What's the best theme party you've been to lately?
August 14, 2009 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I try to throw thematic parties once a month (budget: cheap) and was wondering what the best thematic party you've been to was, or what thematic party idea would be one you'd love to go to.

In the past I've thrown the following: a Titanic party (complete with lifesavers and donuts for each guest); a grilled cheese party (self-explanatory) and a root beer / birch beer tasting.

I have maybe 15-20 of my friends over and like thematic food events. So...what's the best party you've been to? What worked really well?

Thank you.
posted by melodykramer to Grab Bag (62 answers total) 112 users marked this as a favorite
this kind of thing has popped here before but ...

1. edible art
2. clothes-you-never-wear
posted by philip-random at 10:07 AM on August 14, 2009

I've had panini sandwich press parties -- selection of bread and cheese and condiments and sometimes meat (roasted chicken and/or salmon) plus tomato, lettuce, onion, avocado, roasted red pepper. I had a Princess Pride party (tiaras) with pink food (challenging). I've done a tropical vacation party -- mimosas with tropical fruit juices, fruit salad, bagels, cheesy island music, yummy Hawaiian poke (sort of like sashimi). I really want to do a vampire-themed party this year but I haven't figured out exactly the elements (other than bloody marys and fangs).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:09 AM on August 14, 2009

I haven't seen the following themes go wrong:
-CEOs and office hoes! (generic office clothing, extra points if it came from the 80's)
-Captain Morgantine's day (Feb 14th only, everybody gets a red marker mustache)
-Pirates and Ninjas (self explanatory)
-Seven Deadly Sins (dress as your favorite sin)
posted by milqman at 10:12 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've always wanted to go to a wear-clothes-that-outrageously-mismatch party...
posted by kitcat at 10:13 AM on August 14, 2009

Insects and Religion.

The nun (yep a guy) looked authentic, but when the arms were raised...
posted by sammyo at 10:16 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

My friend used to have an annual daylight savings party where you were required to spend your extra hour drinking, power-hour style. It was really fun. She'd make a new mix of 60 songs each year and cut each one after a minute so you'd know when to take another drink.

The other great party I went to was the A-B-C party (anything but clothes) where you had to create an outfit out of items you had at home (not cloth) or trust the partygoers to make an outfit for you which you had to wear once you got to the party. It gets more fun as the night goes on and people's toilet paper skirts start ripping.
posted by rmless at 10:17 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

My favorite theme parties (may not fit your goals...)

- Cutoff jean shorts night was alarming.
- Neat is my favorite small quieter party. Each person (limit it to about 10) brings a new fancy/exotic bottle of liquor, which then sampled neat by everyone. You take home what is left of your bottle in the morning (since nobody should drive!). Cheap for the host, and you get to try lots of new things.
- Slinky dress night is a great excuse to wear that old prom dress.
- Catholic Schoolgirls was a favorite in college
posted by cjemmott at 10:19 AM on August 14, 2009

Bad sweater parties.
Pot luck Oscar parties where people bring foods themed with nominees and guests vote for the best idea/interpretation.
Robert Goulet parties (guys grow 'staches for the event)
posted by scarykarrey at 10:21 AM on August 14, 2009

Adding foods to the ideas above (I sorta missed that part):
-CEOs and Office hoes: donuts, danish, and coffee (scotch would be an appropriate booze here)
-Captain Morgantines: CapMo! Coke for mixing. You can add in typical v-day snacks as well
-Pirates and Ninjas: rum and sushi!
-Seven Deadly Sins: tons of options here, but one should be spaghetti-o's :) I suspect that lots of variously sinful dessert would do the trick (oh, and rum for wrath . . . notice a theme?)
posted by milqman at 10:21 AM on August 14, 2009

A Bad Taste party. The first one of these I held, I planned to commemorate having purchased a copy of a really, really, really outrageously so-bad-it's-good movie I'd seen once; I invited people to come see it, but also invited them to bring their own movies, or music, or food items that went with the "so bad it's good" genre.

One guy brought his VHS of "Plan 9 from Outer Space" so we had a double feature. Another guy brought a CD by Eilert Pilarm, a Swedish Elvis impersonator. We had fried spam and circus peanuts for refreshments and people wore the tackiest outfits they had.

