I love a good theme. For me a theme can be anything from Pink Out Day at Rotary (where we wore pink and played pink themed songs), a St. Patrick’s Day themed gathering of the North Texas Chapter of the International Food & Wine Society, to a seafood themed dinner party with friends.
If the theme leads to a costume, it’s even better. But, I will leave costumes for another conversation.
Back to themes, when I am entertaining and involving a theme, I try to think of how to incorporate the chosen theme in everything going on with the senses and details of the event. Taste, sound, color, smell, attire, place setting, table décor, outdoor planters, pool side, bathrooms, entry hall, etc.
Now, you can go two ways with this: over the top or gentle reminders. I am not so much into the over the top, but if you are doing something kitschy or light-hearted, it might work well to do just that. You can incorporate your theme into a sophisticated party as well as a fun family gathering.
Not to diminish the meaning of any holiday, I do see holiday related gatherings as themes. I once had a friend tell me to keep the Christmas table fresh. I like that. I am a bit of a traditionalist, so I will always do certain things (such as set my Christmas table with Spode Christmas Tree place settings). But why not use a new tablecloth or add some inexpensive salt and pepper shakers to liven things up? A small overhaul of your usual tablescape can be inexpensive, but interesting for your family and guests.
So here are some things to think about when working with a theme:
1. What music will work with the tone of the gathering and the theme?
2. What kind of food goes with the theme (all green for St. Patty’s or maybe all Irish recipes)?
3. How can I best incorporate the theme into my tablescape?
b. Tablecloth or placemats
g. Serving dishes
i. Floral arrangement
ii. Display items, such as bunnies, Santas or leprechauns
iii. Candles/candle holders
4. Buffet or seated service? Does one go better with the theme?
5. Is there a candle scent that will go with the theme? If so, put those candles in the guest bath, entry way, and living room. You normally do not want to put scented candles on your table, because the scent of the candle and the smell of the food compete.
6. What accent pieces do I have to put around the inside and outside of the house? In particular, remember to highlight your front porch, entry hall, gathering area (such as living room or den), dining room, guest bath, back patio and kitchen.
7. Should you have a theme related drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic)?
8. Add details that augment the theme. For example, at my sister’s birthday dinner one year, I made menus for the evening. I listed the foods I would be serving for each course. I named each food with an attribute of my sister’s personality, so that the menu described her. It was just one more way to focus on the birthday girl and make people laugh!
9. Make sure your invitation shares the theme in the event your guests want to join in by dress or hostess gift.
So here is to a great theme party! I will be co-hosting a St. Patrick’s Day themed gathering very soon. About to head to the internet to get green gingham fabric in order to make a couple of tablecloths. With a bit of Irish luck, I will find what I need.
Etiquette Bonus: Don’t forget that your invitation will signify to your guests how formal and/or casual the event will be. So, if you use a white card stock, with calligraphy printing in black, you have just told your guests this is a very formal event. If you use the same, with a few flowers sprinkled throughout the invitation, you just told them it is not as formal as the former. However, if you go with designs, colored ink, theme related language, they know they are in for a casual event.
If there is a requirement for dress, response, or anything else (such as no gifts, surprise party, or bring a donation), the invitation, or invitation enclosure, must inform guests.