Plan a Costume Party

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Costume Party Invitation
Whether for Halloween, New Year's Eve, Mardi Gras or even a birthday, there's something about a costume party that's magical to adults and kids alike. Even the most serious-minded individual can turn into the life of the party when you put him or her behind a mask or under a wig

When it comes to party themes, a costume party is one of my personal favorites. I've gathered some of my costume party tips, gathered from countless dress up parties. These are sure to make your costume party a huge hit. Ready? Then grab that pirate outfit and let's start planning!

Tip One: Make Sure Your Party is Affordable

It's bad form to invite someone to a costume party, then spend the next two weeks e-mailing him or her about the $170 Marie Antoinette outfit you just bought. (And that's without that cool wig you spied on ebay.)

Dressing up doesn't have to be about spending a lot of money. In fact you can put together some super costumes with stuff you have at home or from a quick trip to the local thrift store.

The point here is, particularly during a down economy, most people who think they'll need to go all-out on a costume party -- either in money or in time spent pulling something together -- will politely bow out, and your party will be that much smaller (and less fun!).

Make sure you keep things casual and that your guests know they're not expected to go crazy on costuming if they don't want to. A good party host or hostess welcomes the guest wearing a paper bag on his head and calling himself the weekly grocery shopping as enthusiastically as the Captain Hook who hand-sewed his own goldtone buttons on the jacket. If you want to really help your guests, include a list of easy to make costumes with your invitation.

Tip Two: Send a Paper Invitation

Evites are great; I use them myself. But do send a paper invitation in the mail, whether you're sending emails to guests or not.

Sending a paper invite makes a better impression and tends to get guests more excited about attending, especially if it's particularly creative. Guests will likely stick the invitation to their fridge with a magnet and be reminded of it in the weeks leading up to the party.

If you're a scrapbooker, having a paper invitation also makes a much better party layout! For that reason, naturally, we suggest making your own. Add some creative or, better, funny text ("Dress up with us -- and bring your little monsters" for an adults-plus-kids costume party, for instance).

If you're not particularly creative, no worries. We have tons of pre-designed invitations for you. You can choose one from our Halloween category and edit it to suit your party, or even browse through our theme birthday party category and find one that suits your party (Pirates anyone?).

After you print the invitations, have some fun with the envelope with stickers or even clipart that you print onto the envelope itself. Consider adding some themed confetti to the invitation as well. Mail your invitations two weeks before the date of the party to give participants some time to pull together (or to buy) a costume.

Tip Three: Have a Theme

Sometimes, individuals who fear they're not particularly creative will decline a costume party. They don't want to be the only people there who aren't glammed out. Make it super-simple: have your gathering be a theme costume party. Here are some fun themes to consider:

  • Pirates: I haven't yet come across the person who doesn't get a kick out of the thought of dressing up in something naughty and nautical, so this theme works well for a grown-up gathering, but kids love it too. Nothing says party quicker than a lass in a pirate wench costume.

  • Superheroes: There are so many to choose from, and costumes can be had, or made, at a steal (think thrift shops, old capes and tights).
  • Monsters: A monsters theme costume party is perfect for Halloween. Or be even more specific and have a vampire or ghost party.
  • Tarts and Vicars: This is a really fun adult party that's popular in Great Britain. All the girls come as, well, "tarts" and the guys come as priests. Definitely a fun excuse to dress up!
  • Fictional Characters: Imagine the limitless bounty of costume ideas. You could do the Cat in the Hat, Headless Horseman, even the Mad Hatter. As long as it's in a book, it's fair game!
  • Angels and Devils: Plan this around Valentine's Day for a fun party, let your guests choose whether they want to be evil or good...or come as a neutral third party like Cupid.
  • Movie Themed: If you're over forty, then chances are you remember the Rocky Horror Picture show and the wild costumes that attendees would wear to the theater? Why not choose a popular movie and everyone dresses as a character from it?

Tip Four: Consider Timing When Planning Your Party

When planning, consider the timing of your party. A Halloween party held on Halloween, for example, may end up being a conflict with half a dozen other invitations. Try the weekend before a larger event, or mix things up and plan your party for a completely unexpected time (for instance, a “Halloween In August” party on Friday the 13th of August 2010). Be creative with scheduling and you'll extend the holiday fun!

Tip Five: Have a Potluck

To save on expenses, plan the party as a potluck. Ask guests to each bring one easy-to-make or buy dish. To avoid having twenty Jello molds, use the letters of guests' last names to suggest a dish. For example, A-F can bring an appetizer, G-O a meat dish (you get the idea). If you chose this style of party, then you'll only have to provide the paper plates, cups and beverages.

A costume party is its own fun, so entertainment expenses will be minimal. Don't forget the camera to capture some of the fun. Of course, if you're serving alcohol, consider having a taxi service standing by or a friend who will shuttle your guests home if needed.

Tip Six: Activities

At a children's party, everybody knows that you need activities to keep the little ones busy. Yet at most grown-up parties, the adults are left wandering around looking a little lost and trying to make small talk. Why? Change it up! Plan a few activities for your party that will break the ice and get folks laughing. Here are a few that are always fun:

  • Limbo Contest: this is particularly suitable at a tropical or pirate themed party. Just have two guests hold a stick and play some reggae music as your guests try to get under the pole.
  • Who Am I? Find a celebrity or icon everyone knows, print out their picture and pin it to a guest's back. Do this for every guest; each gets a different character. Then turn the guests loose to ask each other yes or no questions until they each guess who they "are."
  • Estimation: Have a giant jar of candy and have the guests throw in a guess on the number in the container.
  • Charades: An oldie but a goody. Everyone will groan at first, but trust me, they'll end up laughing and having fun.
  • Twister: Yep, this game we all played as kids is even more fun for grownups, particularly when wearing costumes.
Lastly, don't forget the prizes! Sure, you can get things like coffee shop gift certificates, movie coupons and that sort of thing, but your guests will be just as happy with dorky items from the local dollar store. Just make it fun. Consider having a "best costume or "funniest costume" prize as well.

What's left? Throw on some music, gather around the snacks and get ready for a great time!

Written by: Melanie Henson