Nerdy Thirty Party Planning
April 29, 2014 6:29 AM   Subscribe

How do I plan, decorate, and successfully pull off a "Nerdy Thirty" birthday party when I have very limited party planning and artistic abilities?

My wife is turning 30 in a month and has expressed interest in having (but not entirely planning) a "Nerdy Thirty" birthday party. What fun! She wants cute nerdy decorations, themed food (with signs describing what everything is), and possibly having people come in costumes. We're pretty geeky and many of our friends are into board games, so that may be involved in some capacity as well.

However, the problem is that I am neither artistic nor good at planning parties. We also don't yet know very many people in the area since we moved here not too long ago, so likely a number of guests would be invited from cities a couple hours away.

Ideas for how to make this go well? I know I have to send invitations (maybe 3 weeks before?) and will want to find a nerdy cake and somehow figure out other theme-y foods and decorations? I'm not a very good cook or artist, but I'm good at following directions! Help me, oh Metafilter!
posted by Poegar Tryden to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think more information would be helpful. How are you defining "nerdy"? Because that means different things to different people. To some it means "loser/socially unpopular", to others it means "intelligent", to others it means "obsessively in to a specific topic".... So what kind of nerd do you mean? Do you mean book nerd, computer nerd, science nerd, comic book nerd, etc. When you say you may have people come in costume, what kind of costumes are you expecting??
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:43 AM on April 29, 2014

Generally, pinterest is full of party ideas. Once you have a (few) keyword(s) you'll be able to find a ton of decoration ideas, food inspirations, printable signs, and other DIY party suggestions. This is what comes up for "nerdy thirty".
posted by travelwithcats at 6:47 AM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd start with particular fandoms -- what shows or things is she particularly interested in?

From there, Google and Pinterest are your best friends. Search things like "Firefly Party Ideas" or "Food for Avengers Party" and you will get tons and tons of hits for things other people have already done.

If you're hoping people will travel a few hours and come in costume, send out a heads up email ASAP. If you want to send out stylized formal invitations, that's cool and you can work on those and send them out once you have the details down, but a month is a relatively short time span for people to plan travel and costumes.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:48 AM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you know anyone you could borrow a bunch of Lego bricks from? A bunch of adults with a few drinks in them building shit with Lego could be pretty awesome. You could have prizes for the best creation, or hold contests (you have five minutes to build a representation of your favorite food) or whatever.
posted by bondcliff at 7:10 AM on April 29, 2014

Best answer: I like using Punchbowl for party invites. Lots of fun designs and good tracking tools. Free is good as well.

Here's a 30th themed invite.

Another option is this invite with the Muppets on it.

Here's the pinterest with Nerd Party. I love this food table. But don't drive yourself nuts behind it.

Next decide what you're serving. I'm not sure what nerd food is. But you can start with pizza and Doritos. I'm also fond of Ruffles and Onion Dip (I'm a purist, I like it with Lipton Onion Soup mix and Daisy Sour Cream, but you can buy it in the Dairy section of your grocery store.) As for the descriptive tags, do the thing from an alergy perspective (because nerds are allergic.) Pizza has Gluten, Dairy, Meat, etc. Get some spinach dip and bread at the grocery, along with a veggie tray. Regular party food is fine. Just arrange it nicely and be sure it's tasty. If you have a Costco Membership, get stuff there.

Party City has some nerd costumes, so you might want to order from them for YOUR costume. May as well pick up some Nerds candy while you're there.

Party City is also where you get the decorations, napkins, cups, plates, etc.

Here is Thirty themed stuff.

They also have kids stuff/nerd stuff as well.

One of these pinatas should do.

Party City is worth a trip.

Then go to the grocery store and order a cake. They'll have 30-themed cakes, and kids cakes. If you have an idea, you can see if they can do it, but beware, you don't want to end up here.

As for drinks, don't cute out on this. Just get stuff in cans or a keg or whatever your friends like.

You can plan to screen nerdy stuff, Dr. Who, MST3K, Star Trek, or whatever. You can set up board games, or Cards Against Humanity. You guys know what your friends like.


Parties are about having fun, not about spending a shit ton of money, or time setting it all up. Although it really goes a long way in your relationship if you'll do this for your wife. She'll remember it forever.

As for presents. I'd wrap up 30 little items and put them in a big box. Write a couplet for each trinket, describing it and explaining why a 30-year old would want it. It's labor intensive, but HELLA fun, and you'll be the talk of your friends and family. You can get the stuff at the dollar store (although the last present should be something thoughtful.)

For example, say you get her one of those gel masks that look like the Lone Ranger.

Your pretty eyes, so tired and worn
Perk right up when with this adorned.

It's not rocket science. Although...that's pretty nerdy.

Have a wonderful time!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:11 AM on April 29, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far! Just to clarify, I think there's a pretty broad range of themes/fandoms that she'd enjoy: sci-fi/fantasy tv shows & movies (start trek, firefly, battlestar galactica, game of thrones, harry potter, ...), video games (mario, final fantasy, ...), comics, themes drawing from science or literature. No specific ideas for costumes, just as long as people have fun!
posted by Poegar Tryden at 7:34 AM on April 29, 2014

Some general links from my RSS feed:

That's Nerdalicious!

Nerdy and Delicious [NSFW-Penis Popsicle currently on front page]

Geeky Chef

Nerdy Food on Pinterest
posted by Room 641-A at 8:49 AM on April 29, 2014

We also don't yet know very many people in the area since we moved here not too long ago, so likely a number of guests would be invited from cities a couple hours away.

