Give your bash a theme and be the life of the party!
By Jane Trask
Life is a party, and there's nothing like entertaining to celebrate that fact-or to celebrate anything else you may have in mind!
Every party-thrower wants her shindig to be fun, exciting and unforgettable. Most partygoers-especially those who have been to gatherings so dull that guests left early, whispering weak excuses like needing to get home in time to shampoo the cat-will gladly settle for the first item on that list.
To stack the odds in your favor, set the stage for a great party by giving it a theme. While the list of possibilities is endless, here are a dozen ideas for a doozy of a party:
1. Sponsor an evening of games, everything from Scrabble to cards to the latest topper on the game charts. Get your guests playing and encourage them to move from game to game, rewarding them with lots of inexpensive but fun (or funny) prizes.
2. Like Alice and her Wonderland gang, have an Unbirthday Party! Each guest's birthday is celebrated, and everyone officially becomes a whole year younger! (You can even make fake documents to that effect.) Each guest brings a gift and a drawing can determine who gets what.
3. How about a Happy Everything Party, celebrating all the birthdays, anniversaries, holidays at once? This could make for some very interesting (read: crazy) decorations and menus. Fireworks and birthday cake, anyone? An Easter egg hunt and turkey dinner?
4. If your crowd has a favorite movie, rent it and create an evening around its theme, complete with plenty of popcorn.
5. The same idea works for a favorite television show. Whether it's Melrose Place or The X-Files (serve bowls and bowls of sunflower seeds!), have several segments on tape to show and build the rest of the party on that foundation. Along those same lines, how about an evening of old radio shows, Prairie Home Companion segments, or whatever you and your guests delight in. (There's a fun tape you can buy that features theme songs from all the old television shows and is perfect for a group contest.)
6. Other musical possibilities include an evening of karaoke, or even a dance party. Have your guests bring their most danceable discs and encourage couple, solo and group dancing so no one has to sit around and wait to be asked before they can cut a rug.
7. Ask the writers or journal-keepers amongst your friends to bring something to the party to read aloud, and invite the non-writers to bring a favorite poem, essay or beloved bit from a book or magazine.
8. Sponsor a mixer where each guest brings someone the other guests don't know and play some get-acquainted games. One silly ice-breaker is the "Ketchup Game," where people place themselves in a line according to how much they like the red stuff, necessitating them asking virtual strangers profound questions like, "Do you put it on French fries? Meatloaf? Mashed potatoes?"
9. Go old-fashioned and have a "Come As You Are" party, meaning everyone arrives wearing whatever outfit they were sporting when they opened your invitation. Another idea right out of party history is the progressive dinner, perfect for friends who live in the same building or neighborhood. Each person is responsible for one course from appetizers to dessert and the party moves from location to location.
10. How about a something-for-everyone Zodiac party complete with an astrologer (or someone funny pretending to be an astrologer, which might be even more fun). As your guests arrive, hand them a scroll listing the characteristics and traits for their astrological signs (Virgo hostesses, of course, will write the scrolls calligraphically and wrap them in color-coordinated ribbons!)
11. Celebrate an obscure holiday or your own personal holiday, otherwise known as an old tradition you just made up. I used to celebrate St. Swithin's Day (a real holiday) by hosting a pancake supper, and also used to have an Epiphany party every January 6 until it became a household word and everyone started epiffing all over the place. As for holidays you make up, how about National Parakeet Week?
12. Here's a new spin on the old Rent Party where you raised cash to keep the landlord in wolf's clothing away from the door. Throw a party to benefit a favorite event such as an AIDS Ride or a run for finding a cure for breast cancer - the partygoers could actually sponsor one of the riders or runners. Another from-the-heart would be a group effort at making something for a nearby children's hospital or a convalescent home. Make crazy hats out of ribbons, balloons and paper plates; make construction-paper scrapbooks filled with the fronts of old greeting cards; and "design" necklaces and bracelets from an inexpensive beading kit. These gifts are so appreciated and a lot of fun to make and deliver.
With the right theme, your guests will forget they even own a cat!
Secrets of Great Parties
How do you become the hostess with the mostest? The secret is to entertain your guests, which the dictionary describes thusly: To pass or cause to time to pass in an agreeable or pleasant manner; to amuse to divert, to recreate. Sounds good, doesn't it? And possible too, if you just follow these simple guidelines:
Above all, invite an interesting mix of people. Inviting only your co-workers will generate an evening of shoptalk, but if you include everyone from your best friend from childhood to folks from your bird-watching group and recreational softball team, you'll set the stage for a fascinating gathering.
Give your guests (a) something to do besides simply conversing; (b) somewhere to sit, other than chairs placed around the room in a circle (also know as "The Dead Zone"); (c) something easy but tasty to eat and drink; and (d) the chance to enjoy all of the above with you.
You, after all, are the life of the party. This doesn't mean you have to be Camp Partytime's social director for the entire evening, but is should mean that you enjoy the bash right along with your guests. Relax, have a good time, and don't spend your evening racing from room to room making drinks, passing trays and cooking.
In order to throw the best possible bash and not become a crazed woman in the process, you're going to need help long before you open the door to greet your first guest. If you need to clean and practically remodel your abode before the party, throw a pre-party for a couple of close friends, send out for pizza and before you know it, all of the work - including the dirty variety - will be complete. For the date of the soirČe, a friend, relative or neighbor can be enlisted to help with refreshments and the jillion other little things that need doing during a party.
The type and amount of party food is yours to decide, but make it easy on yourself so you can have (and generate) that good time we've been talking about. Don't make yourself crazy trying to prove you're a blue ribbon chef and/or make yourself so tired you'll be the lump of the party instead of its life.
Whichever way you go with the menus, warn your guests ahead of time what to expect food-wise. How many times have you shown up to a party famished, just to find that your host serving appetizers-only? Tell them a light buffet will be served, or it's dinner at eight or whatever
Lastly, by all means use colorful paper plates and other paper or plastic party products. This can transform clean up from a wheeze to a whiz.
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