The Seven Deadly Sins party theme is a really inspiring concept that's perfect for an informal birthday, Halloween, or bachelorette party. Alternatively, it can also be interpreted in a more sophisticated way to create a seated dinner or cocktail party for an adult birthday.
The great thing about the Seven Deadly Sins party theme is that it gives you seven mini-themes to explore all in one; Lust, Wrath, Greed, Envy, Pride, Sloth and Gluttony. You could even go the extra mile and combine the 7 Deadly Sins party with the 7 Heavenly Virtues party; Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness and Humility.
Here's a quick reminder of the definition of each one for your Seven Deadly Sins party:
Lust an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body
Gluttony the over-indulgence of anything to the point of waste
Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work
Envy the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation
Wrath strong vengeful anger or indignation
Pride excessive belief in one's own abilities. Often interpreted as Vanity.
Greed an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs, especially with respect to material wealth
The Seven Deadly Sins is a classification of objectionable vices that has been used since early Christian times, but to turn these into creative party ideas I think it's fun to interpret them in ways that are relevant to everyday modern life.
When I was researching this Seven Deadly Sins party I stumbled across some amazing images by a photographer called Mark Velasquez who drew comparisons between the 7 Deadly Sins and issues in modern American life. For example, Envy was interpreted as Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Wrath as Domestic Abuse, Greed as Kleptomania. See the rest of his Seven Deadly Sins of Modern America here.
While I'm not suggesting issues such as domestic abuse are necessarily appropriate for a party, these photos are a good source of inspiration so you can make each one relevant to everyday life.
Envy (Body dysmorphic disorder):
'Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental disorder, which involves a disturbed body image, which isn't helped by our culture telling both sexes that they need to look like super models. So here is a classic example, sizing yourself up to the next person, as we all do' Mark Velasquez.
'Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder which primarily consists of the fear of experiencing a difficult or embarrassing situation from which the sufferer cannot escape. In severe cases, an agoraphobic may be confined not only to their home, but to one or two rooms, and they may even become bed-bound, or a recluse' Mark Velasquez.
'Kleptomania is an inability or great difficultly in resisting impulses of stealing. The most interesting thing about kleptomaniacs is that they often steal things they would never want or have a use for. In this case, a very well off woman pocketing a bottle of Tapatio hot sauce from a Mexican market' Mark Velasquez.
A Seven Deadly Sins party can be interpreted in different ways depending on whether its for an informal birthday, Halloween party or a sophisticated gourmet feast for an adult birthday party.
So, first decide what format your party will take.
If it's a seated party you might want to plan a seven course menu, with each course inspired by a different one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Don't panic at the thought of a seven course menu, some of the courses can be very small and made in advance. Think of it as more of a tasting menu. Each course gives you an opportunity to represent a different sin.
1st Course: Amuse-Bouche (one bite)
2nd Course: Soup (could be served in shot glasses / tumblers to make smaller)
3rd Course: Salad
4th Course: Fish
5th Course: Meat
6th Course: Cheese Plate
7th Course: Dessert
The soup and dessert course can be made the day before, and the cheese board, salad, and (cold) amuse bouche can be prepared ahead of time so they only need to be arranged on the plate. Which means you only really have to worry about cooking the fish and meat course on the night. If you're still worried that's too much to make you could easily swap the 4th Fish course for a simple palate cleanser—often a light sorbet—which again you can make the day before.
Alternatively, for a party with larger numbers assign a different sin to each room in the house (include the bathroom, kitchen, and garden). You can set up a different bar or food station in each room for people to discover different themed food and drink. This is a great way to encourage people to explore while making sure there is a good flow which keeps the energy of the party up. It also means you can include lots more creative party ideas by using different decorations, games, and activities in each room.
If you don't have the space to devote a whole room to each sin, you can still have a Seven Deadly Sins party with different mini bars / food tables spread over whatever space you do have. Alternatively if you want to keep everything in one main room you can still be just as creative. Just set up one large buffet table and divide it into seven distinct sections by using different colored table cloths for each sin and decorate each section accordingly (see Decorations section below).
seven deadly sins Invitations
With the Seven Deadly Sins party theme there's lots of scope to get creative with your party ideas.
7 Day Teaser Invitations
Professional party planners often send small 'teasers' out ahead of the main invitation to build anticipation or act as a 'Save the Date'. I think that, if timed well, teasers that give a little bit of information away at a time are great fun - your guests will love receiving multiple teasers.