Worry about this first. Today (today) send email to your guests with the date of the party so they can start making arrangements and put it on the calendar. Fun invites are nice, but save-the-date notification leaps out at me as your most time-critical task.
posted by purpleclover at 9:42 AM on April 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your wife, aka me, would like you to know that you're a better cook, artist, and party planner than your question seems to imply, and she is happy to help with anything. She also thinks you are the best husband ever for even trying to do this, seriously.

(Incidentally, if any local Mefites want an invitation, let us know.)
posted by Diagonalize at 10:39 AM on April 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My friends and I did a Logan's Run-theme Lazer Tag visit every time one of us turned thirty (granted, we're all old enough to remember the movie), and it was a blast every time.

You can save a lot of hassle by simply having your party at a nerdy location. Lazer tag, paintball, comic book store, board game store, used bookstore, gaming store, even certain nerd-themed pubs or arcades like Dave and Buster's can provide an appropriate setting. The advantages, too, of an arcade, game store, or facility like paint ball is that your party activities are already there for the taking. You don't need to plan any party games!

Simply call, explain what you want to do, and ask about booking the place for a private party. Be sure to find out how they handle food--some places won't want you to have any food at all, others (such as a pub) will require you to buy it out of their kitchen.

Also--have you thought about a caterer? Call one up, tell them you'll need finger food for X number of guests, and the finger food needs to be sci-fi/fantasy themed (as you outlined above). Gets some quotes, see what they say.

If booking a place and/or catering is out of the question, you'll want to do the following:

1) Narrow down the fandoms. It sounds like your wife is into a lot of fandoms, and you're just not going to be able to hit all of them for this party. Pick no more than three and stick to them--I recommend video games, Harry Potter, and/or Marvel Comics for (a) ease of finding decorations, and (b) general popularity, so all guests will understand most references.

2) Make the following:

BEVERAGES (choose from below, based on your mixology ability & budget)

* Butterbeer (Harry Potter). Recipe makes a great punch.
* Ocarina of Lime (Legend of Zelda)
* Avengers-inspired cocktails!
* If mixing drinks isn't your style, then get a large bucket, fill it with ice and beer/wine/soda pop, and post a colorful sign that says "With Great Wine Comes Great Responsibility - Please Drink Responsibly".

PARTY FINGER FOOD (choose from below, based on your cooking ability & budget)

* Skyrim's Elsweyr Fondue. Serve with Minecraft bread cubes (food dye is your friend).
* Persona 4 Steak Skewers
* World of Warcraft's BBQ Buzzard Wings
* Super Mario's Mushroom Sliders! Make slider burgers, but paint the burgers with food coloring and dot with small mozzarella rounds.
* Team Fortress 2 Sandvich Edible Device (the trick is getting it to look like the sandwich in the game)
* Pac Man Cookies
* For the superhero theme: Mini Hero sandwiches!
* Avengers' Shawarma Tacos (I use this shawarma recipe in the crock pot for parties, might make it easier for you)
* Captain America's Chocolate-dipped Strawberries
* Marvel asked some professional chefs in the world to create dishes inspired by "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Worth taking a look.
* Deadpool Cookies
* Serve fresh fruits and veggies as seen here. You can get the printables for the signs here. (Note: that Superhero Party Plan is geared towards kids, but you might be able to adapt some of the material to your needs)
* Ron Weasley's So-Bad-It's-Good Corned Beef Sandwiches (he mentions not liking them in Philosopher's Stone)
* After Ron, Fred, and George bust Harry out of his room and take him to the Burrow (Chamber of Secrets), they have a hell of a breakfast--sausage, fried eggs, and bread/butter. How about a good sausage quiche?

CAKE (choose from below, based on your baking ability & budget)

* Portal Cake
* Animal Crossing: Wild World Birthday Cake
* Superheros are so popular right now, you should be able to go to any grocery store with a bakery and order appropriately-decorated cake or cupcakes.

If your baking skills are lacking, you should be able to take those recipes and photo to a local bakery and have them make it for you.


* Make your life easy--go to Party City (or similar), talk to a sales rep, and tell them what kind of party you're throwing. They should be able to help you get decorations that work.

Failing that:

* Go to your local comic store, buy cheap back issues, and use them to wrap gifts.
* Cheap back issues of comics can be taken apart and used for all sorts of things, actually. You can string them around the house as decorations, and hang some off the front door, for example
* Hang scarlet and gold, or red and yellow balloons and crepe paper from the mailbox, front porch and in the party area (Potter)
* Make a cardboard "shield" with a lion emblem on it and hang it on the front door. Prop a broomstick nearby. (Potter)
* This site is your friend, when it comes to Minecraft decorations.


This party planning schedule is your friend. I would add: a few days prior to party, check the weather forecast. Adjust for blazing hot weather or rainy day.

Have fun, and happy birthday to your wife!

(On preview: Hello, diagonalize, and happy birthday!)
posted by magstheaxe at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2014

Occasionally I've given my girlfriend paper models of spaceships and stuff from her favorite movies or TV shows. You can find a lot of these online and print them out for free. They are really not so hard to assemble, and the results can be pretty impressive. It occurs to me that if you printed out a big one, you could make a large decorative object that would really help sell the theme. Like, if you had a 3-foot tall TARDIS sitting by the punchbowl, for example, it could look super cool. Just know that if you do go bigger with a paper model, you should print it on thick paper (or glue the print-outs to thin cardboard) so it will support itself better.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:03 AM on April 30, 2014

I found these cakes on Mental Floss. I like the Periodic Table of Cupcakes and Schroedinger's Cat.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:28 AM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

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