Boy dressed as Darth Vader with red lightsaber

Ensure the Force is Strong in Your Star Wars Party

No movie series appeals to young and old alike as does Star Wars. Two full generations of Americans know what it’s like to watch these movies as children, making them both entertaining and nostalgic. As a party theme, it appeals equally to children and adults, and there’s lots of things you can do with it.

Costumes

Star Wars costuming is great because it can be very simple or very complex. Several characters can easily be represented by DIY outfits, while more industrious fans can create really masterful pieces.  There’s also a ton of costumes for sale.

Of course, the accessory everyone wants is a lightsaber. There’s a ton of them on the market, some only a couple dollar apiece. You can even make creating them a party project: pool noodles and masking tape work well.

The drawback to lightsabers is that everyone, young and old, wants to hit something the moment they get their hands on one. If your climate is mild, send your partiers outside for epic lightsaber fights. If you’re hiding inside from the cold, however, it’s best if there just aren’t any lightsabers.

Kids dressed up for star wars

Food

There is an unending number of quick food projects settings for a Star Wars party. Just a few include:

  • Using edible marker to turn marshmallows into stormtrooper helmets
  • Creating tie fighters by using icing to adhere marshmallows in between Oreo wafer cookies
  • Dropping a figure of Han Solo into a Jell-O mold, thereby encasing him in colorful carbonite
  • Dipping pretzel rods into candy melts or white chocolate dyed with food coloring to create edible lightsabers

Decorations

What Star Wars party is complete without a Death Star? Transform paper lanterns into these terrifying constructions by spray painting them gray, then creating details by gluing on construction paper and drawing with markers. Or do the same thing with a round piñata and let people take swings at it with a wooden rod painted to look like a lightsaber.

If you’re going to print anything including type, get hold of a Star Wars font to give everything the feel of that iconic logo.

Of course, Star Wars is on everyone’s minds this month, but a Star Wars themed party can be held year round. Whether as part of a birthday party or just an excuse to get friends together, Star Wars is something that calls to the kid in all of us.

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1920s themed party with men and women dancing

How to Throw a Roaring Twenties Party

Party themes turn get-togethers into something more unique. One theme is the decade party: choose a time period and plan the party around its style. The 1920s has its own distinct draws. For one, it’s exotic. None of your guests remember that time, or even any time in its vicinity. Therefore, the roaring Twenties is something to play-act, rather than something to relive. Second, there is the allure of danger and disobedience. All of America was sneaking around for a drink while watching the rise of the gangster and organized crime, which developed during this time.

Finding the Right Music

Any decade party needs appropriate music. For the 1920s, that means jazz, which developed during this time. Speakeasies steadily grew throughout Prohibition, and they turned to jazz musicians to for entertainment.

Be Creative in Your Locale

Speakeasies sprang up in people’s basements and behind secret doors, so if you can throw it somewhere other than your living room, do it.

Play up the adventure of getting to the destination. Consider not giving out the locale until the day before. If it’s at your home, ask people to use the back door. Challenge guests for a password upon arrival.

Woman in flapper dress for the 1920s.Period Costumes

Encourage guests to come in some semblance of a costume. For men, that’s suits, preferably pinstriped and with a vest. Fedoras are an easy addition to a Roaring Twenties outfit. For women, the flapper dress is the most recognizable outfit, and they’re easy to find in costume shops and online stores. Feather and sequin headpieces, often on headbands, make a great addition, as do long necklaces and feather boas.

Choosing Décor

Anything labeled “art deco” will fit the time period.

Drinks

The drink of choice during Prohibition was whiskey. If you want to get real authentic, go with Canadian Club, which Al Capone was well-known for smuggling.

But there’s no reason to drink it straight. The quality of Prohibition alcohol was often low: much if it was produced in backyard distilleries by people with no background in alcohol production. As such, a variety of cocktails developed to mask the poor taste of these products.

