alternative to other types of tasting parties.
Western Party Get your boots on and your best hat – time to party cowboy style!
Wine Tasting Party This one is always a hit, and we’ve got all the details on how to customize your party. Always one of the top party ideas across the board.
Winter Wonderland Party Celebrate all things winter. A theme that can be made very elegant, very easily!
Wizard of Oz Party We’re off to see the Wizard! Everyone loves this movie…and this party theme! Great for all ages.
That’s right – I said you’d get a turn. Here it is! Fill out the form below to share your best adult party ideas and we’ll add them to the site.
We want to hear all about it!
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Birthday Cake Inspiration
Easy Party Recipes
Kids’ birthday parties seem a lot more elaborate now than they did when we were growing up. Parents are renting out bounce houses and ponies, and they’re transforming their homes into fantasy worlds. But when it comes down to it, kids just want to have fun, and it’s not necessary for parents to go all out for kids to have a good birthday party.
So how do you host a birthday party for your child without disappointing them and without breaking the bank?
Is food a must for your child’s birthday party? Place your order through DoorDash and you’ll receive $0 deliver fee on your first order.
Consider these tips to cut costs from your kid’s birthday budget as well as some fun game ideas to try out.
Money Saving Tips for a Kid’s Birthday Party
1. Decide on a Budget
The first step in throwing any party is to decide how much you’re willing to spend. If you don’t set a limit, you will end up spending way more than you wanted to. Also decide how much you want to spend in specific categories like food, decorations, and favors. If your child is old enough, explain the budget. This experience is a great opportunity to teach your kids about money.
2. Don’t Go Overboard with the Theme
If you are throwing a Dora the Explorer party or featuring Handy Manny or some other character, it will get expensive to buy all of the gear that goes along with that theme – such as plates, napkins, and decorations. Really, kids don’t care too much about these details. They’re much more interested in having fun with their friends to notice the decorations. As long as the invitations and cake include the theme, you’re golden.
If you really want the decorations, make some of your own. I recently went to a three-year-old’s Handy Manny birthday party, and the mom made little tool belts for all the kids instead of elaborate decorations. The kids loved them, and the parents laughed at the sight of babies wearing tool belts!
3. Don’t Serve a Meal
One of the biggest expenses of throwing a party is the food, and the simplest saving solution is to avoid serving a meal. You’ll save a ton, especially if the party includes both kids and adults. Set the party hours for mid-afternoon so your guests don’t have any expectations for a full meal. I hosted a party for my husband’s 30th birthday and ended up spending a couple hundred dollars on food because it was a late afternoon party.
4. Limit the Number of Guests
Another way to save a significant chunk of change is to limit the number of guests. It’s tough to leave kids out, but it’s particularly helpful if your child has their heart set on a specific type of party, like going to a movie or the theme park. But even if the party is in your home, you will save on invitations and favors. This might also help to keep you from getting too overwhelmed.
5. Do It Yourself
Don’t buy a cake from a bakery. Cakes from bakeries may be great on your taste buds, but they’re not great on your wallet. If you go with a “DIY” plan, you’ll have more freedom with the flavor and decorating. You can also perform your own entertainment. Learn how to make balloon animals and dress up like a clown or other character. You don’t have to be a professional to entertain kids; you just need to be silly.
6. Location, Location, Location
Throwing a party away from home is almost automatically costly. If your kid really wants a party at Chuck E Cheese’s or Gymboree, trying to make your home more like these places will cost less than actually booking the party. Get a lot of balloons, use your own soft toys and sports equipment to simulate a ball pit, and build tunnels and forts with refrigerator boxes and other large containers.
7. Creative Wrapping Paper
If you need to save money on the party because you spent a lot of gifts, you can always save money with unique and creative gift wrapping ideas, such as comics, old t-shirts, or bubble-wrap.
Fun Birthday Party Games For Kids
These creative touches can entertain kids without costing you too much. You’ll save and still look like a pro party planner by making your party inexpensive, not cheap.
