Theme Parties Basics

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Theme Parties
The Basics from PlantPirate

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Theme Parties

Mirtha Stuwort

PlantPirate - Your Party Pal!

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Theme parties are a blast - the fun of a theme party is you can throw them anytime - no reason, no season - just Party!  

I've done theme parties for years, both professionally and for personal parties for 'kids' of all ages.  

Let's start off with the basics, and I'll be following up with articles on the details and various types of theme parties.

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Basics for Throwing a Theme Party

There are seven basic components to a successful Theme Party:  Choosing a Theme, Invitations, Menu, Decor, Music, Games and Prizes.  We're going to take them one at a time and list the things to consider - like assessing what you've got on hand that you can use, and finding sources for the rest.  Watch for successive articles that will cover more detail on each of the basics.

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Choose a Theme:

Popular themes that are fairly easy to carry out and lend themselves nicely to "costume" type parties include:

  • A year or decade - e.g. the 20s, 50s, 70s, Y3K, etc., or even a "through the years" type theme where guests can come as a character from any time frame they choose.

  • Medieval or "knights of the roundtable", etc. type themes.

  • TV show or movie themes.

  • Murder and/or mystery themes.

You can even mix and match these types of themes - for example, 

  • A 1920s detective movies setting for a murder mystery.

  • An "devolution" party theme where guests can come as anything from cavemen to Dick Tracy to futuristic beings.

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Invitations should be sent at least two weeks in advance of the party date, and longer if the party is held during the busy fall to Christmas season.

  • They should fit the theme - make sure the type of paper, lettering, graphics, etc. all foster the theme of your planned party.

  • If costumes are required, provide details and examples.

  • Provide your phone number so guests with questions can call you in advance.

Check out the invitations page for more ideas!  

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Menu planning is a careful balancing act between the creative and the practical - the less you have to do on the day of the party, the better it is for your sanity...

  • Choose what you want to serve as the "main" menu - again it should foster the theme of the party.

  • Delegate to friends additional simple dishes that fit the theme, or that "special" dish a friend is an expert at preparing.

  • For complex menus or special dishes that fit the theme, contract with a caterer or one of the many boutique shops that will prepare the food and all you have to do is heat and serve.

  • Find dishes that can be made ahead and frozen and/or refrigerated.

  • Remember, even simple to prepare and serve foods and beverages can be made to fit a theme by judicious use of food coloring, fruits and vegetables that exude their color to a dish, or colored juices - e.g. tint everything bloody red for Halloween, or green for St. Patrick's Day.

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Get creative!  Even Cousin It can be made from crepe paper or cellophane basket straw, and an old top hat.

  • First, look around your house to see what you have that can be used or adapted to suit the theme.

  • Second-hand and party stores are good sources for decorations too.

  • Get crafty - check out the Mirtha Stuwort and the Cheap Decorating sections of this site for great and goofy ideas.

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Music is a must - even if it's only background music.

  • Music needs to coincide with the party theme.

  • For 20s, 50s, etc. parties, use the dance music collections that abound on tape and CD.

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If you will have games, they too should foster the theme of the party.

  • Games can start upon arrival, or later, depending on the theme of your party.

  • Games must be BEFORE the meal because people rarely feel up to games on a full tummy, and many often leave after the meal.

  • For children's parties, remember you can adapt many popular games to the theme - e.g. "pin the glasses on the teacher" instead of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey for a school's out type party.

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Prizes are not necessarily required except if you want to do them for "best costume" or for children's parties.

  • Prizes should also foster the theme of the party.

  • Party stores and dollar stores are good sources for little trophies and toys you can adapt to your theme.

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