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to theme or not to theme 
Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2
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Unfortunately, creativity takes effort, and there's no getting around the fact that theme parties are a heck of a lot of work. If you're going to throw one, be prepared to go the whole nine yards -- with decorations, invitations, music, food ... and of course, your own costume. As the host/ess, you set the entire tone for the evening to come -- and if you're not into it 100%, there's no way you'll be able to motivate and inspire your guests to do the same.

Then there's the cheese factor. Theme parties are unabashedly cheese-a-licious -- it's what makes them so amusing - and anyone who's hung up on being cool is going to turn out to be a real party pooper about this sort of thing. Your guests have to be willing to surrender to the cheese, to get over any fears they might have about looking stupid. For many a theme party novice, the idea of getting dressed up is genuinely stress-inducing -- they worry that they can't think of anything clever, or that they'll look ridiculous, or that they'll have to spend a lot of money to find the perfect outfit. You can help guests get over their costume anxieties by providing ideas in the invitation, encouraging them to scour thrift stores and the back of their closets, assuring them that tackiness is welcome -- and that ultimately, you'll still be happy to see them if they lame out and arrive in their normal street clothes. You can even provide a few cheap costume accessories at the door. But if the vast majority of your friends simply refuse to play along with your theme, you're going to find yourself fighting a battle you can't possibly win. Ultimately, the attitude of your guests plays as important a role in the success of a theme party as your skills as the host/ess.

A theme party offers the chance for you to create a one-of-a-kind evening that takes you and your guests out of their humdrum everyday lives. It's the ultimate escapist entertainment, provided it's well done. But aye, there's the rub. In the end, some folks just aren't made for theme parties. When the commitment to theming-out just isn't there -- from host/ess and guests alike -- it's best to stick with the tried-and-true. Theme if you dare, but remember: with great party potential, comes great responsibility.

When to throw a theme party
• To commemorate a really special occasion -- you're turning the big 3-0, you've just handed in your grad school dissertation, you've decided to make a career switch, you're moving to a new city
• To celebrate a holiday -- Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day… holidays, no matter how obscure, provide both an instant excuse for a party and an automatic theme
• If you want a big shindig, the sort where you invite everyone you know, and they invite everyone they know -- theme parties work best when there are a lot of people involved in the revelry

When to skip the theme
• If you're trying to keep things small-scale, low-key and intimate
• If you've decided to throw the party on a last-minute whim
• If your party budget is tiny
• If you have no desire to spend the entire post-party day cleaning up
• If your friends all think they're too cool to play dress-up for an evening


check out these related articles:
come as you usually aren't
theme parties 101 | got costume?

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