1. Photo Booth
Set up a photo booth area with various items like hats, scarves, wigs, paper mustaches, or any other random things you have around the house or find at Goodwill. Use a digital camera, and email the pictures to parents after the party. This activity is fun for parents to take part in too!
2. Pie in the Face
Kids love to get messy. I remember my parents threw me a birthday party where everyone got pied in the face. We had various field games such as a three-legged race, an egg race, and a water balloon toss. If you lost in any of these events, you got pied. It put a unique spin on normal games, and everyone had a really good time.
3. Ball Pit
You can easily make a ball pit by getting a baby pool and filling it with plastic balls. I’m planning this activity for my son’s first birthday party, but it would be fun for older kids as well.
4. Dance Party
Kids go crazy when music is playing. They love to dance and have no shame about their skills (or lack thereof). Parents enjoy watching kids dance too. Add to the excitment by doing a freeze game where kids freeze when the music stops. Or blow up a bunch of balloons for kids to try to keep in the air while the music plays. As for the music, you can hook up your laptop computer to some external speakers and utilize some of the free music listening and sharing websites.
5. Telephone Game
One person starts the game by whispering a sentence into the ear of the person sitting next to them. They whisper what they think they heard to the person on the other side of them. This continues until the sentence gets to the last person. At that time, the person says out loud what they think they heard. This is a fun game to play indoors if the weather does not permit outdoor games.
6. Obstacle Course
Set up an obstacle course in your backyard. Have the kids crawl under limbo sticks, through boxes, and down slides. This is a great way to reuse and recycle household items laying around.
7. Scavenger Hunt
If the party is for younger kids, you can set up a scavenger hunt for everyday items scattered around your house or yard. If you have older kids, you can do a scavenger hunt in the mall. I remember doing a mall scavenger hunt for a party and having a lot of fun. You don’t have to buy the items, just find them faster than the others.
What ideas do you have to save money on birthday parties for kids? Share some of your previous experiences in the comments below!
by Fabio Parasecoli
I am not a chef. I am just a moderately proficient homecook (you can check what I cook on my Instagram account @fparasecoli) I have not been to culinary school (although maybe… at some point…). I have never gone through any kind of formal process to learn about techniques, ingredients, or whole dishes. I have never been that good at following written recipes either: I scan them quickly, and then I do what seems right to me, based on my experience, my preferences, and my skills.
Nevertheless, I like cooking (and eating). At the end of a long day, if I have time I make one simple dish, just one, but enough to relax and focus my mind and body away from work and towards feeding myself and others. I fully realize I am very lucky to enjoy the luxury of cooking. I have time (I only work one job, and not a physically demanding one), resources (I can afford buying good quality, fresh food), and an overall positive relationship to food. I do not have a large family to cook for, and if I do not feel like making anything I can go out or order in. Care-giving is not an obligation. Spending time in the kitchen is a choice, and a pleasurable one. I am fully aware that’s privilege. Not everybody is in the same position, and it would be unfair to consider meal preparation – day in, day out – as morally or culturally superior. Or necessary to be a loving family member, or a good citizen.
My personal history explains a lot. My mother would often have people over for Sunday meals. And I don’t mean two or three. My sisters and I were asked to do small kitchen chores as children: beating the egg whites to a foam, peeling almonds, and such. I remember I felt very proud the first time I was asked to make the battuto for the Sunday tomato sauce. Using a sharp knife, I would turn a piece of cured pork fat, rosemary, garlic, and pepper, into a soft paste. As we became more independent, my sisters and I learned how to cook more and more, often under the remote guidance of my mother. When I was a teenager and stayed in Rome by myself while my parents were away on vacation. I would invite friends over and feed them dishes that I had seen my mother cook but I had never tried myself until then. At times i would read of exotic recipes, and try them out, figuring out ingredients and preparations. Once I made a meat stew with bananas and peanuts that I had read somewhere was typical in South America (where is South America was beyond my interest, at that time). When I was in London to improve my English, my landlady would make rice with coconut and shrimp, which she had learned from a Sri Lankan friend of hers. It seemed the epitome of adventurousness, at the time.
