Fan Fare’s Top 5 Theme Party Planning Secrets! 5. Libation Station: No matter what everyone else might be BYOBing, serve both a cocktail AND a mocktail punch that fits your theme! For a Mardi Gras party years ago, I served a Girls Gone Wild spiked punch, and a Girls Gone Mild non-alcoholic mocktail. This reinforces your theme and gives everyone a chance to imbibe some liquid festivity, and the mixers included are inexpensive and a great way of stretching your budget. My favorite way to serve punches is in a beverage dispenser with a spigot (you can even get them in a matching set of two), but pitchers and punch bowls are both just fine if they’re what you have on hand. You can increase both flavor and visual appeal by adding colorful sliced fruit, mint leaves, or other garnishes to the dispenser. To reduce melting, try freezing a block of ice with the same garnishes to put in the center. If you’re using a bowl, using a bundt pan works beautifully; if you have a beverage dispenser, you can buy a cylindrical “ice core” that fits your container perfectly. 4. Lights, Camera, Action! Save one item on your menu to be cooked during the party, in front of the guests. One classic showstopping moment is the presentation of a Baked Alaska; my version of this at a Game of Thrones event was shaping one into the form of The Wall, lighting it aflame with brandy when it was time for dessert. Voila, a Song of Ice Cream and Fire. Oohs and aahs abound. But it needn’t be something that elaborate! Not only does this keep the party dynamic, it also helps cut down on your prep time. Yours could be something done on the grill, if it’s an outdoor event. It could be a finishing sauce that adds a final touch of pizazz to one of your appetizers. Or you could quickly whip together a dessert by whipping Chantilly cream with fruit to make an always-popular fool (a simple, divine parfait in Britspeak). Just organize your ingredients beforehand so the mise en place is ready to roll, and you’re golden. 3. Yes, you should serve Deviled Eggs. I am dead serious, this is a tip unto itself. In all my years throwing parties, they are always a hit, always the first to go, with nary a leftover in sight unless you made a real point of going wayyy overboard. (Even then I would frankly not be surprised.) I learned this lesson the hard way: I once included them on a wedding menu proposal. Months later as we headed into prep week, I thought of a replacement dish that I thought fit the theme better and was a little more original. Pleased with myself, I bought all the ingredients, made a new display sign, and prepped it. The night before the wedding (I know, I know), I told the bride about the menu change, thinking she would be stoked. Her face fell, and I instantly knew it had been a huge mistake. “Oh no, [The Groom] loves deviled eggs so much. It was his favorite thing on the menu!” What I had assumed to be a kind of a throwaway item turned out to be the dish someone - a very important
someone at that - was most looking forward to. Needless to say, I scrambled to make the eggs as originally proposed, out of my own pocket, in addition to the new dish, and luckily, the couple was thrilled with both. Lesson learned! They may sound old-fashioned or too-obvious, but never underestimate how much people love them. Now to mix it up, you can find all kinds of innovative twists on flavor and presentation, and – most importantly – you can work them into just about any theme. I’ve served Deviled Dragon’s Eggs for Game of Thrones events, Huevos Diablos at a Day of the Dead party, Daredeviled Eggs for a Marvel premiere, Deviled Ovaries for a women’s health event, and on and on. (Also don’t spring surprise changes to the menu to the bride the night before, duh. NEVER AGAIN.)
2. Set up a Photo Booth: The age-old pre-party dilemma – to dress up or not to dress up. We’ve all been there. Add a theme into the mix and the conundrum is compounded. Having a photo booth station is a great way for everyone to feel included no matter which decision they made. They’ll walk away with pictures of themselves playing with your theme, resulting in reminders of fun memories for them. You can find professional photographers who provide everything you need, so hiring a pro if your budget allows is a great way to go, but you can also set up a DIY station with a backdrop and lots of props for everyone to take their own pics and knock themselves out sharing to Instagram. Homespun props you’ve gathered yourself are always great, but in a pinch, many party supply stores can hook you up with a fun variety too. 1. Music Makes The People Come Together: Music is essential for any shindig, of course, but quality matters. Don’t play a succession of individual albums, or turn your system onto shuffle, and for the old gods and the new’s sake, don’t rely on the radio. Creating your own playlist suited to the theme is a finishing touch that really levels up your vibe. Naturally, if you are using a professional DJ, a good one will relish the challenge of mixing together a great blend that centers your theme (and be sure to add your own specific requests). But if you’re not going quite that hardcore, you can still add a soundscape to your soiree. Nowadays (how old do I sound there?) you have tons of options, from creating a Spotify list to an iTunes playlist to even burning a CD, if you’re feeling retro. If the theme involves a show or movie, peppering some soundtrack selections throughout the mix is a must; if the theme is a certain era, choosing some selections from that time period sets the mood perfectly. Get creative and add tons of variety to get people dancing and singing along – in character, even!
Butwaittheresmore! I’m throwing in one bonus tip that applies to all parties, themed or no, because it’s just that important. Drum roll please! It is . . .
TRASH.CANS. Yup. I know what you’re thinking. What? How boring and mundane is that? But seriously, it might even be the most practical tip of all. Think back. How many parties have you been to where there are no receptacles anywhere in sight, or perhaps there’s one tiny container that started to overflow after about twenty minutes, and since the host has left the guest no alternative, they understandably start leaving dirty plates, napkins, cups and more all over every available surface. By the end of the night, your perfectly styled setting looks like it was lifted straight out of a post-party morning disaster scene in an 80’s teen flick. Grody to the max. Making sure there are SEVERAL easily accessed, decently sized trash cans (and ideally recycling containers right with them) placed around your venue will not only make cleanup much less of a headache, it improves the visual appeal of the event throughout the evening. If you don’t have enough of your own, party supply stores sell both reusable and disposable receptacles, sometimes matching your theme or at least your color scheme.