One of my tricks for surviving the long Canadian winter is to entertain as much as possible throughout the colder months. It’s never too hard to find an excuse to have a party — Halloween, Christmas, awards season — but without the opportunity to go outside and barbeque or play games outside, you may need a little extra oomph to get your guests in the celebratory spirit. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to brighten up a dull week with a wacky luau party or Mad Men-inspired soiree, adding the element of a theme can transform a simple get-together into a party to remember. Here are some ideas to play up your theme:

1. Don’t be afraid to be cheesy!

Seriously, if any detail seems cheesy or over-the-top, it will probably make your party all the more fun. If you’re doing an Oscar party, go ahead and splurge on a fake red carpet to run down your hallway. If it’s Halloween time, don’t hesitate to buy that animatronic crypt keeper for your front door. The whole point of throwing a theme party is to go to extremes and be a little silly, so be sure to pull out all of the stops.

2. Set the mood

Music and lighting are important for all parties, but you can play with them to suit your theme. For a Halloween party, be sure that the lights are set nice and low. For a retro party, bring in some vintage lamps and turn off your overhead lights. As for music, it isn’t hard to get a theme-appropriate play-list together, but keep in mind that if it’s a large party people are going to be talking over the music, so don’t blast it too loud.

3. Make your food and drinks part of the theme

Now, you don’t want to make anything unappetizing just for the sake of novelty, but there are plenty of ways to make appetizers or signature cocktails that will fit into your theme and still be delicious. During awards season, serve “fancy food” like caviar and high-end cheeses (like the stars are surely dining on!) and experiment with gingerbread and peppermint flavours over the Christmas holidays. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but guests will be wowed if you adhere to the theme.

4. Décor, Décor, Décor!

You don’t have to spend a bundle, but use some decorations to convey your theme. Again, cheesy is okay, and if you’re crafty, handmade items can make a big impact. Even just sticking to a theme-appropriate colour will transform your party room — use orange and black tablecloths, streamers, and napkins for Halloween, red and green for Christmas, or a tropical motif for a mid-winter luau party.

5. Loot bags

Goodie bags aren’t just for kids! I recently helped host a Sons of Anarchy-themed birthday for a friend’s 40th birthday and the guests all went home with skull-and-crossbones adorned accessories from the dollar store, temporary tattoos, and blood red nail polish. Loot bags are relatively inexpensive to put together and will leave your guests with memories of a time well spent.

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