Themes give your events a focus while keeping guests engaged and entertained

Squaremeal Venues and Events Organisers Guide - theming and decor

It doesn’t matter if you’re dressing a few tables or transforming an entire venue: successful theming is an art form. Get it right, and it makes a good party great. Get it wrong, and it’ll be ghastly. 

Don’t pack the chest wig away just yet. In spite of the obligatory toe-curling tales (MDs in Spandex…), the fact is that party-goers love a theme. Not only does it give you a structure to work within, but it also gets guests talking pre- and post-party, while creating an atmosphere during the event. The key to this in a corporate context is inclusivity, meaning buy-in all the way from the boardroom to the post room. Dallas might be the boss’s favourite TV show ever, but there’s no point choosing it if half of your colleagues were in nappies in the 80s.

Another vital thematic tick box is flexibility. You might relish the prospect of full fancy dress, but more self-conscious colleagues will need a less extreme option. And like a successful film pitch, you should be able to explain your party theme in a sentence. If not, it’ll lack cohesion.

The tried-and-tested era themes are still out there, but they’ve been repackaged in cooler boxes, so 70s might be Studio 54, or 80s could be Wall Street. Remember also that summer and Christmas versions should have a different vibe.

Your party purse is probably not bursting at the seams but, even if it is, smart theming is crucial to ensure that tasteful doesn’t tip over into tacky. Fancy dress and iPhone playlists are a gift for bottom-end budgets – theming your guests is free.

Whatever you’ve got in the coffers, dedicate at least a third of it to a venue that won’t fight your theme, because that’s a battle you’ll never win. And check that the AV is up to scratch. Some of the most successful theming we’ve experienced relied 90% on lighting and production, and just 10% on physical decoration.

Planning a large themed event has more in common with styling for film and stage than, say, dressing a children’s party. Approaching a prop specialist is one way of translating the idea in your head to a live event. If you want to make an impact with just a few props, create a montage rather than spreading them around the room. 

You and your budget can go further by piggybacking on an organised Christmas party night, which, far from being finished products, have many customising options. With superficial changes, a general 20s theme can take on a speakeasy, rat-pack, art-deco or even a warehouse-party feel. 

This article was first published in Squaremeal Venues + Events 2017 Guide