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Tips for Throwing a Great Carnival-Themed Birthday Party

carnival costume and mask

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up and experience the wonders of your carnival-themed birthday party! Try your luck at a ball toss! Will you be the one to beat the strong man? How many prizes will you take home today?

The traveling carnival has been a part of American life for over 100 years. It was once the highlight of the year, drawing people from towns and cities together. What better way to bring together friends and family for a fun birthday party?

Scatter game booths around your backyard or local park and have guests compete to win prizes. Mom and Dad, or the hosts, can dress up as the ringmaster or a clown. Carnival food like hot dogs, popcorn, and cotton candy are easy and fun. A carnival-themed birthday party is relatively easy to set up, and sure to be a hit!

Planning Your Carnival-Themed Birthday Party

You can go all out or scale it back when planning your carnival-themed birthday party. If you’re the crafty type, you can save a lot of money, though not time, doing it all yourself. Budget permitting, party supply stores and retail websites have a great selection of pre-made items to make party planning a snap.

Types of invitations to send

Your invitation sets the tone for the type of party guests can expect and helps to build excitement! From homemade to pre-order, put some thought into the invitation you want to send. Let’s take a look at a few great options.

Carnival Ticket

Carnival ticket invitation

Carnivals once set up on ticket booths on either side of the entrance. For a nickel, carnival-goers received tear-off admission tickets. Why not copy their idea? Download a free template online and print off invites on paper or cardstock. A local print shop could do it for you using colored ink.

Or you can fill in your event’s details online and order printed invitations from vendors like Zazzle, Vistaprint, and ArtFire.

Booth invitation

While more involved than printing off a carnival ticket, this cute idea is sure to wow. Cut out simple cardstock in a rectangular invitation shape. Draw or paint a carnival booth’s outline on the card and write the details on the cards inside. Or you can write the details on the front, gluing tissue paper “curtains” over the details that guests have to lift to reveal the information. Another cute touch? Using a small, wooden clothespin to fasten a ticket to the booth’s front.

Popcorn party invite

An iconic image, a red-and-white popcorn box makes the front of your invite pop. Draw the popcorn box’s image on your card’s front and color in the yellow popcorn. Or cut out construction paper strips and glue them on cardstock.

Carnival-Themed Birthday Party Decorations

Primary colors, balloons, and game booths: it’s both fun and easy to decorate for a carnival-themed birthday party!

Game booths – no carnival is complete without them!

Carnival-goers wandered through rows of booths, trying their hand at games and eating sticky cotton candy. Booths define the space and direct party-goers to the different activities.

carnival booth

It’s still possible to create a fun environment with limited budget and space. Pull old sheets out of the linen closet, or pick them up at your local secondhand shop. With craft paint, outline booths. String clothesline between trees and hang the sheets up as backdrops to the games. For fishing games, cut holes for booth openings in the sheets and kids can fish through them.

If it’s a kid’s party, involve them in painting. Outline the booth’s shape, stripes, and awning in black Sharpie. Lay the sheets down on the grass and pin them down with heavy rocks. Then, hand your kids a paintbrush. Big appliance boxes work equally well — that is, if you’re willing to get more involved by cutting out shapes.

Multiple vendors sell cardboard booths online, ranging in price from $50 to $150 and up. After the party, they make a great addition to a playroom.

Put out a colorful picnic tablecloth or a table skirt and use a table for food rather than something that could tip or buckle under the food’s weight. Re-purpose a beach umbrella above it and hang bunting from its edges. Don’t forget fun paper plates, cups, and napkins! Put cupcakes on this fun carnival-themed stand, serve candy in striped party bags, or use those red-striped boxes for popcorn.

Setting the ambiance for your carnival-themed birthday party

No party is complete without music, and the first few bars of the calliope music most associated with carnivals are instantly recognizable. There are CDs available for purchase or download, and this CD has all the traditional carnival music in one place. Assign the Ringmaster music duties to hit “play” whenever the CD stops.

happy woman

Tie your party’s space together with colorful flags strung between trees, or half circles with red, white, and blue. Want to turn it into a fun afternoon craft? Cut out the triangles for younger children, hole punch across the top, and set them up stringing the clothesline between them. With older children, draw triangles on construction paper and have them cut them out. Or you can just buy a full outdoor carnival decorating kit and make your life easy.

The finishing touch – costumes!

Don’t just draw a mustache on your face: You can order a full Ringmaster costume online! Dress dad up as a strongman, with padded muscles and a blow-up barbell. Ask grandma to be a clown and blow up balloons. Getting the adults in on the fun also ensures that all the kids are supervised.

If you’re hosting an adult carnival-themed birthday party, ask guests to come in costume and have a competition. Bonus points to the snake lady who brings a real, live snake!


Fun Carnival Games for your Carnival-Themed Party

Every carnival has games, from ring tosses to ball throws. Carnival-goers compete for prizes at the game booth. Or give out tickets they can redeem for prizes at a central prize booth. Depending on the number of guests invited, you may need to rope in other adults and family members to run each game.

Wading pool fishing

Dump the water out of the kid’s wading pool and set it up for a fishing game. If you don’t own one, ask a neighbor if you can borrow their pool or find a cheap plastic option. Cut out paper fish from construction paper and glue magnets on the back. Craft stores carry dowels perfect for fishing rods. Tie a long string around one end and glue a magnet around another.

To make it harder, you can cut out different sized fish and assign smaller fish a higher point value. Limit the number of turns kids can take fishing, then add up their points and hand out a prize or tickets.