A little research can bring up an array of additional details you might want to add to your party. However you do it, keep in mind your party would have been illegal during your time period, and play to that reality. It’s a great way to keep that 1920s feel.

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a pottery decorator painting a ceramic tile with floral motifs

5 Parties To Encourage Creativity

Sometimes, people attend parties to sit back, relax and converse. Othertimes, people are interested in expressing themselves creatively, and a party host can be a great person to encourage that! Whether for kids or adults, these party ideas can bring out the artist in all of us.

Paint and Sips

Paint and sips are popular enough today there are commercial businesses dedicated to them. These formal paint parties are held in art studios where all paint supplies are provided and an instructor walks participants through the creation of a piece of art. Food and drink (including alcohol) are either welcome or for sale.

If you’re looking for a night in, you can still throw your own event. People will probably be working on their own projects, unless someone wants to step forward and be an instructor. However you do it, painting is a relaxing way of occupying oneself while sharing in good food and conversation.

Ceramic Workshops

Some ceramic workshops offer sessions to the public during which participants craft something from clay or glaze an already made object. In either case, the finished project is thrown into a kiln and is available for pickup at a later date.

Glass Fusion

Similar to a ceramic workshop, some glass artisans allow people to create objects by cutting and layering pieces of glass which are then fired. Also like working with ceramics, these projects can appeal to both children and adults.

Stitch ‘n Bitch

The term stitch ‘n bitch has been around since at least World War II to describe a social gathering of knitters. Since then, some other craftsmen such as sewers have also taken up the term. No matter what your art form, it’s easy to gather creative friends for a casual day of working on personal projects while periodically grabbing a snack or a drink.

boys and girls decorating cupcakes at a kitchen counter during a baking workshop for kids

Baking Parties

Generally geared toward kids, baking parties teach a valuable skill while producing tasty treats to enjoy afterward. Cookies and cupcakes are good projects since they are easy to pack up and take home.

Baking parties need some preparation. You’ll need to have an idea what each child will be responsible for. Otherwise, some may end up being left out. Every task should also be appropriate for the assigned child. Finally, think of ways to control the chaos of this party so your kitchen does not become a complete disaster area by the end of the day.

It’s easy for creative passions to be swallowed up by the details of everyday life.  Encouraging it in a social setting, however, allows people to enjoy the company of others while also setting aside time to be artistic. However, people should never feel pressured to create a great work of art. These parties should focus on the moment, not the end result. No matter what your interest and level of skill, you can transform a creative hobby into a great social event.

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Table setting with evergreen sprigs, pinecones and ribbon on a white wood background

Color Themes for Every Season

Color themes are a basic part of event planning. Repeating a limited number of colors across napkins, invitations, tablecloths, centerpieces and more creates an inviting sense of uniformity and sophistication, even for casual events.

If your party has a theme, color selection is often easy. Independence Day parties obviously call for red, white and blue. Graduation parties use school colors. Decorations for children’s parties are generally bold, while other parties often use more complex and subtle tones.

If a party does not have a theme, it might be more difficult to come up with a color scheme. One approach is to choose a single color, then choose one or two additional colors which work well with it. It’s best not to use all three colors equally. Choose one dominant color and use the others to lesser degrees.

If you’re having difficulty even choosing a primary color, consider taking suggestions from the seasons.

Spring

Spring is the season of returning life, and seasonal colors take their cue from fresh blooms. You might consider choosing a plant for decoration first and then working off of its colors for your color scheme.

Spring colors are bright and rich. You can include pastels, but don’t lose the brightness, and certainly stay away from muted colors that have been mixed with gray.

Summer

Summer is perhaps the most diverse in its color schemes. Like spring, it skews toward bright colors, although summer emphasizes pastels more. Summer colors often reflect warmth with shades of yellow, orange and red, but they don’t have to avoid cooler, refreshing colors either.

 autumn decor with candle, sunflower and pumpkin

Autumn

Autumn colors take their cue from the changing leaves. Golds, oranges, reds and browns are the base colors for this season, and mixing them often produces the best results. The oranges should bear hints of red or brown, for example, rather than being the bright color of the fruit.

