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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

03.25.2004

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to theme or 
n
ot to theme 

by
Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2

Just about every quasi-adult knows that there's a basic foolproof party formula: liquor plus edibles times a bevy of fun folks. I've spent many a fine evening both entertaining and being entertained on this recipe alone, everyone hanging out with beer in hand, dressed in the usual t-shirt and jeans combo. But for the most part, those gatherings aren't the ones that have my friends and I reminiscing about them long after the empty beer cans have been tossed into the recycling, the party platters placed in the dishwasher. The beer-and-chips parties eventually blur into a single fond but vague memory, but months and years later, we're still rehashing the details of the Paradise party, the Prom, and each ever-more-fabulous annual Halloween fete. A regular ol' party gives you and your pals a few hours to happily while away your time, but a well-done theme party guarantees you a place in the annals of party greatness, providing the fodder for fabulous stories for everyone lucky enough to have been in attendance.

Unfortunately, themed gatherings also hold the potential to fail spectacularly in a way that you just don't hazard when you play it straightforward and standard. Suddenly, despite your efforts, you find you're the only person themed-out head-to-toe, trying desperately to bring on the fun as you see folks shifting awkwardly from foot to foot because they feel like total dorks in their half-hearted attempts at a costume. Or worse yet, you find that many of your friends don't bother showing up at all, the mere idea of having to come up with appropriate duds proving enough to scare them off from showing their faces. Meanwhile, the music you picked out because it ties in so perfectly with your theme fails to get anyone motivated to boogie down on the dance floor, and your attempts at getting the party going with a game or two meet with all the enthusiasm of a proposed trip to the dentist. You've spent weeks preparing for your event and invested a heap of hard-earned cash to boot, but when the last of your guests sheepishly slinks out before midnight even hits, you realize that maybe you should have just taken the easier party route, and skipped the grand concept altogether.

To theme or not to theme: that is the question. When you're planning a party, should you make it a themed affair or keep things simple and low-stress? Ah, the dilemma.

On the pro side, a theme provides an obvious purpose for the gathering. It's about fun, pure and simple. When people go to a theme party, they know that the whole point of the evening is to indulge in the silly, to let their hair down and get into the full-on, no-holds-barred party spirit. Costumes can be great fun to put together, and people have an amazing tendency to feel less inhibited and self-conscious when they're channeling something other than their real selves -- particularly after you get a couple drinks into them. Moreover, a good costume provides an immediate topic for conversation, even amongst strangers. Looking for a good excuse to talk to that hottie standing in the corner, the one who looks way better in a three-piece polyester leisure suit than any 21st century human has a right to look? Look no further than a clever allusion to the costume, and let the chat flow from there.

From the host/ess's perspective, a theme provides an instant source of inspiration for every aspect of your shindig. Having a unifying concept makes it easier to decide how to decorate your digs, plan your menu, stock your bar, choose your music. It's a great chance to exercise -- and show off -- your ingenuity, as you transform your ho-hum apartment into a total fantasy environment.

mosey on this way folks

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