So, have a little fun with the invitations for your Seven Deadly Sins party by sending your guests a series of cryptic teasers representing each sin over the course of seven days. On the 7th day you can include all the necessary party information, or send one final invitation with all the info to arrive on the 8th day.
Label each envelope 1 (of 7), then the next day (2 of 7), followed by 3 (of 7) etc. That way your guests will know there is more information to follow and won't get frustrated or mistake it for junk mail.
Some ideas are: (Note: these ideas are intended for an informal Seven Deadly Sins party)
Turn a Maid Service advertising flyer into a postcard and send to your guests with just the word 'Sloth' written on in the message section.
Day 3: Gluttony
Send an advertising flyer for an All You Can Buffet with the word 'Gluttony' scrawled on the reverse.
Day 4: Lust
Circle and cut out non-explicit call girl ads from newspaper classifieds (below left) and send with the word 'lust' scribbled over them (preferably in red lipstick!). Or if the invitee is a woman or a gay guy, look around for a male escort ad (below right).
Day 5: Envy
If the invitee is a man, send him the cover of a Men's Health magazine (below left) showing a picture of a male model showing off his six pack (of abs, not beer!). Scribble the word 'Envy' across the picture. Or for a woman you could send a photo of Kate Middleton (below right) on her wedding day (well, she did get a Prince, a Palace, and will one day be called Her Majesty...what's not to envy?).
Day 6: Wrath
Send a flyer advertising anger management classes, with the word 'Wrath' scribbled on the front.
Day 7: Pride
If the invitee is a woman or a gay guy, pick up some small plastic jars—the sort used to decant your toiletries into when travelling. Scoop in some cheap generic cream / milky looking body wash.
Then make your own label that with the brand name 'Pride' Anti-Aging Cream. Add some small print that spoofs some of the meaningless language used by real anti-aging creams, such as 'our Revitalift formula includes patented Pro-Gen technology to boost oxygen microcirculation which resets the skin's aging clock by converting resting adult stem cells to newly minted skin cells'.
Alternatively, send out some (needle less) syringes (below right) and add a small sticky label to them that reads 'Botox'. You can fill these with a colored gel (cheap hair gel works well) to give it a more lurid chemical-like appearance.
If the guest is a man, print off one of the many adverts available online for 'male enhancement' treatments.
Using a number of teasers gives you plenty of scope to include lots of creative ideas into your event. Just prepare all your teasers in advance and then post them a day apart. Even if they arrive out of order, or your guests are away when they arrive, the numbering on the envelope will mean they can piece them together as intended.
On Day 8 send your full invitation explaining the party theme with all the necessary information (see the Printed Invitations section below).
A great way to bring The Seven Deadly Sins party theme to life is to create a different drink / cocktail to represent each of the sins. If you're separating the sins into different rooms or areas you can set up all the ingredients for each cocktail along with some empty cocktail shakers and a recipe card / instructions sheet so your guests can play bartender and make the cocktail themselves. This interactive element can make for a good icebreaker at the beginning of a party as it creates a talking point and gets guests involved.
Here are some ideas for themed drinks:
This Chocolate Bramble Cocktail (right, by Paul A Young via The Guardian) looks so indulgent with its rich chocolate liquor, crushed blackberries and dark chocolate squares all piled up in the middle that it's perfect to represent Gluttony.
Create an anti-aging cocktail using fruits that are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help keep skin firm by protecting the skin's collagen and elastic tissue from oxidants or 'free radicals' that attack it.
Don't forget to make up fun names for each of the cocktails and label accordingly. For example, the Pride cocktail might be called The Narcissist, Sloth could be The DIY, Greed might be The Banker's Bonus, Envy The Green-Eyed Monster etc. It's these little touches that people notice.
I haven't included an alternative for Sloth because the instant cocktail mixes suggested in the drinks section above are already a low-maintenance option.
Approach your Seven Deadly Sins party food in the same way by designing dishes that represent each sin.
Present food in the style of haute cuisine ie small portions, clean minimalist presentation using huge oversized white plates and bowls, sauce drizzled in a zig zag pattern (below left) or in a circle around the perimeter of the bowl. The trick to recreating this look is to have an abundance of white space on the plate and each bite of food should be laid out in neat ordered rows. You can also serve small bites in individual spoons (below right) or in shots glasses (see chilled soup shots on The Secret Garden page for a photo).
Alternatively, you can serve smaller bite sized party food on hand held mirrors using them as serving trays, serve chilled soup shots in syringes labelled 'Botox' for guests to squirt into their mouths, or serve mini desserts (such as white chocolate mousse) in small plastic travel jars given 'Anti-Aging Cream' labels. See here for these items.
