Throwing a theme party

Find five handy tips for making your next special occasion a party to remember.

By Emily Kimber

Planning a theme party

Planning a party usually means stocking up on paper plates and napkins while making as many trays of ice cubes as can fit into your freezer. But some occasions call for something a little more than rum punch and potato chips, something just a bit more...special.

If you have the time to plan, a theme party can make any occasion one to remember. When planning a theme party, it's important to think about all the elements -- from food and drink to decorations and music. If you're going to drape your living room in Mexican blankets and sombreros, you have to serve salsa. Mixed nuts just won't cut it.

To help you start planning your own special event, we enlisted the expertise of Shevon O'Toole, owner of A Private Affair Party Planning & Decorating. O'Toole, who has planned themes for everything from children's Easter parties to 50th wedding anniversaries, says making a party special is about going that extra step.

Five party-planning tips

1. Know what you want
Think about what kind of party you want, what the occasion is, what you can afford and what will work with the space you have. If you're set on an idea that just can't be pulled off at home, think about renting a space. "I often ask clients about their interests and personalities so we can find a theme to fit," O'Toole says. All these things will factor into how your party comes together.

2. Do your research
When you've got your theme, spend some time looking into what re-creating it will entail. O'Toole says she threw an anniversary party for herself and her husband with a '60s cocktail theme. "I found a book about how to throw a party from the '60s and got some recipes from that," she says. Her research also provided information about what types of cocktails would have been served in that era, so she could set up a '60s-style bar.

3. Use the Internet
"A lot of what I need, I can find online," O'Toole says. She can usually find a drink to fit her theme by scrolling through cocktail recipe sites and she often finds food recipes the same way. "I needed to book a band for a '50-'60s party, and I just typed in '50-'60s band and found one to book," O'Toole says. "And they were just fabulous."

4. Shop around
You can easily get what you need to create the right ambiance, but at what price? When you see the perfect tablecloth in an exclusive boutique, stop and think before you buy it: Will you ever use it again? Can you get something similar for at a cheaper cost? When shopping for decorations and party favours, O'Toole looks no further than her local dollar store. "I've found some really neat things there," she says. "You never know what you'll find." Buy tons of inexpensive votive candles here and use them instead of lights to create a festive atmosphere.

5. Have fun
Don't get so wrapped up in planning the perfect party that you forget to enjoy yourself. Yes, people will remember how well the theme worked and how cool the drinks were, but they aren't going to notice if you haven't got the perfect, most authentic, napkins. In the end, the theme can enhance the celebration but it shouldn't eclipse it. The party is about you and your loved ones. So put down the fake snow and enjoy yourself!

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