I had another one of these a few years later when they released the DVD for this movie and I bought that again; this time I confined my "share what you've got" requests to just music and food, and we had a Mountain Dew jello salad and Frito pie and an entire case of Schlitz.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could also have a White party (or another color) where your guests dress up all in one color, you get paper plates and utensils to match, and you make foods all in that color.
posted by rmless at 10:23 AM on August 14, 2009

Murder mystery
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:23 AM on August 14, 2009

Food ideas for a Vampire party: the small coloured sprinkles you'd use to decorate cake - Sparkles! Only works if your audience is familiar with and disdainful of the Twilight franchise. You could also serve Sangria, as a drink.
posted by Phire at 10:24 AM on August 14, 2009

Elementary school lunch room party! Everyone brings their own food to trade, and all juice is booze. (via, nsfw, and no I'm not proud but I can't stop reading that site.)
posted by juliplease at 10:25 AM on August 14, 2009

If you do any scary-themed parties, definitely see if your library has any back issues of Martha Stewart's magazine from previous Halloweens. She has the BEST ideas for scary food, no joke.
posted by scarykarrey at 10:26 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lesser-celebrated holidays are good, especially if you can mix unrelated things into it: I'm not Jewish, but I co-hosted a Purim party this year (and successfully agitated for adding a piƱata to the celebration...just because).
posted by kittyprecious at 10:27 AM on August 14, 2009

Please please please have a Donner Party. You could decorate with fake snow and serve cakes shaped like arms and legs.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:32 AM on August 14, 2009 [12 favorites]

A fairly well-known "theme" party but we've had good luck (at the winter holidays) with cookie parties: Each guest brings a dozen cookies and you provide the bags (decorated brown paper lunch bags work fine). Each guest must leave with a dozen cookies.
posted by anastasiav at 10:35 AM on August 14, 2009

For the last year I've been announcing a "T(ea) Party" but I haven't yet actually done it.

It'd be a real formal tea party with finger sandwiches and little cakes and fine china, while watching The A Team or Rocky III.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 10:36 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

The house I lived in in college threw at least three themed parties a semester. Some of the better ones:

-Space Porn (a chance to wear your shiny American Apparel leggings and bandeau top-- always a big hit)
-Cold War (communists or '50s era Americans!)
-MTV Spring Break Cancun 1999 (woooo! take your top off!)
-Jewish New Year party (thrown on Rosh Hashanah, but as a traditional champagne/confetti/dress to impress/countdown to midnight deal)
posted by oinopaponton at 10:38 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I threw a mix CD party once, where I asked everybody to make a 20-minute long mix CD. The rule was that each CD had to have a distinct theme. At the party, we listened to nearly all of them, and then voted on our favorites.

On my last birthday, I threw a "come as you were" party, where I asked everybody to dress, act, and drink like they did at age 16. Lots of people got REALLY creative with that.

Both were excellent parties, and everyone had a blast.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:38 AM on August 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

I have very fond memories of two particular parties:

A potluck dinner where people were asked to bring "round white (edible) things".

A general drinking/snacking party where guests were instructed to wear their favorite hat and another accessory.
posted by DrGail at 10:42 AM on August 14, 2009

For Halloween, a friend threw a "Dress as One of Your Friends" costume party, and it was a big enough hit that they followed it up the next year with "Cross-Dress As One of Your Friends"

I've done a "Make Your Own Sushi" party, which basically went -- "I provide the rice and the bamboo rolling mats, the wasabi and the sheets of seaweed. You bring the fish, cucumbers, camembert, Ritz Crackers or whatever else you want to turn into sushi. We'll combine with booze and have a party." Good fun, though you'll need a pretty robust rice cooker to keep up with the demand ... and inevitably it results in drunken guys at 2am daring each other to eat balls of rice that have been dunked in ever increasing amounts of wasabi.

Around the holidays, we do a Yankee Gift Swap music mix party. Everyone brings a CD (or flash drive or iPod shuffle) and puts it in a bag. Around midnight or one, draw from the bag and get someone else's random mix. That's been running for nigh on 12 years now.
posted by bl1nk at 10:47 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

A friend has a Mixer mixer when she was leaving to get rid of all her booze. You supply the booze, attendees bring mixers. Bonus points for the person who comes up with the most creative mixed drink, or whatever.
posted by gagoumot at 10:48 AM on August 14, 2009

I had a fancy 40 tasting at one point, where we got every variety of malt liquor we could find, and served it in wine glasses with nice cheese and canapes

another great time was a rubik's cube party - everyone comes wearing six different colors, and trades clothes until everyone's wearing one color.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:52 AM on August 14, 2009 [10 favorites]

Best answer: We've spoken before about how you STOLE MY GRILLED CHEESE PARTY (kidding!) so I might have mentioned some of these to you before.