Winter

Even people who enjoy the snow welcome returning to the cozy warmth of home. Therefore, winter colors are often deep and rich, while also being muted. Evergreen is a popular example. This deep green brings color to an often stark landscape – it’s the reason evergreens have been associated with the season for just about forever. However, it’s not a bright green like grass or summer leaves.

Stay away from stark whites. The snow already provides more than enough of it. Consider ivory, light gray and other off-whites instead.

However you choose your colors, do not feel compelled to follow strict rules. These ideas (and others found throughout the internet) are merely a starting point. Often, once a single color is chosen, it becomes much easier to find accent colors. Find a color scheme that is uniquely yours to help decorate all your events.

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portrait of a beautiful steampunk woman over vintage background.

How to Throw a Steampunk Party

Steampunk is definitely in right now. TV shows, movies and books are full of it. Can you plan a party around it? Absolutely. In fact, there are events all around the country where hundreds of people come together and enjoy steampunk.

Steampunk is a loose mix of Victorian history and science fiction. Think bustles, suspenders, robot arms and ray-guns. People get self-conscious about whether they’re “doing it right.” The fact is, unless you flat out look like you’re from another time period, you’re probably good. Steampunk encourages creativity, not strictly following convention.

portrait of a steampunk man in the ruins.Costuming

Steampunks love costuming, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Many of them build their outfits from stuff in their closets and purchases from thrift stores. Costume stores also sell steampunk outfits.

Check online for examples of steampunk costuming. Many of them are far more complicated than what you’ll want to aim for, but it will give you a sense of the aesthetic. Men normally start with shirt and pants, women with skirts and blouses. Then you steampunk it with historical hats like bowlers and top hats, suspenders, shawls, canes, pocket-watches, technological gadgets and goggles. Honestly, slap a pair of goggles on a basic outfit and you’re pretty much good to go.

Food

Since steampunk draws so heavily from 19th century British culture, you’ll want to take some cues from it. Tea is pretty much a necessity. Tea biscuits go along nicely with it, as well as other small handheld snacks and deserts. Extra points for setting them on small doilies.

You can also take modern food and dress it up. Cakes decorated with gears and other steampunk motifs, for example.

portrait of a beautiful steampunk woman over grunge background.Decorations

One way to make a setting more Victorian is to replace electric lights with candles. Of course, that poses problems of its own, so consider safety issues before setting the room afire.

Old photos are great steampunk decorations, if you happen to have them. In fact, anything Victorian will go off well.

But there’s lots of things on the science fiction and industrial side of things that provide plenty of decoration ideas as well. Gears, airships, penny farthings (those bicycles with the huge front wheels) and squid/octopi (a nod to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) are all motifs that can be used anywhere: invitations, clothing, jewelry, artwork, food, etc.

Role-Playing

Encourage your guests to invent a character and play it out. If that’s perhaps a bit too immersive, at least have people share who they invented at some point at the event. Besides being a lot of fun, envisioning a character helps one decide how to design a costume. Airship pirate? Nobility? Engineer? Mad Scientist? Possibilities are endless.

Steampunk is a loose and evolving theme to base a party around. That means possibilities are pretty much endless, although some people my find themselves looking for a little more direction. Take a breath, look around a bit, be creative and have fun. Ultimately, that’s what steampunk parties should be about.

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Second hand clothes ready for a new home at a swap party

Hosting a Swap Party

Over time, we accumulate things. Too many things. Did you know there’s a party for that very situation? It’s called a swap party. Besides being a fun excuse to get together and, well, party, it’s also eco-friendly and good for your wallet.

Finding the Right Time

Spring is a great time for swap parties, when people are making a push to separate the things they use from the things they do not. Also, give people plenty of warning. You’d hate to get invited the week after you donated all your old stuff to Goodwill.