You’ve heard of Turducken, right? A chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey. Well check out this recipe for dessert equivalent created by Charles Pheonix. The Cherpumple 'Monster' Pie Cake is a three-layer cake with a different pie baked inside each layer. Cherpumple is short for CHERry, PUMpkin and apple pie. The apple pie is based inside a spice cake, the pumpkin pie inside a yellow cake, and the cherry pie inside a white cake. I couldn’t think of a better dish to sum up Gluttony!
Left photo Jim Freeman, Right photo David Lowery
See the video below for a demonstration by it's creator Charles Pheonix, or check out his site to see photo's of Cherpumple's sent in by visitors like the two above.
Go for slow roasted dishes such as pork or chicken, or anything cooked in a slow cooker such as pot roast, chilli, or casserole. Here’s a whole site devoted to slow cooker recipes.
Alternatively make this part of your party menu into a joke and lay out a stack of microwave ready meals, Hot Pockets and Pop Tarts next to a microwave for guests to prepare themselves. You could also make some cupcakes using a cake mix (leave the packet out for all to see) and leave them unfinished alongside different tubs of ready-made frosting and a spatula for guests to finish themselves.
Make dishes that use aphrodisiac foods such as asparagus, almonds, avocado, bananas, basil, chocolate, figs, honey, strawberries and probably the most well known....oysters. Here’s a list of aphrodisiac recipes to help you think of some more creative party ideas including (baked) Oysters Kilpatrick (below left) and nutmeg ice cream (below right), both from BBC Goodfood. Be sure to label each dish and highlight the aphrodisiac ingredients so that your guests make the connection.
There are also x-rated fortune cookies, edible nipples, penis cake sprinkles and boobie & pecker cookie cutters which you can use on sandwiches, pizza, cookie and cakes. See here for these items.
Use fiery foods such as chilli, or prepare everything in this area on the barbecue using some of these recipes like Margarita Chicken (below left) and Cilantro-Lime Shrimp and Plum Kebabs (below right), both from Disney Family. Or if you’re feeling very adventurous check out this list of flambé recipes.
Cover a table with hundreds of chocolate coins—the more the better—all overlapping one another and piled up into mounds. There are also various other chocolate money products available such as chocolate dollar bills, dollar mints, and dollar sign lollipops. See here for these items.
Make all dishes in this area entirely green—no other colors. For example, chilled pea and mint mini soups served in shot glasses, spinach fettuccine, green tortilla’s / enchiladas, spinach wraps, Thai green curry, key lime pie, green cupcakes, wasabi covered peas, grapes, green olives, mint ice cream.
If it's an informal house party, serve some foods that are not usually green such as these Green Tortilla Chips (below left, from Kids Cuisine) or Green Popcorn (below right, from Skip to my Lou).
Dress different areas of your Seven Deadly Sins party with props and decorations to reflect each of the sins.
Use this dollar bill scene setter (below left) to line the walls in the 'greed' area. It's 4ft high and 40 ft long so you can create a pretty impressive scene. To decorate smaller areas use these huge dollar bill wall stickers (below right). See here for both.
Hang photos of people like Gordon Gekko, Bernie Madoff, or Donald Trump (write any catchphrases or short messages such as "You're Fired!" or "Don't Get Caught" on them yourself and sign them as if they've been autographed by the actual person).
If you're setting up a different bar / buffet table in each area dress this with lots of fake bank notes, coins, and plastic diamonds along with copies of the Wall Street Journal, cut outs of bank logos and the Monopoly board. See here for supplies.
If you want to create a centerpiece for your 'Greed' buffet table / bar you could use this money purse or this talking Donald Trump doll. Alternatively, for a budget option make a central display by stacking up these gold bar favor boxes. See here for these items.
Cover an entire wall with call girl / male escortcards or chat-line ads from newspaper classifieds and magazines but leave some empty spaces for your guests to make up their own. Get them to take turns writing a fake ad for how they would describe themselves as an escort and see if people can guess which one belongs to who.
There are lots of great bachelorette party style decorations that you can use for the Lust area of your Seven Deadly Sins party. These include balloons with couples having sex on, pecker tissue garlands and sexy playing cards (which you can thread onto string or ribbon to make homemade garlands or hang in vertical strips dangling from the ceiling). See here for lots of supplies.
Of course, the Lust section wouldn't be complete without a blow up sex doll (available in his and hers!) or you could use on of these huge inflatable peckers. See here for these.