I'm having a Blanket Fort Party tonight. Mega excited.

Sock Puppet Party (the supplies for this one ran about the same as the grilled cheese party)

3D Party (anaglyph decor and movies, 3D glasses are cheap online)

Gender Bender Party (crossdressing dress code)

Coffeetable Party (guests use spray paint, paint parkers, and gluesticks to decorate a piece of furniture, you seal it the next day)

Cavebot Party (cavemen and robots or some mix of the two)
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:53 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

How 'bout a Mad Men party? (It would help if you're hooked on the show, as I am...season 3 Sunday! ohboy ohboy ohboy)
posted by Bron at 11:01 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Agent Lover wrote up a Pee Wee Herman themed party that looked really fun.

Oh, and I was recently the Queen of Hearts at an Alice in Wonderland themed party.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:02 AM on August 14, 2009

Was coming in to suggest that Juliet Banana is my party guru, and that I'd do anything she's done. Follow her lead!
posted by ocherdraco at 11:09 AM on August 14, 2009

My apple tasting party was a success. Other parties I've thrown have been Make Your Own Pizza (with homemade pizza dough and about 20 different toppings), very similar to the Make Your Own Panini, Roll Your Own Sushi, and Fold Your Own Chinese Dumplings. Folks were big fans of the pizza and panini nights.
posted by KathyK at 11:20 AM on August 14, 2009

I've witnessed or heard about:

- fancy pants party - your pants must be somehow extremely fancy
- octobervest! - it's like octoberfest, but everyone has to wear a vest, the tackier the better
- pick a movie or tv show that your crew all loves and is overly-familiar with, and everyone should dress up like one of those characters (e.g. firefly)
- beat poetry party - everyone has to write a poem beforehand, and perform it for the group. please wear berets and snap your fingers instead of applauding. limericks and haikus welcome from the less-inspired.
posted by vytae at 11:21 AM on August 14, 2009 [9 favorites]

The best I've been to was "Cake vs Pie". Guests bought cakes or pies or things in between (boston cream pie, cheesecake, etc), and the biggest problem was there was so much awesome dessert that no matter how small the pieces I took were I couldn't have a little of everything.

I got into a big argument with another guest about whether cheesecake is a cake or a pie.

At the end there was a vote cake or pie. I forget which won.
posted by aubilenon at 11:22 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

2nding TOGA! Combined with wapatooie (aka 'garbage can') punch makes for a helluva party. If you serve the punch, be sure to take pictures 'cause you likely won't remember much.
posted by torquemaniac at 11:27 AM on August 14, 2009

A walk of shame party... Arrive disheveled yet well-dressed, walk home the next morning in the same state.
posted by sub-culture at 11:28 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I once went to a "snuggle into your fall cocoon" party featuring entirely wrapped foods - burritos, spring rolls, pigs in blankets, egg rolls, apple turnovers, sushi. Bonus points to those who arrived wearing blankets.
posted by aimedwander at 11:30 AM on August 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

Hostess Underground does some wildly creative theme parties.
posted by pineapple at 11:33 AM on August 14, 2009

You know how every year P Diddy (current name?) throws a White Party?

I can't afford that, so I have been thinking about having an off-white party, where everyone wears off white, off white food, etc. etc. Bonus points to anyone who shows up as a celebrity in off white. Would be good to get a small donation for a charity.
posted by cestmoi15 at 11:43 AM on August 14, 2009

Best answer: I've been to a Rubik's Cube party: you come wearing mismatched colors and trade so as to get to a single color. Good mix of the risque (though people kept their underthings on) and strategy (trades which might help you later, keeping track of who's going for what/lying about it).
posted by Jorus at 11:56 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

We've gone to many a house crawl (lots of friends have houses that are within walking distance of each other) and inspired a Decades party. Each house served drinks reminisce of the decade along with correct apparel. Guests were encouraged to dress in the style of their favorite decade.
posted by mmascolino at 12:00 PM on August 14, 2009

I held an 'Old People' party that was pretty damned fun. I was surprised at how people really pulled out all the stops for that one - some people came with walkers, colored their hair, wore toupees, things like that. One girl came in a mumu with rice in socks for breasts (they hung to her waist). I pretended to be hard of hearing all night and just kept shouting, "HUH?", which is something I do anyway because I can never hear what people are saying at parties, but with the theme I could pass it off as funny rather that annoying.

