Hospitality: How to Plan a Theme Party

Flashback Summer:  Hospitality- How to Plan a Theme Party

Spring is coming, and that means that people will be out and about more often!  It's time for barbecues, picnics, parties, and good times with friends!

I am a big fan of parties, and today I'm going to share the party love!  Don't get depressed at the elaborate party pictures you see on Pinterest.  Even if you don't have a lot of money or resources, you can throw an exciting theme party if you just tap into a little creativity and do some planning beforehand!

Here are the basic elements to putting together a theme party:

Flashback Summer:  Hospitality- How to Plan a Theme Party
1. Pick a theme.
This is an obvious one.  Pick a theme that you can reasonably recreate with your resources (reading the rest of the list can help you determine this) and accomplishes the feel you want for your party.  It can also center around an event.  Here are some ideas:
Chill/Relaxed Parties
Old World Library- dressing gowns and robes, cigars and pipes, fancy drinks, mustaches
Blues and Barbeque- blues music, fedoras, barbecue
Kid-Friendly Parties
Neverland- Indians, top hats, pirates, mermaids, pixie dust
Secret Garden Party- dresses, makeup, tea, large hats, pretty tables outside
Upbeat Parties
Blue Hawaii Party- "Blue Hawaii" feat. Elvis, leis, tropical, vintage
Fiesta- think tropical cabana, ocean-side retreat, fajitas, lots of color
Event-Centered Parties
Kentucky Derby Party- Watch the race, wear large hats, mint julep, stick horses for kids
Halloween Party- costumes (obviously), orange, black, cobwebs

Flashback Summer:  Hospitality- How to Plan a Theme Party
Old World Library ambience inspiration
2. Create/Gather some mood-setting decorations and ambience.
This is where the creativity comes in.  Instead of buying lots of expensive decorations or becoming frustrated with not having a perfectly accurate atmosphere, look instead to pick/make a few items that will really help make the overall feel of the party go with the theme.  Here are some easy ways to make big impact:
Many themes have colors that go with them (Halloween, Blues and Barbeque, Blue Hawaii, sports events, etc.).  Play up the theme by using these colors as much as you can.  Have everyone wear blue to a Blues and Barbeque party.  Use colorful lanterns at a Fiesta or soft lavender streamers in the tree branches above your secret garden party area outside.
Lighting has huge impact in an area's mood.  Pick the amount of lighting that will coordinate with the level of activity at your party.  For example, for the Old World Library theme you may want to use only lamps in your living room, and for a more lively party, like the Kentucky Derby party, you may want lots of light, windows, etc.  Things like candles, tiki torches, and Christmas lights are inexpensive items that create lots of mood.
This is a big one.  Parties are often centered around food, which makes the table a big opportunity to create a theme.  Even if it's a buffet, beverage bar, hors d'oeuvres table, or picnic blanket, promote the theme in the eating area.  Use dishware that coordinates (break out the floral china for garden party, or wine glasses and big "manly" mugs for Old World Library).  Find a tablecloth in the right color or theme to make a big statement.  Try creative seating, like sitting at a low table for some Asian parties or on the floor surrounded by pillows for a Thousand and One Nights party.

Flashback Summer:  Hospitality- How to Plan a Theme Party
Halloween soup!  How cute is this?!
3. Prepare a meal that centers on your theme.
An obvious example would be fajitas at a Fiesta or barbeque for the Blues and Barbeque theme.  However, branch out!  Instead of boring chicken wings and buckeyes, serve "bat wings" and "eyeballs" for a Halloween party.  Serve PB and banana sandwiches at a Blue Hawaii Party because it was Elvis' favorite.  Find out the favorite beverages of authors and thinkers and name the drinks after them on a menu for the Old World Library Party.  Feel free to get as elaborate or as simple as you like!

Flashback Summer:  Hospitality- How to Plan a Theme Party
4. Set the mood with music.
Every theme can have coordinating background music.  Find some South American music for a Fiesta.  Play opera or classical music for the Old World Library Party.  Create a playlist of random songs that talk about the Kentucky Derby.  (My mother did this and it was great.  I recommend "A Toast to the Post.")  Find Arabic music for a Thousand and One Nights Party.  Play adventurous soundtracks from movies like "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "Captain America" for the Neverland party, or "Pride and Prejudice", "Enchanted", and "Jane Eyre" for a Secret Garden Party.  Get the idea?

Flashback Summer:  Hospitality- How to Plan a Theme Party
outdoor party games
5. Think of activities for your party.
Not all parties need pre-planned activities, but they can be fun for parties with kids or to get everyone to loosen up.  Try thinking of one or two activities you could use during your party to go with your theme.  Do a hula-hooping contest to see who can "hula" the longest.  Create your own dice game to see which of your plastic animals wins the "Kentucky Derby" of your party.  There are endless options!

Flashback Summer:  Hospitality- How to Plan a Theme Party
diy leis
6. Embrace the kitsch.
Get the little music note gift bags.  Hand out leis at the door.  Put your guest's names in King Tut place card holders.  Make drinks with little umbrellas.  Is it cliche?  Yes, but is it fun and appreciated?  You betcha!  Use the little details to get your theme across and personalize it for your guests!

Flashback Summer:  Hospitality- How to Plan a Theme Party
7. Find a coordinating candle.
Lighting the candles was the last thing my mother would always do right before the guests arrived.  She would always have a scent that would go with her theme to engage all the senses.  For example, get a fruity Caribbean candle for a Fiesta, floral and "Riding Mower" (a grassy scent) for a Secret Garden Party, or a musky "man scent" (like Yankee's "Mountain Lodge") for the Old World Library Party.  Imagine the theme of your party in its original setting and try to find a scent that best captures that picture in your mind.  Get all of your other preparations done, then take a deep breath, light the candles, and welcome your guests to a fabulously done, exciting theme party!


  1. Excellent advice, dear gal. In this world of opulent magazine spreads about parties, TV shows dedicated to lavishing wildly expensive shindigs on children, and Pinterest photos that make it seem like everyone has five figures to drop on even the most causal of affairs, it is thoroughly refreshing to hear someone stand up for taking a fun, budget-friendly approach to throwing a themed fete.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. And parties aren't even about expensive decorations and making everything perfect! It's about spending time with people you love and including people in your life! Any party that doesn't do that really isn't a good party, in my opinion.

  2. Loving the whole classic theme of your blog! And these party ideas look great! Love the backyard twister idea and the flowers! Thanks for sharing! Xo M&K at

    1. Thank you so much! I checked out your blog too, and it's a lot of fun! I'm glad you found me!