Shooting game with water guns and rubber duckies

Line ‘em up and shoot ‘em down! Fill up your water guns or buy a cheap set at the store. Line up rubber duckies on a fence or table edge and have kids try to shoot them down. You can score it by a point per duck that goes down in a one minute period, or buy differently sized ducks and make the heavier ducks worth more points.

Ball toss games

There are as many versions of a ball toss as there are balls. Set up buckets at varying distances from a line where guests stand. Give them four balls to throw. Each ball that lands in a bucket is worth points that they can then redeem for prize tickets, with the furthest bucket away becoming the highest point value.

carnival - boss toss game

Hang rings on strings at different heights from tree branches and do a ring toss with balls. Make a pyramid out of old cans decorated with construction paper and have kids throw balls to knock them down. Younger children can stand closer to the target.

Temporary tattoo booths

Kids love temporary tattoos and setting up a booth where they sit still and an adult applies one could give them a break from all the excitement.

Adult kissing booth

Hosting an adults-only party? Why not set up a kissing booth? Participation is completely voluntary, of course.

Lollipop garden guessing game

This homemade game is simple and easy to set-up, and since everyone gets a lollipop, everyone is a winner! Buy a bag of lollipops and use different colored markers to make dots on the bottom of the sticks. Color a lot of lollipops red, and the kids who pick those get the cheaper prize, some green, a mid-tier level, and only two blue for the top prizes.

Then pick up a piece of Styrofoam at a craft store. You can decorate it or just put it on a table “as is.” Stick the lollipops into the Styrofoam and let guests guess and pick a prize.

Party Favors for the Prize Booth

Once they’ve played all those games, it’s time to hand out the prizes! If you have an adult at each booth running things, they can hand them out there. Or kids can save up their tickets for bigger prizes. Some good ideas include;

  • Stickers and erasers
  • Keychains with fun animals
  • Whistles and kazoos
  • Toy cars
  • Pinwheels, magic wands, and tops

To save you money, party supply companies often sell these prizes in multi-packs.

Where to buy party favors for your carnival-themed birthday party

You can find the best deals for party favors and prizes online. Oriental Trading Company sells a wide selection, often in bulk. Carnival Favors has toys as low as 10 cents each! Shindigz party favor selection includes noisemakers, springs, wands, and more.

Another bonus of ordering online is that you can hide the plain box in a closet until the party starts, keeping it a surprise for your kids.

Carnival-Themed Birthday Party Food

Hot dogs, popcorn, and cotton candy — stocking a food table could be the easiest part of your party setup. Grocery and big box stores sell pre-packaged bags of both popcorn and cotton candy. Before the guests arrive, you can cook up a bunch of hot dogs and put them out on the table with buns and condiments.

While you can bake cupcakes, your local grocery store will happily cook up a batch for you to slide onto trays. Peanuts may be a traditional carnival treat, but you’ll only want to serve them if you’re sure there are no guests with peanut allergies.

These are simple ideas, but if you want to add some more pizazz to your food table, consider renting some appliances.

Food appliances to rent for your carnival-themed birthday party

If you ask around, you may be able to find someone in your circle who owns one or two of these appliances. If not, party supply stores often have machines you can rent and so do many rental companies.

Set up a popcorn machine at the food table. Before guests arrive, you might want to pop a batch of popcorn and pre-fill some of the containers. Hot dog machines, which rotate dogs on spikes, and cotton candy machines where kids can watch an adult swirl the paper cone around the fluff, up your party game. Make sure there’s always an adult nearby to keep kids from touching hot surfaces. A sno-cone machine with multiple flavors and colors is always fun, and you can add some liquor to the mix for the adults.

Boys and Girls of All Ages Love Carnivals

There’s a reason that carnivals have remained popular for over a hundred years; they’re fun, wholesome entertainment! It’s easy to fill an afternoon running around, competing with friends, and earning prizes. Along the way, you’ll be making memories to last a lifetime.

Birthday Themes For Girls: Awesome Party Ideas For All Ages

girl blowing candles in the birthday cake

Girls of all ages love to get together and celebrate. But instead of the same old thing, check out some of these great birthday themes for girls. Themed parties make planning a breeze. Once you choose an appropriate scenario, the decorations, food, and activities follow naturally. Birthdays mark significant milestones in any girl’s life. So, it’s important to celebrate as your daughter grows up, and changes so much along the way.

In fact, when planning and choosing birthday themes for girls, make sure you pick one that’s age-appropriate. Your college-aged daughter might think a kiddie dinosaur party is awesomely and ironically cool. But your tween or young teen might get a bit miffed that you still think of her as a little girl.

By age appropriate, we mean that you should make sure the theme is as grown-up as the girl thinks she is. At the same time, avoid anything that might not be appropriate in the eyes of her friends’ parents.

And the best part is that many of these themes are multi-purpose. You don’t have to limit them to just birthdays. Many of them make fantastic themes for girls’ nights, pajama parties, wedding showers, and even the opening hours of a bachelorette party.

Fun Birthday Themes for Girls’ Parties

Here are nine themed parties that make a fun get together for girls of all ages. Some are perfect for modifying for a more adult group, too. Others work just as well for a mixed group of children, both boys and girls. Hopefully, some will provide you with some ideas for creating a memorable birthday bash.

1. Tea party

outside garden tea party

What girl doesn’t want to indulge in a fancy high tea party with all the trimmings? Nothing makes you feel quite as proper and pampered as a three-level silver tray of savories, sweets, and scones. A tea party is one of those birthday themes for girls that’s a hit for those from 7 to 77.