Watching old people booty-dance is always a win.
posted by Pecinpah at 12:27 PM on August 14, 2009

Response by poster: Okay! This is fabulous! I have like 11 billion months of parties! Keep them coming!!! :)
posted by melodykramer at 12:36 PM on August 14, 2009

The best theme party I've ever been to had a Captain Planet theme. A group of us dressed up as the Planeteers, while others dressed as various villains. Someone even painted themselves blue to be Captain Planet himself. Naturally, it involved drunkenly singing the theme song at multiple points.
posted by Shesthefastest at 12:40 PM on August 14, 2009

I've been to a few superhero themed parties, where the guests are encouraged to create their own hero/villain.

Soon, I'm planning on throwing a Battleship party, where sailor-esque dress is encouraged, the TVs will all be showing naval war films, and there'll be a Battleship tournament.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:13 PM on August 14, 2009

I there a murder mystery party that was 50's stripper lounge themed. You can leave the murder mystery part out, but it was fun for us to dress up in 50's gear and put on false eyelashes and play sinatra on the sound system. I made classic hors d'oeurves and cocktails. It was big-time fun.

There was also the white trash 4th of July where we had big hair and dressed in wife-beaters and made tator-tot casserole and velveeta mac and cheese.
posted by Kimberly at 1:17 PM on August 14, 2009

Bowties & Boxer Shorts. Everything is swanky (martinis, canapes on (thrift store) silver trays, guests in top hats and showy costume jewelery), except no one has any pants on. Excellent for small sweaty apartments, or as a pre-party before bowling or karaoke.
posted by TheLittlestRobot at 1:21 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ones I've actually been to:
Middle school dance - period-appropriate music, ill-fitting khakis, one of dad's ties, and bad hair
90s Nickelodeon game shows - everyone loves Legends of the Hidden temple shirts

I've always wanted to have a "Law & Hors d'oeuvres" party:
Sam Waterston crackers
Lenny Briscuits
Ed Green beans
Elizabeth Olivets
Dennis Farina
Alex Cabot cheese
Benjamin Brattwursts
Southerlyn fried chicken

Seasoned with Katherine Erbes and spices

Drinks: Jill Hennessy, Ice-Tea
Smokes: Olivia Benson & Hedges
posted by djb at 1:32 PM on August 14, 2009 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, I forgot to mention--I had friends who would pick a day for a party and then research to find out what, if any significance that day had. So we celebrated Somalian independence day one summer. I made jello shots in the colors of the Somalian flag, we played the (midi version!) national anthem,etc. We also celebrated Sir Alec Guinness' birthday on one occasion, but the details of that party escape me because I was having so much fun that the night is a blur.
posted by Kimberly at 1:33 PM on August 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

Clothes swapping party. Guests come in clothes that they want to get rid of. Over the course of the night guests swap clothes with other guests. Hilarity ensues. Having a designated change room is helpful but should not be considered mandatory.
posted by tim_in_oz at 2:31 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I went to a fun James Bond themed birthday party a couple weeks ago. Everyone was dressed up like different bond characters, there were martinis, and some of us played Casino Royale-esque poker. Alas, there was no N64 Goldeneye, though...
posted by losvedir at 2:37 PM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had (had! It's sad - we just lost touch) friends who had theme parties regularly, and sometimes they were medieval reenactment-based ones, to which I'd go as a unicorn with my "virgin" friends (they were costume parties, after all). But my favourite one was the "Gods and Icons" party, where they served nectar and ambrosia, and where Mercury mingled with Freddie Mercury.
posted by peagood at 3:04 PM on August 14, 2009

I haven't done it yet, but I've been dying to hold a Mad Hatter's Tea Party. There would be a litle role-playing on the host's part to really sell it :)
posted by Lucie at 3:05 PM on August 14, 2009

One December, I had everyone bring a food from their family's holiday tradition (pick a holiday). We ended up with everything from Chocolate Gravy and Biscuits to olives to samosas to wassail . The discontinuity of the foods was fun, and the theme allowed us all to get to know each other better by talking about our families. Not the rowdiest party, but we had a good time.
posted by BlooPen at 3:14 PM on August 14, 2009

Make a bunch of silly rules, violation of which is punished by drinking or not drinking or whatever. A good one is "no cursing", which tends to lead to things like, "(violates some other rule) oh ****! (drinks twice)".
posted by d. z. wang at 3:57 PM on August 14, 2009

I held a "Logan's Run" themed party for my 30th birthday. Guests came dressed in red, green or yellow, as appropriate for their age. I went dressed for Carousel. It was pretty cool.
posted by mr. strange at 6:38 PM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Theme parties are the best, and this thread is great since my roommates and I were just talking that we haven't had a good one in a while.