Whatever I made, however, was based on the movements, the smells, the flavors I had grown up with, mostly standing at my mother’s stove. It was not just about verbal guidance. It was rather the an immersion in the sensory environment of the kitchen, with its material objects and tools, the way they felt in my hand and needed to be used; the scents and sounds; the visual cues; the affective involvement in making sure that I was doing a good job. What is the right consistency of cookie dough? What does it have to feel like to the fingers so that it can bake properly? What is the smell that signals that the cookie is just right, not undercooked or slightly charred? What are the sounds that a tomato sauce makes, allowing us to know when it has reached the desired texture? Can we hear when the sauce has simmered too long, without waiting for the smell of burned food? As much as we can learn from recipes in the media (videos, podcasts, written texts) and as much as visual support may be useful in achieving a good result, the physical experience that it necessary to fully master a dish cannot be replaced.
In my experience, culinary memories and skills are profoundly embodied, as they relate to the sensory environment in which food preparation and consumption take place. They are also shared experiences, as the way we filter and understand what we cook depends on cultural and social frameworks, on relationships and personal connections (these are not always positives ones, of course, when learning how to cook is an imposition or a taxing duty for which one gets no recognition). Every time I am in my mother’s kitchen, even when I am not cooking myself but just chatting while she or others cook, I can’t help observing what’s in the pots and whether the dishes smell right. I am always happy to volunteer myself to taste anything. Over time, I have become able to embrace the same open attitude and to absorb embodied knowledge regardless who I cook with – friends, professional chefs, or just people in whose kitchen I happen to be. And I keep on learning, especially when I travel. I doubt I will ever stop.
For more on Fabio’s work, see: https://fabioparasecoli.com/blog/
Let’s start planning
Use this party planning checklist to guide you through the details:
- Make list of people to invite.
- Mark the date on your calendar.
- Send invitations (by mail, e-mail, or phone).
- Plan the menu, including the beverages.
- Make shopping list (food, paper goods, decorations).
- Plan cooking schedule: Determine what can be made ahead and frozen, day before, and that day, and what you are buying already prepared.
- Make list of equipment needed (rental chairs and table).
- Plan the layout of the rooms. (Make sure all the food tables are not right on top of each other to ensure smooth flow for people to mingle.)
- Plan music.
- Plan lighting.
- Buy or make a centerpiece or other decorations.
- Check your stock of cleaning supplies for before and after the party.
- Make sure you have all the platters and serving pieces you’ll need.
During the party
Here are some things to think about for your guests:
- Coat rack (hangers or a separate room to put coats)
- A place to put boots or umbrellas
- Ice, ice bucket, ice tongs, or scoop
- Cocktail napkins (2 per person)
- Paper towels
- Extra toilet paper
- Plates (appetizer, salad, dinner, dessert) – you can order deli trays for your party!
- Glasses (water, wine, mixed drink, beer, soda, coffee); some beverages can use the same type of glass
- Silverware (Think through each course; a fresh spoon or stirrer is necessary for coffee.)
- If grilling, check the tank, charcoal, lighter fuel, bug spray, and citronella candles
- Coffee and assortment of tea bags
- Cream and sugar
- Salt and pepper
- Wine, beer, and soda chilled
- Wine and bottle opener
- Bar garnishes (lime, lemon, olive)
- Charged camera battery
- Garbage bags
- Dishwashing soap
- Club soda (for any thing that may spill, a great spot remover)
- Space to chill beverages. It takes beer, wine, and soda 20 minutes to chill on ice. A large tub or cooler can be used in a back room.
Take party notes
After any party, it’s a good idea to record in a journal how much was left over and what people liked and didn’t like. This information will be a big help when you plan your next gathering. Think of your party journal as a reference to look back on when you are trying to remember your boss’s favorite drink. That way you can have it at the next event.
Now that you’ve got the party basics down, plan for your Christmas party with HEB’s holiday party tips – explore everything from holiday appetizers to cocktails.
How to Throw an Awesome Party in 10 Steps (With Examples)
I am terrified of nightclubs. I hate loud bars. And I get lost at concerts. This makes Friday and Saturday nights as a non-80 something difficult.
