Presenting our first ever guest post here on Minimally Nerdy, written by my very good friend (and party god) Michael Underlin!
Back in my single days I enjoyed throwing parties with my best friends that have since then fallen into local legend. One such party may or may not have had the police raid the house, treating arriving guests to an en mass exodus of 90’s-dressed partiers running all over the yard much like a scene from [Enter favorite 90’s teen movie here.] I thought I’d share some insights on what I’ve learned over the years through a lot of trial and error. These tips are by no means the definitive guide, but I believe these general rules can apply to parties of all types and sizes.
Step 1: Picking a Theme
Some people believe that they can just choose any ol’ theme like drink every time someone does XYZ and that will be enough. Now I’m sure having everyone dress up in the color purple or wear a silly hat are all themes that people will enjoy, but I believe with the right theme you can have so much more than just a good theme. With the right theme, you can truly move a guest on an emotional level. Simply, people like to step out of the role of playing themselves since they have to play it most of the time. A great themed party makes that happen and encourages interaction.
Great themed parties involve three components; Costuming, Decorations, and Music. Think of these as the trifecta on how to create the perfect theme to create an immersive world for your guests. If you can decide on a theme that combines all these three things well I can almost guarantee you’ll have a party your friends will talk about for years.
First, choosing a theme that allows guests to easily make or buy a costume. Now I’ve been to parties like flapper parties where costumes were not that easy to get unless you wanted drop some serious money. As a rule of thumb if someone has to spend over $20 on a costume they may either not show up or they’ll show up in regular clothes. Having your guests out of costume creates a discontinuity in your role play and take them out of the world you’ve created. Some good examples are decade based ex. 80/90’s. This allows guests to raid either their own closets for forgotten gems or even their parents closets. It’s also fun for guests to visit the local thrift store for that gaudy out-of-date costume that says “this is my guilty pleasure.”
Second, choosing a theme that allows for decorations helps to build a world. On a larger scale, theme parks use decorations to help immerse you into the time and place of their choosing. There’s a reason people flock to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal, but you don’t have to spend tons of money to please your guests. Some of the biggest compliments I’ve had were for decorations I ended up spending the least amount of money on. For example, I threw a “Trash Bash” where I left my lawn mower sitting in a half-mowed lawn, worn racing tires lay off the sidewalk, old beer signs hung on every wall, and toilet paper streamers adorned the stairs.
Consider posting a Facebook status to friends asking to borrow the costliest items. Don’t be afraid to get creative with making it yourself. For our Harry Potter themed party, we used marker on resume paper and burned the edges to create the ye olde parchment look.
Finally, music allows your party guests to truly celebrate the occasion. Again, decade-themed parties really shine here with music putting your guests in a particular moment in time. Many guests look upon their past with rose-colored glasses and a great themed party can take them back to re-live those precious moments.
Step 2: Choosing the “When”
Time is valuable. It’s a limited resource so everyone wants to make the most of their leisure. That means whatever event you throw is going to compete with all the other “fun” things out there. I’ve found the best time for a party is Saturday night. If you throw a party on a weekday that requires costumes or prep work that means your guests will scramble between the time they get off work to when they get to the party. Often that means beating rush hour traffic, eating dinner, dropping the kids off at the baby sitter etc. If you throw your party when most of your friends will be off work they’ll have an entire day to get everything together.
Be sure to create a Facebook event and send reminders out a week before and the day before. With the clutter of our daily lives and social media it’s easy to forget plans that aren’t part of our routine. A friendly reminder goes a long way. When choosing the time of day, I’ve found that I have about three people show up on time and the rest show up an hour later.
Step 3: Putting It All Together
Now that you’ve got your theme selected, costume together, decorations made, and created your playlist it’s time to put it all together. This can sometimes seem a bit daunting, especially for the novice party goer. Fear not, often times just dividing the tasks up into smaller pieces and delegating them to trusted friends helps a lot.
I’ve found it’s important to create an area where people can dance. The last thing you want is to have them trying to trip or spill drinks on furniture!
Decorations shouldn’t just go on the inside. If you own a house your party guest’s experience starts the moment they step outside of the car. For decade-themed party I post a sign on the front door asking everyone to kindly put away any modern-day technology such as smart phones, iPads, smart watches, etc. in order not to confuse the other guests. Again, this all goes back to role playing and world building. Once I was able to get my buddy with a DeLorean to show up and have it in my driveway for an 80’s party. Party-goers were truly impressed with this and it was a great photo op.
I hope by reading this article you’ve at least thought of some aspects of throwing a party that have never occurred to you before. Many of these elements can relate to not only house parties but any event including wedding receptions and corporate getaways. There is no one solution for everyone, and there are just some people who don’t like getting dressed up and playing make-believe. If you’ve followed at least some of my advice and you put a smile on your friend’s faces I believe the extra effort was worth it.