Previous parties I've had/attended:
Communist Party

Gypsy Party - NOTE: Pear Brandy is awful, never get it.

Childhood Games - Went to the park in the afternoon & played games, afterwards at the house had a slip n slide and a blanket fort. A tub full of water balloons and a room full of normal balloons as well.

Consipracy Theory Party

Mars party - The planet, the god, and the month (it was in March)

High School Party themed party - My "parents" (read: roommates) were all out of town, so I had a party complete with Mad Dog 20/20 and booze smuggled in water bottles as well as juvenile drinking games.

"Evil Parties" - Death Metal and lots of fake blood

Future Party - We had everything from nuclear fallout future, to shiny robot costumes

I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting.
posted by theRussian at 11:55 AM on August 15, 2009

Best answer: I hosted a Tiny Party one time. Airplane bottles of liquor, a potluck of tiny foods (little bowls of angel hair pasta, baby corn, cocktail weiners, etc.). I mailed out tiny invitations. Made lots of jokes about small talk. Played tiny music (little snippets of songs will do). It was terrific fun.
posted by argybarg at 9:08 PM on August 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow! These are fantastic! Thank you everyone. Happy themeing! :)
posted by melodykramer at 5:22 AM on August 16, 2009

I hosted one really memorable themed party. It was for the birthday of a friend who was obsessed with his pre-medness. His life was working in the ER, as an EMT, reading his bio books, etc.

So we threw a hospital themed party. The less creative people came as nurses/doctors, but the real fun was the people who came with different diseases, illnesses, and injuries. People got really creative.

Also we had a sign-in sheet, alcohol in syringes (plastic ones...to squirt into your mouth) and hospital decor. It was good.
posted by milestogo at 2:11 PM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My aunt told me about her 'Be tacky' themed party. Her friend showed up three hours early and brought a cake that read, "Mitch brought this"
posted by iamkimiam at 9:35 AM on August 17, 2009 [5 favorites]

SMALL: Scanner (at a) party, where everyone in turn takes a few self-portraits on the flatbed scanner. Everyone approaches it a little differently.

MEDIUM: A costume party in October (Come As Your Fear) where everyone dresses as something they are afraid of. Interesting good times.

LARGE: A John Waters theme may be talked about for a while after... Poop-shaped fudge, debauchery to excess and wild costumes applauded and exploited.

HOLY FUCK: Carnivale as a charity event, complete with freaks, sideshows, concessions, tickets, games, portapotties... I helped (it was in my yard). It paid for itself, my performer friends got paid, plus $600 to The Humane Society. Best. Party. Ever.
posted by droomoord at 6:50 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Back in college, a friend of mine wanted to recreate a photo shoot he saw in Harper's. So we had a party! He had the perfect apartment with appropriate furniture, and we rented studio lights and he and I played studio photographer for the evening. Everyone dressed up to the nines, we had cocktails and props, and everyone got really into it - it helped that we were all theater geeks.

A few photos from the event.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:31 AM on August 18, 2009

A group of my friends spent a summer hosting a decade themed party each week. Starting with dressing like you are from the 1920's, continuing on with 40's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, and then finishing off with a dress like you are from the future party.

We had a Harry Potter Party, where everyone had to dress like a wizard trying to dress like a muggle and a variety of Harry potter inspired drinks.

A taste the rainbow party (might be combined with a rubix cube party). We made skittle vodka in each of the five colors and had a winner board for people who drank a shot of each color.

If you are throwing a birthday party, you can require that everyone dress up as something with the same initials as the birthday person. e.g. if their initials were SB you could be a Sk8ter Boi or whatever.

Once when we were slow to announce the theme of the party (after having hosted a bunch of different theme parties), we made the official theme TBA. Everyone had to dress up like whatever they though the theme of the party was going to be, and we had a prize for whoever's costume most closely matched the actual theme.
posted by vegetableagony at 1:16 PM on August 27, 2009

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