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I can't stress enough the importance of choosing original and creative party theme ideas. A good party invitation will be designed to reflect the theme of the party. Therefore, the theme is often the first piece of information you give to your guests. And that first impression really matters. It could be the difference between them deciding whether to come to your party or not.
So it's important that party themes are exciting and inspiring, perhaps even a little unusual. You want to capture your guest's imagination right from the start and make them curious about what to expect.
Put yourself in your guest's shoes. You receive an invitation to a Hawaiian themed party. It's not exactly the most original theme, so you instantly think you know what to expect: Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, leis, some fake palm trees, and an abundance of pineapple and coconut food and drink. All the usual clichés. Already you're rolling your eyes and thinking 'not again'.
Now think about how you'd feel if you opened another invitation where the party theme was The Secret Garden. It has mysterious, romantic, even magical connotations. It evokes the idea of discovering something special and hidden and conjures up images of a mystical enchanted garden. This theme hints at something and piques the imagination, but because it hasn't been done to death you're not entirely sure what it will entail.
Now ask yourself which of the two parties you'd rather go to?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, definitely.
But it's important that we're clear about what I mean by a party theme first. Themed parties sometimes get a bad rap because they're often associated with costume parties and fancy dress. Being told the theme of a party is going to be The 1920's and you imagine people will be walking around dressed as gangster and flapper girls.
But party theme ideas don't have to be used in such a heavy-handed way. The theme does not have to dominate a whole event. They can also be used in a subtle way just to add an underlying style or flavor. Party theme ideas can be a big and bold concept such as The Seven Deadly Sins or it could just be a simple color scheme such as a White Party.
So to get away from the negative connotations and cliché's associated with themed parties, from now on when I refer to a party theme throughout this site, think of it more as a party concept.
I believe it's essential that every party—whether it's a birthday, anniversary, or baby shower—should start with a strong concept. Even if the concept/theme is never articulated directly to the guests, the host should have a theme in his or her mind when they start the party planning. It will provide a mental framework to hang all the different elements onto—influencing decisions and providing consistency between each aspect of the party—such as invitations, food and drink ideas, and decorations. This way there will be a common thread that runs between everything to tie it all together. (Once you've finished reading these pages about themes, be sure to read the other pages in the Tips and Advice section, such as Invitation Ideas where I'll explain how to apply your chosen theme to other aspects of your party so that it all hangs together).
If you don't have a theme in place at the beginning it's very easy to stray off-track and make creative decisions that might clash when everything is finally put together. The irony is that not all your guests will be conscious of how all the different party elements fit together in keeping with a theme. But believe me they will notice when something doesn't fit—it always stands out.
Whenever I've given a speech at an industry event, the question I'm most frequently asked is 'Where do you get your party theme ideas?'. So see my suggestions for where to look for inspiration for your own creative ideas for themes.
Your choice of theme helps define your party and give subtle indicators as to the style, tone and type of party your guests can expect. A theme can tell your guests whether it's going to be a chic, elegant and sophisticated evening, or a relaxed and casual event where guests can really let their hair down.
I speak a lot about the importance of originality and creativity when choosing a theme, but it's also worth noting that you can often put a fresh spin on an old idea just by giving some thought to how you communicate what the theme is.
For example, I've already mentioned that the suggestion of a 1920's themed party often brings to mind some fairly clichéd ideas of gangsters and flapper girls. However, when the supermodel Kate Moss threw a 1920's themed party for her 30th Birthday the theme was The Beautiful and the Damned after the classic novel by F.Scott Fitzgerald.
Borrowing the title of novel set in the 1920's instantly gave what could have been perceived as a tired, over-used theme a fresh new air of sophistication. As the book focuses on the so-called smart set of New York Cafe Society at the beginning of the Jazz Age, guests would have been given a clear idea what type of 1920's style to expect. I'm pretty sure no-one turned up in an joke-shop Al Capone costume clutching a plastic machine gun!
Take a look at my suggestions on how to keep well-known and popular party theme ideas feeling fresh and original.
Hopefully I've convinced you of the benefits of giving your party a theme/concept—however subtle it may be. So, be sure to browse the list of party theme ideas I've put together to give you some inspiration. I've split this list into a few sub-sections such as Kids Birthday Party Themes, Teenage Party Themes, and Adult Party Themes depending on which type of occasion I thought the theme best suited.
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It's worth noting, however, that many of the party theme ideas can easily be re-interpreted from an adult's party to a kid's birthday party, and sometimes even vice-versa. Therefore, if you don't find anything you fancy in these specific sub-categories first, it's worth browsing the A-Z list of party theme ideas to see if anything catches your eye. It may be that a theme in the kids birthday party list could work just as well as an adult theme.
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Matt James is a professional event planner and owner of event agency Left Field 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, Left Field Productions has won 30 industry awards for excellence including Production Company of the Year.
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