A traditional English tea has three courses: savory, sweet, and scone. Savory dishes often include small, elegant sandwiches filled with meat salads or vegetables and cream. Keep the age level in mind when choosing food, though. While you and your teenager might enjoy a salmon cream sandwich, your 8-year-old may be skeptical. For that reason, prepare several different types.

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Set the tables with lace and fresh flowers and use your best china. Or even your best Chinette. You can go posh or plain with a silver teapot or microwaveable stoneware. Choose several types of tea, from deep black breakfast blends to light and herbal, like chamomile. You can find adorable paper cups that look china cups and saucers with the matching plates. So, you don’t need to spend much money on this special occasion.

For a fun activity, you can have your young guests decorate their own paper teacups with stickers. Or hold a tea tasting, so every guest can try out different flavors. Then, send them home with their own teapot party favors to remember the day.

2. Glamping

lady slicing cake outdoor

Glamping is just like camping, only nobody has to sleep on the damp ground. And it’s one of those birthday themes for girls that can suit a range of friends. But you may need to upscale it quite a lot for older guests. For kids and tweens, glamping in the backyard is just right. They’re close to home and all the amenities, while still “roughing it” a bit outdoors.

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No much backyard space? No problem! Create tents indoors by hanging some pretty sheets over PVC pole frames. Then, have the guests bring sleeping bags or bedrolls. You can roast hot dogs and marshmallows for s’mores over a disposable barbeque grill. Remember to do this outdoors; never use open flame indoors, especially near children.

For older guests over 18, take a look at the nearby national parks for cabin rentals. Depending on the location and how rustic the facility, you’ll find somewhere sweet to spend the weekend with the girls.

3. Spa party

lady on a foot spa

This is another one of those super birthday themes for girls of all ages. For teens and adults, a spa party is the perfect way to kick off prom season and makes a great get together for wedding attendants. For little girls, stick to healthy activities that emphasize fitness. Games like track races, soccer goal competitions, and obstacle courses at the local park will get them excited about sports and being active. Afterward, they can make up their own nutritious smoothies under supervision with a selection of kid-friendly fruits and other ingredients. Let them mix and match and create their own recipes. And of course, you can find fun child-safe party favors for manicures and creating hairstyles.

4. Garden Party

group of ladies having wine outdoor

Many girls both young and old love garden parties, but some like to really get their hands dirty. You can throw an outdoor lunch with fancy cakes if you want. But you can also let your guest do some gardening at the garden party. A simple picnic makes a great menu, with sandwiches and fizzy drinks. The activities are the focus for this alternative take on a girls’ garden party. If you have a flower garden, spend time showing them how to cut flowers, and then let them make their own bouquets and arrangements.

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How about having them decorate their own inexpensive terra cotta pots with paint and fake gems. You can even buy low-cost annual flower seedlings from your local home store that they can plant to take home with them. Some of the easiest to care for include marigolds, pansies, and petunias.

Other fun activities can include making a bee hotel or decorating their own straw gardening hats with ribbons and silk flowers.

5. Craft Party

group of people working on a craft

Speaking of crafts, choosing a project that everyone can work on together inspires several ideas for birthday themes for girls. You can select a craft that involves sewing, cutting, or even baking, depending on the age and skill levels of the guest.

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For a super easy project that most kids can accomplish, provide the materials for a small hand loom. Then, an adult or older child can sew all the finished squares together to make a decorative table cover. Although it may be a nice gift for the birthday girl, consider the age of the children involved. It may be a better idea to suggest giving it to a favorite teacher, instead.

One fun activity for birthday themes for girls involves cake and cookie decorating parties. Although not all girls like to bake, it may appeal to more than you think when it means they can devour the sweet results in the end. For little kids, stick to cupcakes or cookies they can call their own. And make sure each has their own “chef’s apron,” because food coloring can stain.

6. Rockstar

lady playing electric guitar

Everyone knows that girls can rock, too. It doesn’t matter whether the birthday girl worships Joan Jett, Beyonce, or Taylor Swift, she should feel like a star on her special day. And so should all of her guests.

Rig up a stage in the party venue. You can use a discarded pallet with plywood to add height. Hang an inexpensive stage backdrop in the back. Then, set up Rock Band, Guitar Hero, or a karaoke machine. You can also host a game of “Name That Tune,” with music-themed prizes. Just remember the age range of your guests when choosing the songs.

Make party invitations that look like concert tickets, and serve snacks on old vinyl record albums. (You find them cheap from your local charity thrift store.) You’ll also find cool rock and roll style party favors like inflatable instruments and microphones from the dollar store.

Fun activities can include letting the girls get their glam on before posing on the stage with an instrument or mic stand for their photo shoot. You can also take videos of each during her karaoke solo to send along with the birthday girl’s thank you notes later.

7. Gamer’s party

playing computer games in a console

Girls got game. This is one of those birthday themes for girls that doesn’t seem obvious. If the birthday girl loves video games, set up the family console and hold a tournament. Choose easy games to speed up the tournament or for younger players. Tables with board games will keep other guests engaged while waiting for their turn at the controller. You can even find card games that match the video game franchises.

Base decorations and party favors on the birthday girl’s favorite video game. Teens can bring their laptops to play online games together. The best part is that after they’ve won the battle, everyone can get together for a celebratory feast instead of rushing to finish their homework. Other activities for a gamer party that don’t actually involve looking at a screen can include LEGO art and Perler crafts the kids can take home with them.