As soon as it was socially age appropriate, I began to shift people from raves and bar crawls into game nights and dinner parties.
My first dinner party was a quasi-disaster. There were a ton of appetizers and dessert, but not enough real food. People came really late and left early. My groups of friends did not mix well. And I ran around like a crazy person.
HOWEVER, there was a hint of goodness. I saw potential in the night and a few of my friends asked when I was going to do it again. BINGO! If even one person is into something you are doing, then you have something special.
It was time for an informal people experiment. I was going to run a number of different parties all with different variables. Test the outcomes, feel the vibe and learn how to throw the perfect dinner party.
There are some counter-intuitive things I discovered and some seemingly unimportant details that make all the difference.
Is it possible to throw the perfect party? I think so. Here are my tricks.
The Secret Magic of Dinner Parties that People Rave About
You should know something about me: I am highly competitive. I don’t want to just throw a good dinner party. I want to throw the BEST dinner party people have ever been to. I also love observing patterns.
I learned that there are certain essential elements that make certain nights special, magical and extremely memorable.
Here’s what I learned:
#1: What People Remember
Look, lets take the pressure off throwing the perfect night. You actually do not have to make the whole night be a series of bangs and bings after another. In fact, people remember 3 things:
- The First 5 Minutes: What happens as people first arrive? This is something people remember most– just like an event first impression.
- The High or the Low: This one is odd, but your event has to have a high. Otherwise? People just remember the low or worse, nothing at all.
- The Last 5 Minutes: How people leave and what happens as they leave the night is the other thing that sticks with them – why? We typically evaluate the entire night right after we leave, so the recency effect sticks with us.
These are the three things you want to think about most for your event. If you nail them, your night will be awesome.
#2: Your Event First Impression
This is me right as I walk into almost every event:
I talk a lot about your first impression – how do you look, sound and express yourself in those first few seconds of meeting people. Now I want to talk about your event’s first impression. This is essential. Unlike a personal brand where your first impression goal might vary from powerful to funny to impressive, I think all events should have the same 2 first impression goals:
Comfort + Excitement = Buzz
When most people get to an event they are at worst: overwhelmed, awkward or anxious. At best: excited, energized and open-minded. We want to switch everyone into the positive state as quickly as possible. This is surprisingly logistical:
- Make it really easy for people to get into the party. Put up a sign that the door is unlocked. Put signs up on the gate of how to get in. Send instructions in an email. Remember people want to get inside as soon as possible. Make this easy.
- Start on a high. The best of all worlds is to greet people as they enter. I usually plant myself very close to the door so I can be a warm welcome. If not, you can also have a clear welcome area. Sometimes I put up a silly piece of paper that says, “Take off your shoes & coats and feel free to put on jammies. Grab a mint in the bowl below and come on in!”
- Comfort food + drink. Nothing makes people feel more at ease than a drink in their hand and food nearby. I always have drinks out and ready to be grabbed instantly. I also always offer people something fun to start. I usually have apple cider in the winter and a blended cocktail of some kind in the summer. It is a great opening question and gets people excited. You have no idea how happy people get when I say, “Would you like some spiced Apple cider or hot cocoa?!”
To make it easy, I am a big fan of chalkboard signs.
I use one when people come in with something fun or a quote and often have them by the food too.
#3: Peak or Valley?
The biggest mistake that hosts make is assuming people will have fun doing the same thing the entire night. Hours upon hours of mingling is torture for introverts and many ambiverts.
No matter how good the food, how cool the people, the idea of 3 hours of mingling around a party overwhelms most people.
It is better when you can break the party up into what I call highlights. You want to insert these into the typical breakdown of a night. Here is how that looks:
You actually want people to know these phases and then plan some programming for people to look forward to and break up the mingling. These should all be aimed at creating “Peak Moments.” People remember the worst or best moment of an event. If you do not have anything planned, this can often be the worst moment. Typical worst moments:
- Not knowing who to talk to.
- Having an awkward conversation with someone you barely know.
