On Tuesday I’m going on Studio 5 (our local morning news show) to share some tips on how to throw an awesome theme party! I’ll be sharing examples from Gigi’s Pony Party, which was fabulous and happened last Saturday. I plan on sharing some more pictures from her party, as well as downloads and recipes, but here are some tips to help you:
Throw a super successful theme party with pizazz
1. Choose a theme and your colors.
I’ve been married for almost 5 years now. And WAAAAAAAY back when, one of the first questions you would ask a soon-to-be-bride was, “What are your colors?!” I’ve noticed in the last few years and with the popularity of DIY and wedding blogs, that question has now been replaced with, “What’s your theme?” or “What type of wedding are you having?” The same goes for parties. A good theme goes a long way.
But what qualifies a good theme? In advertising when you are coming up with a concept for a campaign they say, “Does it have legs?” Meaning, sure it sounds good for one or two television ads, but can you stretch it into print ads, radio ads, billboards…you get the idea. I think this is also a valuable question when picking a theme for a party. Does it have legs? What can you do with it? I think different people will have different answers for different themes. But if it’s a party you’re planning, you want to be inspired by the theme so that you don’t feel a shortage of ideas. You want that theme in boots that are made for walking, so to speak.
Next are colors. I don’t think you need to choose two colors and stick to them religiously. But as many Amy Atlas dessert tables can attest, there is something to be said for uniformity. For Gigi’s Pony Party I chose teal, and shades of blue, paired with silver and punches of black and white. This gave me a lot of versatility when choosing table cloths and icing colors, but at the same time gave me something to work from so that things had a cohesive feel.
2. Choose an activity that you can anchor the party to
Obviously the activity for the Pony Party was that I hired a live pony (from utahponyparty.com) to come and give pony rides to the kids. This made sense because Gigi LOVES animals, and because I have a lot of pony paraphernalia from my years of joking about wanting a pony (in the style of Verruca Salt).
I noticed this gave us something to prep Gigi for. We told her how she was going to have a party and that a pony was coming! This also gave her friend’s parents something to talk to their children about. Both the 2-year-olds and the 6-year-olds showed up asking, “Where’s the pony?” Obviously a pony is thrilling. But any activity, when planned and anticipated can be thrilling. People just like something to be excited about. So let’s say you wanted to throw a super-hero themed party. I would suggest telling the guests that they will get to wear a cape, or perhaps decorate a cape. Maybe for a goldfish themed party (these seem to be super popular) the kids will get to “go fishing.”
Whatever the activity is, whether it’s a person or animal you’ve hired, or a craft or cupcake they get to decorate, tell your guests about it so they have something to anticipate. In my opinion people like knowing what to expect. Or at least a vague outline. It really doesn’t take a lot of extra effort to build a little hype!
It would make sense that the activity correspond with (or even determine) your theme, but you can put a spin on everything. A Hippo party could consist of children making Hippopotamus cookies and wearing tiny ears. But telling the kids (or adults!) that they will get to “Bring out their inner hippo” gives them something to anticipate and rally behind.
3. Re-purpose items to create favors, crafts, and activities to fit your theme
Now this is where you can really get wild. And where I tend to lose my mind. But before we get into this let’s talk about something.
Do you like crafts?
Do you like spending hours baking and decorating elaborate baked goods?
Do you sincerely enjoy making 40 party hats that people will most likely not wear and will get trashed shortly after the party?
Or, Do you mostly enjoy having people gather together to celebrate?
I happen to answer yes, YES, HELL YES! to all of these questions. But maybe you do not! AND THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. I am NOT a better mom than you because I made place-card cookies with each child’s name and a miniature pony cookie on them. It’s just something I sincerely love to do. But, if you do not love doing that, then for heaven’s sake don’t do it! The “Pony donut holes” I bought from the bakery were cheaper than the “Coconut Cream Cupcakes” I made and took 1/10th of the time, and people ate them twice as fast. My point is do what you love and hire out the rest, aka buy the rest. Or DON’T DO IT!
So, with that said, the devil is in the details. So add some fun details! I used horse cookie cutters to make horse cookie pops, pony-shaped gumdrops, and to cut PB&J sandwiches into a horse head shape. I added horseshoe confetti to the tops of my cupcakes, and plastic horses to the top of my cake.
At the party supply store I found horse finger puppets, and I put them on top of miniature bubble bottles. This was quick and inexpensive.
As an activity while the kids waited for the pony to arrive I had them make glitter wands. I hot glued plastic ponies to the tops of the “wands” and had them put glitter and horseshoe confetti in the tubes. (I will have a tutorial on this up soon).
Now, like I said, I went and will continue to go overboard. And when it really comes down to it people can only absorb so much! So if you love to make food, I say focus on the food, and then pick up a few-store bought items to bring out the theme. Or, if you only like to focus on having your house clean, order a pizza, grab some balloons, and then scour the party store for little this and that’s to fit your theme.
Keep in mind that Oriental Trading Company is a great resource. And usually if you spend over $50 you get free shipping. I bought all of my plastic ponies, and my paper goods from them. Bake it Pretty is an amazing online resource for baking goods. You will save time and money ordering online!
4. Incorporate printables and signage to carry your theme in the decor
I happen to be well versed in Illustrator. I can design all of my own signage. BUT! With so many blogs, party sites, and Martha Stewart all vying for you page-views, there are SO MANY free downloads to be had out there it’s just silly! Even in Microsoft Word you can make some simple signs to help pull your theme together. Because my theme was “pony” I simply called treats “Pony Donut Holes” and “Gummy Gummy Pony Drops” and JUST LIKE THAT they were a part of my theme.
I’ve also noticed that people show up to a party not sure what to do! That’s why making signs with friendly directions can be super helpful. I wish I had made a sign that instructed my guests to, “Put on a party hat, tie the bandana around their child’s neck, and get started on a glitter pony wand!” But I didn’t and so not everyone knew to do those things. That’s ok. It’s just if you’re going to spend time on little things like that, it’s nice not to have them fall by the wayside.
I also made my own party hats. I will have a tutorial and a template up for this shortly!
5. Know when to stop! People can only appreciate so much!
Again, as I said in #3, people can only absorb so much of your genius! If you have a fun theme, a fun thematic activity, one or two crafts and goodies that carry the theme, and then some great signage and printables, well, that’s more than enough to have a successful theme party!
I’ll post my segment as soon as it is up! And I’ll be sharing more pictures and recipes and downloads as fast as I can get them up!
I love you all!