Gaming can be a fun theme for adults, too, especially if you choose retro games from the early days of video games. You can even serve retro treats from their childhood.

8. Book party

books on shelves

Does the birthday girl have a favorite book series or franchise? Did she drag you to the local bookstore at midnight when the new installment of Harry Potter or The Hunger Games was released? Does she hold her hand out for allowance whenever John Green releases yet another tragic teen love story?

So, many girls love to read, and some even love to write. Why not host a book party? You don’t have to wait for the next big young adult blockbuster to arrive. Base the party on the birthday girl’s favorite author or series. Whether she loves Victoria Aveyard, J.K. Rowling, or Maureen Johnson, the possibilities are endless.

You can even choose one series and base the party in that book’s world. Does she love the Hunger Games? Split the guests into “districts” and hold mock battles. Make sure to prepare a real feast after the winner is declared. They don’t call it the Hunger Games for nothing.

For little kids, you can even set up a book creation station. Supply plenty of paper, pencils, and coloring markers so kids can write, illustrate, and staple together their own tales of adventure.

For older tweens and teens, purchase a stack of blank books they can fill during the party and take home as a souvenir. Take plenty of pictures to print and send later with the thank you cards so they can add them to their book as a memento of the event.

9. Fashion party

group of ladies in a fashion attire

The art of Fashion design is a form of self-expression, and it can even reach levels of art. Fashion shows are one of the most popular birthday themes for girls’ parties, but they don’t have to be just about the latest trends.

You’ll have to do a lot of collecting for the fashion show. Round up old, outdated, and outgrown clothes from other adults. (You can donate them to charity after the party.) Or raid the local thrift store.

Choose garments from several eras and several sizes if possible. In this case, it’s better to go too big than too small. Young children will have an easier time putting on baggy clothes. And older tweens and teens don’t need to be confronted with body size issues at a birthday party.

It doesn’t have to just be all about high fashion. With a wide selection of props, you can have competitions for the best punk outfit, best Western outfit, or even the ugliest ensemble. Or have guests choose outfits for each other.

For a No-Sew Challenge, stuff bags full of sheets, leftover fabrics, belts, accessories, and scarves. Try to divvy them up equally so there’s plenty in each bag. Then, have each guest create their own outfit out of the remnants and trims in the bags without sewing anything together.

You can have a vote for the best outfit and award a prize after they do their turn on the catwalk. For a bit of hilarity, have them race in their outfits and award a prize to the one whose outfit best survives an ad-hoc obstacle course.

The Best Birthday Themes for Girls

While you may have considered ballerina parties or yet another Disney Princess do, the best theme to choose is one that fits the birthday girl. Little girls rarely hold back when asked to talk about their favorite things. And for younger children, keeping them busy is the best path to birthday party success.

Older girls may be more shy about their interests. You may have to do a little non-invasive parental snooping. But it’s not too hard to figure out what they love by checking their Netflix playlist or bedroom décor.

The important is to focus on the fun while giving your guests lasting memories. Young people rarely get a chance to get away from their everyday life; there’s no vacation from being a kid. Create an experience that takes them outside of their mundane world, and your party is sure to be a hit.

15 Super Cool Party Themes to Get the Party Started

Cool party themes can turn your party from a mundane dinner into a creative, expressive, and memorable evening. A theme party works best when the guests can display their talents and give themselves over to their creativity. Even days before the event is scheduled, they’ll begin hunting for costume and accessory components to match the theme. The excitement has already started.

For the most part, the number and cost of the decorations will depend only on how elaborate you want to carry the theme. For example, a bunch of ripped up old clothes and some horror makeup is all you need for a zombie party. However, if you want to elaborately decorate your location with make-believe dismembered limbs and have the food looks like brains and eyeballs, you may need to invest a bit more time and money.

15 Cool Party Themes for Kids and Adults

To help you get started here are some cool party themes to jazz up that birthday party, holiday party, office get-together, or just to gather a group of friends over for a fun Saturday night. Most party centers, and in some cases thrift stores, will have plenty of decoration appropriate to your cool party themes.

Let’s get right to the fun.

1. Decade Party

lady in dress showing back

Cool party themes involving decades generally go over well because everyone probably has an idea of how to act and how to dress. If you choose the 1950s, turn back the clock to a time of drive-ins, rock and roll, poodle skirts, leather jackets, and greasy hair. The 1960s party usually involves tye-dye, sandals, headbands, and love beads. If your gathering is 1970s themed, you can go with disco or classic rock and plan the dress code to fit. Mood rings make excellent party favors for either type. If you opt for the 1980s, padded shoulders and leg warmers rule.

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Another advantage of a decade party turns out to be that the music carries most of the weight. Because once you have the appropriate tunes playing, the atmosphere is set to get your guests in the mood. Use old 45 RPM records, cassettes, or 8-tracks for decorations. Most thrift shops will have them at give-away prices. The more popular and more colorful the label, the better. Also, if they are decade appropriate, you can take LP albums, place them on a covered cookie sheet and heat them slightly in a warm (not hot) oven. Once they are a bit pliable, mold them around the bottom of a bundt pan and let them cool. They make excellent theme appropriate bowls for popcorn or other snacks.

Decade parties work great but try not to be too specific or obscure. You may get very few RSVPs for your “1930s Depression Era Blowout,” and every guest who shows up might come dressed like Al Capone or Amelia Earhart.

2. Class Reunion, 30 Years in the Future (For Children)

kid in a dress up party

What will you be in the future? Doctor, baseball player, cop? Have the kids come over in the outfit of what they want to be when they grow up. Most kids already have an interest in a particular occupation or their own everyday heroes, so they may already have costumes, jerseys, or props.