Getting the Right People

Inviting guests can be a bit tricky, particularly if you’re swapping clothes, which people generally do.  There needs to be some similarity in  people’s style. Not that everyone needs to be a size 12 and into florals. There can be ranges. But there also needs to be significant overlap. Otherwise, no one’s stuff is going to suit anyone else.

This also means the more people, the better. Your chances of finding someone with the same style as yours increases as the number of participants grows. That does mean a big party, so plan accordingly.

Box of unwanted stuff taken to a swap party

What to Bring?

Make it clear on the invite what kinds of items are welcome. Is this just for clothes? Make sure they’re gently used. Appliances? Kids toys? Sports equipment? If everyone has their own idea of what to bring, it might be difficult for others to find something they want. Also, consider space limitations. Few people can handle twelve beach balls in their living room.

Informality is Key

This isn’t an auction (unless, I suppose, you really want it to be) nor a competition. Everyone brings their goods to the event where they can be casually examined and selected. If two people have their eye on the same piece, it’s ultimately up to the owner who it goes to, but usually people are pretty civil about it. I mean, these are your friends, after all. They aren’t strangers.

If you want to add a little order to your evening, everyone can draw numbers and take turns selecting items. In that case, you’ll want to limit everyone to taking home no more items than the number they brought.

Get Crafty

Some swap parties also become crafting parties as people decide to make alterations to their newly found treasures. If that’s the direction you want to go, you’ll need to do more planning so supplies will be within easy reach without being tripped over.

Don’t Forget the Party!

This, like many parties, is ultimately an excuse for friends to get together and enjoy each other’s company. There are memories attached to some of the goods up for grabs. Share them!

And swapping items certainly doesn’t have to be the only activity at the event. Everyone could step away and have dinner together, or they can munch on snacks as they consider what to swap. Throw in a favorite movie in the background. Open a bottle of wine.

Swap parties are a great way of spending a night with friends while clearing out your closets. So gather up last year’s fashions and a plate of appetizers, and settle in for a fun night of swapping.

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People at a block party celebrating around a table

5 Things to Remember When Planning a Block Party

Block parties are a time honored tradition, bringing together the local community for a day of fun. Their size, however, makes them complicated affairs. They aren’t things you can simply throw together for the weekend. It’s something that takes weeks of planning.

Get the Necessary Permits

Make sure you find out if your event needs a permit. Every locale has different laws. Often, block party planners can get barricades for either end of the street, cutting it off from traffic, but they need to fill out the appropriate paperwork well ahead of time. Even without the barriers, a permit may be required.

There may be other legal requirements as well. Grills may have to be kept on private property, for example, not rolled out into the street. Every city as noise ordinances, particularly after a certain time of night. Not educating yourself about these laws can lead to a fine or even a dispersal of your party.

Tell Your Neighbors

A block party is a local social event. It’s not a private party. You need to invite everyone, even that neighbor you don’t like. They certainly aren’t required to attend, but you have to extend the offer. If nothing else, your neighbors need to know when they can and can’t get into their driveways.

Grilling meat at a block party

Plan the Food

Block parties are big affairs. You probably don’t want to be stocking the whole thing yourself. Some ways of sharing the costs include:

  • Having people supply their own drinks
  • Asking for people to bring side dishes
  • Asking for donations to cover the cost of grilling meat and other foods you may be providing

Reconsider the Keg

The beer keg is a common part of block parties. After all, it’s an economical way to supply a large quantity of alcohol, and you don’t even have to fit it in your fridge.

The problem with them is access. You don’t really want someone checking IDs at the keg, but if teenagers start drinking from it, you can be held responsible. Better everyone bring their own beer, and each person can be in control of who can access it.

Have a Cleanup Plan

Even the neatest of neighbors are going to leave a mess: napkins, paper cups, soda cans, beer bottles and so on. Have people assigned ahead of time to help you clean up after the party, and don’t leave that chore to the very end. Periodically sweep discarded items into trash bags so you aren’t having to attack everything at once when you’re exhausted.

