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SYMPTOM: I think that a themed event could be a fun option for our Christmas party, but I’m worried that it’s going to look really tacky.
REMEDY: The secret to successful theming is to keep it simple. If an element becomes too contrived, the theme won’t work. For example, blue decorations or cocktails can be fun, but blue food is not. Know where the limits of your theme are.
Whatever you go for, dedicate a chunk of the budget to entertainment and decoration, which will carry your theme. For example, a classic Christmas theme looks easy to execute, but it relies on the key elements being in place: an upmarket festive venue, attractive dressing and traditional food. Alternatively, contemporary Winter Wonderland themes deliver a festive fix with more mass appeal.
The most important moment of any event is the guests’ arrival, so front-load your theme to create an impact early on. Roving entertainers, live music and dramatic production will all strike the right note. If you have any extra budget, consider giving your guests a themed present when they arrive. Loosen theming up later on, when guests are more interested in drinking and dancing the night away.
Some people relish the opportunity to get dressed up, while others dread it. Catch-alls like Around the World in 80 Days, open-to-interpretation concepts such as ‘Modern Vintage’ or ‘London Tube Stations’, or themes based on colours, letters or decades, allow guests to put in as much effort as they want. Strict fancy dress regulations are no fun for anyone.
For up-to-date theme inspiration, check out the upcoming film and TV releases in the run-up to Christmas. The most notable is surely Quantum of Solace, the new Bond film. It’s planned for UK release at the end of October, which conveniently means that Bondmania will be at fever pitch as you send out your invitations in November.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Autumn 2008.