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cool party themes

One of the all-time classic cool party themes, this one is not complicated or expensive. (Which could be why college students like it so much.) The toga party doesn’t demand much more of your guests than a bed sheet and a crown of leaves, but you can get as elaborate as you like.

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The guests can decide for themselves if that decorated sheet is enough. Or they can add a little flair to their costumes with dressier toga costumes. You’ll want to serve plenty of wine, along with Ancient World favorites like olives and crusty bruschetta bread with dipping sauce. You may want to skip the swan’s tongue, however.

4. Red Carpet Party

red carpet with petals

The real beauty of the red carpet party is that it crosses all generational and lifestyle lines. Come as your favorite actor or actress, movie star, TV star, or recording star. The only rule is they must be real people, not characters. You can be anything from Groucho Marx to Lady GaGa. Contemporary music performers or long-gone silent movie stars are always a big favorite. Make sure everyone gets a photo op with the host!

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5. Superhero Worship

spider man superhero costume

Come dressed as your favorite superhero. But, be ready to tell a bit about your hero and how they influenced you. You can even set a few rules. Choose DC Comics, Marvel heroes, any other fictional hero like Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen. This is one of the most popular cool party themes for kids. And even some adults will find it a blast, as more grownups become enthralled with comic book culture. And feats of strength make for some pretty cool party games.

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6. Detective Murder Mystery

crime scene detective

Come dressed as your favorite TV, literary, or movie detective and try to solve a mystery. Murder mystery parties are quite popular, but you can make it a stolen painting, a kidnapped CEO, or any crime that fits the gathering. Make sure you hold a costume contest and let everyone vote for the winner.

7. Fat Tuesday

Mardi Gras mask party

It doesn’t have to be Fat Tuesday for you to throw a Mardi Gras party. Purple, green, and gold colors complete the scene, and you can get beads almost anywhere. Serve traditional Mardi Gras dishes like crab cakes, dirty rice and of course, King Cake.

8. What Happens In Vegas…

casino games

Play blackjack, poker, dice, and other table games and award prizes at the end of the night purchased with poker chip winnings. You must be a high-roller since all your food and drinks get comped! Viva Las Vegas! This is one of the best cool party themes for non-profit fundraisers, as well. If you’re trying to raise money for your favorite charity. With this in mind, you can ask your guests to donate to the charity when they pick up their chips at the door.

9. Hawaiian Luau

Hawaiian dance girls

There is never a bad time for a Hawaiian theme party. Everybody knows what to wear to a luau. And like a ’50s party, once you have the music, you’re half-way there! Almost everything else you need to decorate you can find at the nearest dollar store or local thrift store. Grass skirts, tiki necklaces, torches, and even larger decorations set the mood. The food is easy, and the snacks are, too! You may finally have a chance to show your friends how good pineapple pizza really is!

10. Pajama Party

lady in pajama clip art

Not just for kids. Adults can also have sleep-over pajama parties. You can break up the party at a predetermined time, or you can have your friends spend the night and avoid driving home. Everyone wears their most comfortable — or elegant — pajamas, and the entertainment can be almost anything. Cards, classic movies, or just talking about old times will all do nicely. Enjoy your friendship and have fun.

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11. Graffiti Party

Graffiti art wall

This is one of those cheap and easy cool party themes. Just have your guests come dressed in a plain white T-shirt and give them all sharpies and markers. Give them all different colors, if possible, for later identification. Have your guests draw pictures, write messages, or leave phone numbers. But, nobody gets away with just an autograph. Don’t look at the back of your shirts until the end of the night for a collective comic reveal.

12. ABC Party (Anything But Clothes)

cool party themes

On the other hand, maybe not the best choice for the boss’ retirement function, but an ABC party can be loads of fun with close friends. Come dressed up in anything EXCEPT traditional clothing. Dress in a trash bag, a flour sack, aluminum foil, or anything else you think will do the job to keep you covered. Police caution tape and duct tape seem to show up often at this kind of party. Remember to use your imagination, but keep in mind the acceptance level of the room. You know your friends better than we do.

A fun twist is to have each friend invite someone they know that isn’t part of the core group. This is always an interesting and sometimes humorous way to make new friends. Also, if you’re driving home wearing nothing but five baseball hats taped to your body, you might want to be extra careful to obey all the traffic laws and speed limits.

13. Truman Capote’s Famous Black And White Masked Ball

man in black and white with mask

Over 50 years ago, writer Truman Capote held his first Black and White Masked Ball. It has since become somewhat of a Hollywood staple. Wear nothing but black and white, dress as finely as you can, and wear a small, elegant mask. The type on a stick works very well, but your arms might get tired before the end of the night. Otherwise, it is set up as a regular dinner party, but with something unusual on the menu to make it more memorable. Truman Capote served spaghetti and chicken hash at midnight for his first party.

14. Blacklight Party

lady with colorful glitters on face

Have your guests wear white cotton or bright, blacklight reactive colors and turn out all the other lights. Add some blacklight ballons and other fluorescent party decorations. Also, you can combine a blacklight and graffiti party by giving your guests blacklight markers and black t-shirts so that all you can see as they mingle is whatever was drawn on them by the other guests.

Some foods reflect interestingly under black light, like marshmallows, tortilla chips, and potato chips, so add them to the menu. You can also serve cocktails that use tonic water, because quinine glows bright blue under blacklight.