Also, put out recycle and trash bins during the event so others can help in disposing of their garbage. Most people want to be responsible about trash, but if receptacles aren’t obvious, people may start stashing their stuff in any number of places.

Block parties are big deals to throw, but they’re a great way of bringing a community together. Let that community help you stock and organize it. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself unable to enjoy a single moment. And keep yourself on the right side of the law. Most cities have no objections to block parties, just so long as they conform to local ordinances. With some planning and cooperation, your block party can be the highlight of the summer.

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Fans in Star Trek uniforms

Celebrating Fandom in All its Geeky Glory

In honor of Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary, I figured I give geeks their due. Geeks are stereotyped as shy, socially awkward introverts. Of course, that’s a gross overgeneralizaton. Still, if your friends are hard core geeks, why not throw a party that appeals specifically to them?

These parties can easily accommodate both teens and adults. Children are probably too young, as the theme goes beyond costumes and decorations. It does depend on the theme, however. It’s technically possible to find an entire group of eight-year-olds knowledgeable about Star Wars: the Force Awakens.

Decorations!

Depending on your theme, you might be able to find appropriate cups, plates, banners and other items for sale online. There’s also sites which offer free printable decorations. On top of that, you can employ an appropriate color scheme, such as everything being yellow, blue or red (to represent Star Trek uniforms) or blue (for the TARDIS from Doctor Who). You can name foods after items in the show. Blue punch could be Romulan Ale, for example.

Costumes!

If any party is suited to costumes, it’s a geek party. Many fans already have costumes and look for excuses to wear them. Others can find appropriate attire online or in party or Halloween stores. Some will likely pull something together quickly, like taping a Star Trek insignia to an appropriate colored shirt or doffing a fez and bow tie for Doctor Who.

Games!

Testing fans’ knowledge of their favorite show is always a hit. One game involves writing character names on cards, which are then folded up in a theme-appropriate container (such as the aforementioned fez). The first person draws a card and shows its contents to everyone else. He then asks ten yes-or-no questions and guesses who he is after each question. Give one point for each question, and whoever has the fewest points wins.

Similarly, you can divide players into teams, put quotes in your fez (or whatever), have one team read them out, and have the other team guess who said it. Perhaps give extra points for naming the setting, when appropriate. (Clearly, you can’t pinpoint a single moment when Dr. McCoy said “He’s dead, Jim.” Alternatively, leave quotes that blatant out of the game.)

Viewings!

Consider scheduling a couple episodes of your theme show. Try and get fan favorites so your guests can enjoy them as much as possible. Occasionally, however, a really bad episode works just as well. Judge your audience.

For more fun, have everyone guess how many times a certain phrase will show up in the scheduled episodes. These are things like Mr. Spock’s “fascinating,” The 11th Doctor’s “Geronimo!” Captain Picard’s “make it so,” and even common words like “Enterprise,” or “TARDIS.”

Of course, you don’t have to limit your party to a single genre. Your theme might span multiple TV shows and movies. That makes all of the games significantly harder, and you should at least let people know which shows/movies are included in them. However you throw it, fan-oriented parties are a great way of letting people express their passion for movies or TV shows, and enjoy it with like-minded friends.

Image by Jason Scragz (Flickr: Star Trek) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Painting some picture with paintbrush

Have Fun, Make Art: Enjoy a Paint and Sip Party

Looking for a night out but tired of your usual haunts? Ever wanted to learn to paint, but couldn’t get up the nerve? Now you can let out your inner artist through a paint and sip party, where you discover creativity goes great with a good bottle of wine.

Today, there are entire businesses dedicated to paint and sip parties, which represent one of the fastest growing segments of the entertainment market. Some are held in art studios, while others are special events at bars and restaurants. Search for them online, and you may be surprised how many are in your neighborhood.