- Looking at your watch and wondering when it would be ok to leave.
- Not knowing where to sit or eat.
- Not having enough to eat or drink.
You want to focus on peak moments. Peak moments are the best when you reveal a surprise of some kind, when you have people laugh or when you teach something.
Here are the ones I go for:
- Revealing a special dessert or food item — surprise s’mores! Fondue! Flaming cake!
- Revealing a special or performance based cocktail – Buttery nipple shots! Flaming margaritas! Whiskey infused macaroons!
- We are playing a favorite game.
- We are playing a new game.
- We are going to do a fun new experiment.
- We are going to watch a funny video.
- We are going to hear a funny toast!
- Trying out a new conversation starter.
These can actually be relatively small. It’s basically the moment where the entire group focuses on one game or announcement for a few moments and causes smiles, laughs or oohs and aahs. At small events this is actually pretty easy. At big events I have been known to plant bowls of conversation starters around the room to allow for smaller peak moments.
#4: The Recency Effect
This is a psychological phenomenon where we tend to remember the last item in a sequence. At an event, we are typically assessing our night as we drive home or talk to our spouse on the way out. So if the last thing we saw or did was great, it optimizes the whole night.
This is why wedding favors and party favors work really well. EXCEPT when they are given out at the beginning. Weddings that place favors at everyone’s chair are terrible—you basically waste the recency effect. You are much better off having them in a basket as people leave.
I have found that people typically want to leave at specific times:
- After the first hour – this is for introverts, people who have another event or are having a bad time. That’s ok! Prepare for this. It happens often.
- After the last item is served – if you are serving dinner / dessert. No matter what time, some people will leave after dessert. Prepare for this.
- On the hour. People often make deals with themselves or their spouses—we are leaving at 10pm! We are leaving right at 6pm!
How can you optimize those last moments? I have strong opinions about this after lots of testing. Here’s how I feel, let me know if you agree.
- Don’t encourage the trickle out. I actually want people to feel welcome to leave if they need to. In fact the WORST thing you can do is pressure someone into staying. This can often turn into their low moment. So I will often say at the beginning of the night: “We will do dinner and then dessert and then take it easy.” To let people know what’s coming.
- Phase Change: Let people know if you are playing games, serving food or having a surprise. This helps people know there are phases to the night and they can leave at a phase change.
- Permission Exits: At the end of each phase I usually say something like, “Hey everyone we are going to play a game next! You do not have to play, but wanted to give you a heads up!” Or “Let’s play one more game before having dessert.” This gives people an easy out and allows me to graciously say goodbye.
I like small parting gifts but this can be a bit much for a casual party. Sometimes if I have lots of leftovers I will quickly bag up some dessert and hand ziplocks to people leaving, “here are some munchies for the road!”
#5: The Perfect Host
If you want to be an awesome host this is the best thing you should be saying all night:
“Hey! Have you met ___? I would love to introduce you!”
The second best thing to be saying all night:
“Can I get you more food / drink?”
The best thing you can do as a host is give people peak moments and connect as many people as possible. Don’t worry about being in charge of everyone’s good time. The best you can do is give them comfort and excitement.
Need a little extra help? Download our:
#6: Group Think
I have noticed that when events have a ‘group think’ moment EVERYONE likes the event more. I think it is because it is a bonding moment—but I am not sure. Let me explain. What I call a group think moment is when the entire group does an activity together or everyone has a moment of enjoyment at the same time. I try to always have a group think moment as a potential peak moment if I can. Here’s how:
- Give a toast or encourage funny toasts.
- Play games. I am a huge fan of formal or casual game nights. I have a whole post on how to throw a game night here.Even at big house parties you can have games going on. For example, sometimes I will make a toast at a big party thanking everyone and then challenging people to try to find the one person at the party who just got a new tattoo / or just moved here from Ireland / or has a fake accent. This often generates some buzz.
- Food as bonding. There is a reason I really like serving s’mores and fondue at my parties. It encourages everyone to gather around and do the same activity at the same time.