15. 1001 Arabian Nights

lady in arabian costume

This theme can be a bit more involved. Let belly dancing contests, Moroccan mint tea, exotic fabrics, and intricate lighting set the scene. And just like in the original story, every guest has to spin a tale to keep the rest of the partygoers enthralled. Have lots of appropriate music ready, because this kind of party tends to last well into the wee hours. Serve Morrocan favorite finger foods, like fekka, marinated olives, cheeses, and msemen.

When the Party’s Over

Imagination is far more important than spending money when you have a theme party. Often, coming up with ideas for decorations, games, and refreshments to fit the theme is a big part of the fun for the host. Hopefully, if you do want to go all out, some of these ideas will help you do that.

And with any of these cool party themes, if alcohol is involved, please have the foresight to keep your friends safe. The best way to do this is by securing designated drivers or a cash reserve for Uber, or Lyft rides home if your guests need them. You can even download apps to help roughly determine your alcohol level based on your build and alcohol intake for both iPhone and Android.

Sometimes, the best parties are those when the guests can spend the night and just relax. Most importantly, not worrying about getting home could be the best thing you can offer them at your party. Let the party begin!

Tips For Throwing An Amazing Hawaiian Theme Party

man grilling meat outdoor

A Hawaiian theme party is a big hit with crowds young and old and is one of the most popular themes around. The reason is obvious: who doesn’t want to spend a day having fun in a tropical paradise? People love the idea of dressing up in bright tropical shirts, listening to drum or surf music, and enjoying exotic drinks and food cooked outdoors.

Great celebrations are part of Hawaiian culture, and Americans have adopted the luau with open arms since the small island nation became a U.S. State in 1959. Traditionally, luaus feature entertainment and food roasted in outdoor fire pits. It’s a winning theme for any summer get-together, from graduation parties to weddings to family reunions.

Planning A Hawaiian Theme Party

You’ll find that putting together a Hawaiian theme party is pretty easy. After all, your guests probably won’t be too fussy about authenticity. And it doesn’t’ take much to put one together. The elements that transport a gathering to a tropical-themed blowout are relatively standard and easy to accomplish. Hawaiian food and drinks have integrated with American culture. And there’s very little we love more than laid-back, surf culture and a backyard cookout.

Traditional Hawaiian dancing for Hawaiian theme party

Finding A Venue

One of the biggest challenges in throwing a Hawaiian theme party is finding a place to hold it. When thinking about the islands, one imagines green spaces with palm trees, beaches, and tiki huts. Wherever the surroundings and whatever you’re serving, however, the best place to hold a luau is always outdoors. That’s what makes it such a popular party theme for summer.

The easiest and certainly least expensive place to hold your Hawaiian theme party is in your own backyard. If you don’t have an ample outdoor space, you could also hold your luau in a public park. It’s not quite as convenient, and you may have to pay a fee if you want to rent a picnic shelter. On the upside, you also won’t need to spend hours mowing your lawn or trimming back bushes in preparation.

Another option for holding your luau is your nearest botanical garden. You’ll discover they have beautiful and well-tended spaces for rent. Better yet, many of them feature tropical gardens for that final touch to your party. For example, the Cleveland Botanical Garden offers their outdoor Geis Terrace. The Huntsville Botanical Garden has their Grisham Pavilion. And Atlanta residents can enjoy the lovely tropical Cascades Garden. These venues can run several hundred dollars, but if you’re planning for an extraordinary occasion, such as a wedding or an anniversary, these gardens can turn a ho-hum event into a high-end gala.

Hawaiian Theme Party Decorations

The range of your decorations for a Hawaiian party only ends where your budget falls short. The amount you want to spend and just how sophisticated you want to make it determines what kind you’ll need. For low budget or kids’ parties, choose plastic grass table skirts. Kids also love the fake dress-up hula skirts and leis. And even adults think they’re pretty fun if a little kitschy.

If you’re looking for more upscale décor for an adult party or special occasion, you can find tropically themed table linens and raffia table skirts and umbrellas. Also, Check with your local rental companies to rent a tiki hut bar, bounce house, or Hawaiin themed carnival games.

Tropical Party Lighting

Don’t forget the lighting. If your Hawaiian theme party runs late, you’ll want citronella tiki torches and table torches to ward off those summertime no-see-ums and biting insects.

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When the DJ is rocking your luau in the small hours, you’ll need additional lighting to create that magical atmosphere for dancing. LEDs provide plenty of outdoor party lighting, and you’ll find some that lend real charm, like pineapple-shaped string lights, pineapple LED table lamps and pre-lit palm trees.

Choosing Food For Your Hawaiian Theme Party

Although most people think the term luau as synonymous with a Hawaiian theme party, the name “luau” actually derives from the island name for one of the dishes served. The edible broadleaf lūʻau (taro) leaves kept the roasted meats moist in the firepit, while the roots serve as the main ingredient in Hawaiian poi.

Roasted Pork

Depending on your desire for authenticity and your budget, many party planners choose to hire a pig roaster for their luau. Although less authentic than a traditional kalua pit, it scores plenty of bonus points for convenience, speed, and the complete absence of shovels. You can find some vendors nearby that will be happy to rent a portable pig roaster for your big event. Better yet, many of them also clean and prepare the pig for roasting. All you need to do is baste with your favorite marinade and keep an eye on the thermometer.

On the other hand, if you’re a stickler for detail and want to show off, you can also do it island style by digging a pit in your backyard.