Expert Instruction

Many people who attend these events haven’t picked up a paintbrush since grade school, yet they come home with a respectable work of art. Each painting event is led by a skilled instructor who walks you through every step. It’s very much like The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, except without the happy trees. You follow along while support staff wander the crowd, providing additional guidance and answering questions.

stylized artwork of wine bottle and glassesThere’s no pressure to create a masterpiece. Designs are fairly basic so no one struggles with complicated techniques. The primary goal is to relax, let go of insecurities, and enjoy creating art no matter what your skill level.

Traditional art classes require participants to bring their own supplies, which gets expensive. Painting parties provide everything you need, including canvas, paint and brushes.

Enjoy a Glass at Your Paint and Sip

It’s easy to say you’re going to unwind, but it can be quite a bit more difficult to actually do so, particularly if you’re trying something for the first time. That’s why there’s the “sip” in “paint and sip.”

Some venues offer their own bar where wine, beer, and even food is available for purchase. Others encourage participants to bring their own food and drinks. No matter how it’s done, adding a little alcohol to the mix is part of the point. Lowering inhibitions helps you be less self-conscious, sit back, relax, and create something fun.

Private Parties vs. Public Events

Many studios offer private parties as well as public events. Don’t worry about disturbing strangers as you chat, laugh, and otherwise enjoy a cozy evening while enjoying the creative process with a glass or two of your favorite drink.

Paint and sip parties merge the worlds of art and alcohol into an enjoyable and relaxing night. Whether attending alone or with a group of friends, you’ll find these events nurturing an artistic side you might not know you had. Check out your nearest location, and see how much fun these events can be.

Man recieving birthday presents

Throwing a Surprise Party

When cake and ice cream seems a little boring, a surprise party might be just the thing to give the birthday-person something to remember. But there are tricks to surprise parties. Have you ever seen a surprise party on a TV show go according to plan? Be sure to think things through when planning a surprise party.

1. Don’t Promise Something You Won’t Deliver

At some point, you’re going to need to be at least somewhat deceptive. If the party will be at the person’s house, you need to get him away from the house. If the party is being held elsewhere, you need to transport them without arousing suspicion. However you’re getting the person moving, follow up on promises. Don’t promise a baseball game unless you’re going to a baseball game. The promise will get him excited about it, which can only end in some degree of disappointment,no matter how cool the surprise is.

2. As Chaperone, Don’t Be Boring

Commonly, a chaperone stays with the target while everyone else sets up the surprise. The chaperone can stall for time if the target gets the itch to head back early. But there’s only so long one can stall if the afternoon is boring.

Sure, you can go out for groceries or some other errand, but why not do something fun? Maybe go out for lunch or even attend that baseball game previously mentioned. Do something that will keep the target away from the party location until the appointed time.

Happy family celebrating 70th birthday

3. Don’t Pretend It’s Not His Birthday

It’s the party that’s a surprise, not the birthday. By all means, wish him a happy birthday. Give him a card. Promise you’re going out to dinner later (presuming you actually are, as per rule #1). One of two things will happen if you pretend you forgot: feelings will be hurt or suspicions will be raised.

Even better, don’t hold the party on his birthday. Offset it by a couple of days and behave normally.

4. Hide the Cars

If you’re holding the party at the target’s home, hide the cars. He’s going to know something is up when there’s eight cars parked outside. Carpool to limit the number of vehicles. This is particularly important if someone has a memorable car. Scatter cars down the street so it doesn’t look like a single group and it doesn’t look like they’re associated with his house.

5. Plan the Surprise with the Target in Mind

Not all parties were created equal. Surprise parties do not require people to jump out from behind the sofa. You can lead him to a room at his favorite restaurant where he’s surprised by all the guests awaiting him, for example.

Do not embarrass the target. He may already feel a bit flustered by the surprise. Let that turn into excitement and love rather than frustration at juvenile behavior.

Consider what kind of party this person enjoys. Does he like huge groups of people, or is something more intimate appropriate? Measure your party on quality, not quantity.

Always remember the surprise party is about him. It’s his day. Help him enjoy it as much as possible in a way they’ll remember fondly for years.