- Use props. I have a couch guest book that my friends Stephen and Christine gave me and I will often ask everyone to sign it before they go and read from it. I also love wine charms that people can talk about and food people can use as conversation starters.
Couch Sign In Book:
Funny Wine Charms:
Be Kids as Adults:
#7: Your Party Spot
You do not have to have the perfect party house to throw an awesome party, but you do want to take some time to optimize it. First, make it easy for people to find things:
- The bathroom. Put up signs, make it obvious, stock it with toilet paper and soap. Like lots more than you think.
Right Here! Bathroom Sign:
Funny Toilet Paper:
- Location changes. This might sound odd, but I have found that people will often stay longer and have a better time if I encourage location changes. Often times I set-up appetizers in a different spot than dinner and a different spot than dessert. Then people kind of circulate and hover differently. We also have a porch and try to have that as a ‘stop’ in our party circuit.
- Food. Everyone has food sensitivities these days. Make it easy and tell gluten free peeps what is and what isn’t. Tell vegans what’s safe and what is not. This is just an optional step to be kind for those guests. I like to make everyone feel as welcome as possible!
I make mine with chalkboard signs:
#8: Never Forget Names Again
Have you ever been in a situation where you met someone at the beginning of a party then you run into them later on, after you’ve had a couple of drinks, or a few weeks later while you’re out, and you have no idea what their name is? It’s super awkward. I want to help you avoid ever having to deal with that again by teaching you how to quickly remember names.
The trick with names is that you have to consciously use your brain. Different parts of the brain activate when you process information audibly, verbally and visually. So, to maximize your chances of remembering names, you need to engage each of those parts. Here’s how:
- Auditory: Give them your full attention when they say their name so you hear it without your brain being distracted by your thoughts.
- Verbal: After they they say their name, say it back to them. For example, “Nice to meet you Michael. So what brings you here, Michael? What do you do, Michael?”
- Visual: Think of all the people you know with the same name and picture this new person in a group among them.
If it’s a difficult name, the best thing you can do is think about what it sounds like. Rhyming their name with something you have memories of can activate parts of your brain that help you remember. For example, I met someone named Sura. I’ve never met someone with that name before, so I couldn’t associate them with anyone else. Instead, their name reminded me of Syrah wine and they said they liked wine. So, whenever I see Sura, I remember the wine and their name.
#9: The Art of the Perfect Handshake
Handshakes matter just as much at parties as they do at job interviews. It’s important to know that not all handshakes are created equal.
While most advice focuses on the firmness of your handshake and hiding nervous cues such as shaky hands and sweaty palms, people rarely consider the angle of the handshake. Have you ever reached out to someone and they flipped your hand up? This is a very dominant gesture. When people with alpha personalities want to assert authority, they may tend to flip people’s hands up in handshakes. Whether they are aware of it or not, their brain subconsciously knows that when they place their hand on top when shaking someone’s hand it makes the other person feel less powerful. Another dominant handshake is when one person pulls the other person’s hand so hard that they are forced to come closer and slightly lose their balance.
Here’s an example of what that looks like:
Rather than engaging in one of the dominant displays, or letting someone do one of them to you, go for a nice, equal handshake where neither you nor the person you’re speaking to has the upper hand. Doing this is simple:
Keep your hand fully vertical and shake up and down.
In American culture, one pump means “It’s good to see you,” and two to three pumps means “I’m so happy you’re here.”
If you want to make your handshake more personal, put your other hand on top of the other person’s. This releases double the amount of oxytocin – the bonding hormone that is triggered by touch.
Warning: Use this double handshake with caution. Some people are uncomfortable being touched by people they don’t know well and will have a negative reaction toward the heightened level of intimacy. Save the double handshake for people who hug, place their hands on people’s arms and backs, and/or display other behavior that shows they are open to touch.
In addition to watching for other people’s level of comfort with touch, you can use body language to show yours. Here’s how:
- If you want to hug, open your body with your arms out.
- If you don’t want to hug, approach with your body at an angle so you’re putting one arm forward for a handshake while angling the other side of your body away from the person.
- If you don’t want a handshake, the best thing is put your hand up for a wave and say something like “Hi, it’s good to see you.”