Kid-friendly Foods

Many children and even some adults become horrified at the idea of a whole roasted pig. If you or your guests find the idea unappealing, try something a bit less graphic. Most kids love chicken nuggets, and you can stay within your theme by serving them with sweet and sour pineapple sauce. For the grownups, grill chicken strips and serve with the same sauce as an alternative to pork. Although they’re not strictly Hawaiian, chicken and beef shish kabobs on the grill are universal favorites for kids and adults alike.


If you want to try something less expected than a pig roast, consider some other island foods that go well on the grill. The deep blue Pacific Ocean surrounds Hawaii, so seafood is an on-topic choice. One luau favorite is laulau, a combination of pork, chicken, and butterfish cooked in taro leaves. Some recipes also add Ti leaves or banana leaves, The best part is that you can prepare them well ahead of time and steam them once the party gets started. At serving time, provide each guest with their own tidily wrapped portion.

A fish dinner for a Hawaiian party

​​​For something less labor intensive, check for Hawaiian fish favorites in your local supermarket. Mahi-mahi is one of the island’s standards. Ahi, also called yellowfin tuna, is delicious from the grill. More exotic fish include Ono (Hawaiian for “delicious), Kajiki (or Blue Marlin), or Opakapaka (Hawaiian pink snapper).

Poke and Lomi salmon are both traditional Hawaiian dishes, but like sushi, they’re made from raw fish. Probably not a good idea for a big outdoor party where food can sit for hours under the hot sun. We recommend giving the poke a pass, and instead, cook your favorite fish over the grill in aluminum foil packets.

Hawaiian Love For Spam

Try some fun finger foods made with Spam and tropical fruit, especially for the kids. You can even make appetizers for the adults while sharing the history of Hawaii and its enthusiastic adoption of this canned pork product.

Although a bit of an urban legend in the U.S., the Hawaiian demand for canned Spam is so high that many grocery stories limit how much any one customer can buy. Their appreciation for Spam dates back to World War II when American soldiers stationed on the island were inundated with it as part of their rations. The Asian immigrants then living in Hawaii incorporated it into their dishes. The results were so delicious that it became a big hit.

Although it’s pretty cheap stuff here on the Mainland, Hawaiians don’t find any more stigmatized than ground beef. And like ground beef, islanders know how to prepare it in dozens of delicious ways. So, for a bit of fun, especially for a more casual crowd, offer Spam Musubi, a kind of Spam sushi, a regional favorite.

For the grill, do Spam burgers with thick slices of pineapple. The sweet and salty combination is sure to be a bit hit. Spam and pineapple skewers are also pretty awesome.

Hawaiian Sweets

Along with a wealth of fresh tropical fruits – pineapples are a given – shave ice is perfect for your Hawaiian theme party. Shave ice is very similar to snow cones, and the basic premise is the same. However, shave ice is shaved, and snow cones are made from crushed ice.

These make a super summer sweet under the hot sun for your party, especially if you choose Hawaiian fruit flavors like guava, pineapple, passion flower, mango, and kiwi. You’ll find shave ice vendors all over the island as a typical part of the tourist experience. One interesting difference is that in Hawaii, they often use creamy toppings on their shave ice treats. Coconut cream is popular on top of fruit flavors. Condensed milk or melted vanilla ice cream also serves.

Set up a shave ice service station at your Hawaiian theme party, with a variety of tropical flavors. You can even make alcohol infused versions for the grownups, with flavors like appletini or a Blue Hawaiian cocktail syrup.

Hawaiian Theme Party Drinks

The selection of drinks you offer for your Hawaiian party will depend on the nature of the party and the age of your guests. Whether you’re serving cocktails or soft drinks, however, you’ll want to present them in fun containers. You’ll find some Hawaiian theme cups and glasses, like Tiki Head mugs, coconut cups, or simple plastic cups in tropical colors. And don’t forget the paper umbrellas!

Adult Beverages

For evening parties and those comprised of adults primarily, you may want to mix up some tropical themed cocktails or alcoholic punch drinks. Although most people associate rum with the Caribbean, many Hawaiian theme party drinks feature rum. Favorites include Mai Tai, Blue Hawaii, Pina Colada, or a Planter’s Punch. Vodka features in light fruit cocktails, like a Hibiscus Cooler or a Bay Breeze.

Hawaiian adult beverages for a hawaiian party

The best part is that many of these fruit-based drinks don’t require alcohol to taste delicious. So, offer your guests the “virgin version” for those that don’t indulge and those under age.

Beer is a big favorite for backyard parties. It’s easy to serve to a large crowd and doesn’t require extra glassware. And there’s nothing to clean up after. Give your beer cooler a little island style by serving ice cold bottles of your favorite brew in an inflatable cooler featuring palm trees or tiki heads. But if you want the long-lasting style for all your outdoor parties, choose a rattan cooler that looks stylish for any occasion and collapses into a patio side table when not in use.

Kid Friendly Drinks

Luckily, kids love fruit punch. Dress up their drinks with paper umbrellas or hibiscus straws so they can get that island feel with their Shirley Temple.

Hydration Station

Remember, however, that all of your guests will need cold water to drink. Especially if you’re Hawaiian theme party is during the day in the hot sun. Active kids can become dehydrated in the heat, and sugary drinks won’t help. Your adult guests should also get plenty of water, particularly if they’ve been drinking rum drinks all day.

A good host makes sure guests don’t overindulge, either in sugar or alcohol. So, make sure there is plenty of cold water to drink. To dress it up for the party, use an attractive dispenser and infuse it with fresh tropical flowers and fruits. Hibiscus flowers are edible and make for a beautiful glass of water. Or try a combination of pineapple, coconut, and lime for an island refresher.

