Parties used to be pretty predictable things. Some drinks, some nibbles, some music, some fancy outfits. Perhaps a party game or two. After a while, like anything predictable, they got boring. So thank heavens for themed events – the modern party craze that makes today’s shindig as unique as its host’s imagination.
Themed events are to parties what Cecil B. DeMille pictures were to shadow puppetry. All-singing, all-dancing, super-lavish affairs in which attention has been paid to the tiniest detail. Turning parties into themed events makes them an experience, rather than a simple gathering: imagine, for example, a fully-staged Arthurian hall, complete with serving ladies, magicians, flickering torches and medieval food.
The guests are dressed in doublet and hose; real mead is being poured from metal flagons. A band of minstrels plucks a tune in the gallery. Themed events are like miniature plays – evening-long excursions into a fully-realized world.
We, modern folks, are more attuned to the idea of fantasy than perhaps we know. Films are hyper-real, with immersive 3D and brain-boggling effects effortlessly creating impossible things in front of even the most critical audience. TV shows create universes in which their watchers happily accept that vampires are real, or spaceships exist capable of catapulting themselves instantaneously to far-flung stars.
What themed events do is take this modern expectation for fantasy and apply it to reality. So rather than watching a film in which (say) a 1920’s ballroom is effortlessly recreated, attendees at themed events enter the ballroom itself. People who are invited to themed events become part of the story – part of the action – and they remember those stories for a long time.
Themed events satisfy a need for escape usually serviced by film and TV. Who, after all, wants to go stand in a room with a lot of people they know anyway, have a few drinks, talk about normal things, and go home? Anyone wanting to do that can go to a pub. A party is supposed to be something extraordinary, an escape from the norm. Themed events make parties escape not just from the run of everyday life, but from predictability as well: anyone invited to themed events is going to spend as much time wondering what a genuine Arthurian knees-up is going to be like as they are having fun at it when they go.
In an escapist world, parties have a lot to live up to. 300 billion dollar film budgets notwithstanding, themed events are a pretty good attempt.