Knowing how to approach handshakes is key to having great interactions at parties because it starts your interactions off on a positive note.
#10: Bottom Line
I never thought being the source of fun and merriment could make ME so happy. It might sound like a lot of work to throw a great party – and it can be. But there is nothing better than providing a fun, comfortable, open setting for people in your life.
Bottom Line: Make your party work for you.
Are you not arts and craftsy? No worries! Hate cooking? Order in or do potluck! Hate games? Blast music and make a dance party.
If you have fun FIRST, others are much more likely to join in.
Need a little extra help? Download our:
Party Planning Checklist
- Make an invitation list. For a large cocktail party, invite 20 percent more people than you can fit, since typically only 70 percent to 80 percent of invitees attend.
- Decide on a theme, if you want one. Make, buy, or borrow any decorations or music you may need to fit the theme.
- Send invitations. Mail, e-mail, even phone invites are all acceptable.
- Plan the menu. Assemble the recipes (choose only those that can be prepared in advance, perhaps even frozen, with just warming and assembling required on party day). Make a list of how far in advance each can be made, and compile a shopping list. Place an order with your local delicatessen or bakery, as needed.
- Line up any help you may need. Consider hiring a high school student or a professional to help with pre- or postparty cleaning or to pass drinks or appetizers, replenish buffet food, tidy up, and generally take some weight off your shoulders.
- Clean any crystal, china, and silverware you’ll be using. And launder and iron linens.
- Come up with a playlist. The music should be upbeat and sufficient to last throughout the party. For a summer party, click on the link below to download a playlist.
- Do a first round of grocery shopping and cooking. Prepare any dishes that can be frozen.
- Clean the house thoroughly. This way, you’ll need only a quick once-over before the party. (To maintain it for the rest of the week, try the 19-minute daily routine at www.realsimple.com/quickcleanup.)
- Set the stage. Arrange the furniture as you’ll want it for the party, making sure that guests can move easily from one part of your house to another. Designate a coffee table or side table for coffee and dessert, if you’ll be serving them. Tuck away things that will be in the way, precious items that might get broken (or even be taken), and any clutter. Figure out the lighting: Using low-wattage bulbs or candlelight will create the right mood.
- Take inventory of cookware and serving dishes. If you don’t have enough for every dish you’re serving, consider purchasing inexpensive pieces from a discount or thrift store. Label each dish with a Post-it so you’ll remember what you plan to use it for at party time.
- Stock the bar. Plan three bottles of wine for every four people, three to four cocktails per guest for a two- to three-hour cocktail party.
- Notify the neighbors. Let them know you’re having a party if you expect it to be large, loud, or parking-intensive.
- Decorate. Arrange candles, put up theme decorations, etc.
- Check the medicine cabinet. Remove any personal items you wouldn’t want guests to see.
- Set up clean-up stations. Place a box of salt, Wine Away (red wine stain remover), club soda, and a couple of rags in a wicker basket, and store a few in strategic places in case a nasty spill occurs.
- Specify a place for coats. Make space in a closet and fill it with hangers. You could also choose a bed for coats (make sure the room is especially tidy and free of valuables, so you won’t need to worry about them), or purchase an inexpensive portable garment rack.
- Finish grocery shopping. Make a detailed cooking schedule for your remaining dishes.
- Set the tables. Or set up the buffet.
- Buy and arrange flowers.
- Finish as much of the cooking as you can. Also, for any foods that require cooking on party day, do as much prep (dicing, marinating, rinsing lettuce, etc.) as possible.
- Give your house a once-over. Do whatever touch-ups are needed.
- Finish any last-minute cooking. This should be absolutely minimal!
- Place chairs. Don’t worry about having enough seating for everyone; fewer seats will encourage mingling.
- Display food. One to two hours before guests arrive, set out appetizers and snacks that won’t spoil. Wrap them tightly to ensure freshness; tear off the wrap when the first guest rings the doorbell.
- Greet guests as they arrive. Things should be organized so you’re free to mingle, not tied to the kitchen.