To dress the bar / buffet table top scatter condoms, copies or Playboy / Playgirl (the vintage covers are particularly funny), and fluffy handcuffs and whips around. Or scatter the sexy playing cards mentioned above over the tabletop.
Don't forget the importance of music when planning your Seven Deadly Sins party - it can add a huge amount of atmosphere. Believe it or not there's actually a genre of music known as 'Porn Groove' used to describe the cheesy electric guitar with wah-wah pedal soundtrack synonymous with 1970's pornographic movies. Check out these compilation CD's and leave them on repeat in the lust themed area.
Dress the food / bar table to look like a dressing table with a large vanity mirror as the centerpiece. Scatter lots of anti-aging face creams and bottles of moisturizers around, boxes of Rogaine, plastic syringes with Botox written on them, and magazines left open with adverts for cosmetic surgery circled.
Style the Gluttony area as a huge over-indulgent dessert table. Cram on lots of cheap cakes, jellies, biscuits, chocolates, donuts and candies—the more brightly colored, synthetic, and sickly looking the better. The table should be completely covered and over-flowing with no free space. Don't forget to use a good mixture of cake stands, trays, bowls, and jars to create different levels.
Place an individual tray on each bed or chair filled with drinks and snacks so people don't have to get up for anything. Set up the TV in this room and leave it playing on MTV with the remote control close to hand.
If your party is a seated dinner, you could make this the final course and move everyone away from the dining table onto soft chairs.
Set up this area of your Seven Deadly Sins party as a crime scene, which gives you lots of scope for decorations. Start by using this blood splatter scene setter to transform the walls. There's also a funny Psycho themed shower curtain (below right) that you could add which comes with a motion activated sound effect that plays the Psycho theme and screaming. See here for both of these.
Tape off areas with this crime scene hazard tape, and lay this crime scene throw on the floor. See here for both.
Decorate this area of your Seven Deadly Sins party with pictures of famous people cut out of magazines that represent aspirational things. Include a mix of superficial ones such as Taylor Lautner's six pack, Angelina Jolie's looks, Kim Kardashian's ass, P Diddy's VIP lifestyle, Donald Trump's properties, etc with pictures that represent other people's skills, talents, and abilities (famous sports people, musicians, business leaders, chefs etc).
Give each guest a fake dollar bill with their name on and ask them to stick it to the picture they are most envious of. It should make for interesting viewing!
If you're using the paper lanterns mentioned above, these look best when hung in clusters (see example below left, from Martha Stewart). You can also pick up cheap battery LED bulbs to make the lanterns glow without having to worry about power cords. Alternatively, for a more feminine look use green tissue pom-poms (below right, Martha Stewart)
If you're going for an informal Seven Deadly Sins party you could turn it into a costume party and ask your guests to come wearing an outfit inspired by one of sins. For inspiration, check out this photo shoot from America's Next Top Model where each of the contestants was styled as a different sin.
There are also some ready-made costumes that fit well with these 7 Deadly Sins party ideas, such as various Fat Suits for Gluttony, blood stained clothes for Wrath or a Dollar Bill costume for Greed. See here for these.
A word of warning though....some people will inevitably come without a costume claiming to be Sloth. If that's the case, prepare a forfeit in advance to punish the slackers—perhaps they have to provide other guests with foot rubs while they recline in the Sloth room (see games and activities below).
Party Games / Activities
Below are some ideas for games and activities (for an informal Seven Deadly Sins party):
Set up a small confession box in each themed area of your party with pieces of paper and pens for guests to write anonymous confessions of a time that they committed that sin. Read them out at the end of the party after everyone's had a few drinks and see if you can guess who wrote each one.
For Gluttony, hold donut-eating competitions and drinking games.
For Pride, hold a fashion show (if it's a costume party) or Vogue-off's (have someone operate a camera so people can react to the flash) then judge who has stuck the most vain pose.
For Wrath, set up an inflatable punch bag / piñata or a dartboard with famous villain's faces on to let guests take their anger out on.
For Envy, pin up photos of every guest and have people write underneath what it is they envy about them.
For Greed, play gambling games.
For Sloth, have anybody who didn't come in costume provide foot rubs to people as they lounge around on bean bags in the Sloth area. Or have them provide a waiter service to people in this area as a punishment (give people a bell to 'ring for service').
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Matt James is a professional party planner and owner of event agency DNA Productions, which has produced events for Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kevin Spacey, Stella McCartney, David LaChapelle, John Waters, and Elvis Costello & Diana Krall. Since 2004, DNA has won 24 industry awards for excellence including Production Company of the Year.