Activities And Games For Your Hawaiian Theme Party

If you really want your party to stay in the memories of your guests long afterward, choose fun activities that feature Hawaiian or tropical themes they’ll never forget. Get your guests involved by making them the center of the action or participating in themed activities

group of people having fun activities

Photo Booth

Create a photo op and let them take home a souvenir. Inexpensive tropical theme backdrops let you take pictures of your guests on the sandy shores of remote islands — without ever leaving the yard. Ranging from about fourteen bucks to forty bucks, you’ll find full-size photo-ready backdrops with palm trees, pristine beaches, or tropical rain forests. You can set up a website to share the final pictures, use a file sharing service online, or even print and send each guest a copy of their island portrait.

Make Your Own Leis

Although Hawaii welcomes guests with a fresh flower lei upon arrival, one way to make your party remains memorable is to provide the space and materials for your guests to make their own silk flower leis. Not only does it provide a lovely souvenir of the day, but it also gives people a chance to sit and rest and mingle with others.

And kids love party crafts, too. Place a craft table in the shade with fake flowers for leis and bracelets, or construction paper cutouts and crayons to make tiki head masks. This will give younger guests a chance to sit out of the hot sun while creating something fun to take home.

Treasure Hunt

Nothing is as much fun at a party than a scavenger hunt. This takes some planning but can be the most fun your guests have had a party for ages. Set up in advance by placing clues throughout the yard and around the house.

TREASURE HUNT: A Book of Clues for Parties
  • Kruse, Nancy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 116 Pages - 07/25/2008 (Publication Date) - Booklocker.com, Inc. (Publisher)

For kids, use clues that test age-appropriate reading and math skills. For adults, clues could center on their knowledge of plants and flowers, map coordinates, or you can even write them in an obscure language, like Latin. Use a translation app to set them up. The first test is whether they can figure out which language it is.

Kids can work together, with an adult guide to help them if they get stumped. Adults can break up into teams or work as couples or on their own.

Start with a copy of your treasure map for each guest. For the final prize, hide a cardboard box decorated to look like an antique pirate’s chest with the treasure inside. We recommend adding a “treasure” for each child in the chest. For adults, try movie passes for two or a bottle of rum.

Get Ready To Party – Island Style

AHawaiian theme party or luau is a great way to welcome summer fun after school lets out. It also makes a great end-of-summer party for Labor Day weekend. Capture the final sunshine of summer by hosting your friends and family and saying farewell to vacation season.

The best thing about this cool party theme is the versatility. It’s just as much fun for adults as it is for kids. A kids’ Hawaiian theme party could include a pirate treasure hunt and games in an inexpensive inflatable pool. A Hawaiian theme party for adults will transport them to an island paradise for the day, with delicious food, tropical flower decorations, and well-mixed cocktails.

And there’s no reason it has to be one or the other. With a Hawaiian luau, both kids and their parents can have a blast with great island food and drinks, along with fun activities throughout the day. Finish up with everyone gathered around a big bonfire as you watch the sun set on your day-long island feast.

21st Birthday Party Themes: 7 Best Ideas

21st birthday party themes

A 21st birthday party is a momentous occasion. If you’re organizing one for someone else, you’ll want to make it an event to remember. A fantastic way to plan this big event is by choosing from all the fantastic 21st birthday party themes. Whether it’s a neon rave, a tropical luau, or a glamorous casino night, the right theme can take an ordinary party and elevate it to the extraordinary.

In addition to choosing the right theme, planning and timing are essential to your 21st birthday party success. If you’re struggling for inspiration, we have several ideas for fun, memorable, and surprisingly easy 21st birthday party themes.

Why 21st Birthday Party Themes Can Be Tricky

donut with sprinkles and candle

image source: www.unsplash.com

If you do decide to go with a themed 21st birthday party, there are a few ways to ensure you get it right. The first is choosing a theme that is fitting and appropriate. You want it to seem personal to the birthday boy or girl, and not just something you’ve plucked out of thin air.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to create a great themed party. Success is all about knowing your audience — and working smarter, not harder.

What types of themes are appropriate?

A 21st birthday is a real milestone. Playing on this milestone can lead to excellent theme ideas. Anything that reflects on their age and newfound full adulthood will be fun. You can also tailor your theme to the birthday boy or girl specifically. Think of their hobbies, their favorite things, or anything particularly unique or special about them for theme inspiration. That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with generic themes, so long as you do them right. Just make sure to put in the work regarding planning, and any of our 21st birthday party themes should work well.

How close should you follow your party theme?

Although planning a party can be extremely stressful, it’s important to remember that it should be fun too. If you’re overly concerned about anything spoiling your theme, you may well end up spoiling the party yourself. A good rule of thumb is to control what you can but to take a more relaxed approach when it comes to things outside of your control.

Set up and Execution

Some of the 21st birthday party themes on our list require a lot in the way of equipment and decoration. Others can be pretty low-key and easier to pull off. You need to be realistic about the time, effort, and money you can reasonably put in. Trying to do more than you really can manage may lead to a half-baked party. You can go as all-out or as casual as you like, so don’t stress.

The best 21st birthday party themes are ones that run throughout all aspects of the party. The main factors to consider are decorations, food, drink, entertainment, and clothing. If you show foresight for each of these categories, you’ll have a successful party, no matter which theme you choose.

Budget Concerns

Before you begin planning your party, you must consider your budget. Some of 21st birthday party themes can be quite expensive to pull off, while others can be done on the cheap. Being honest with yourself about what you can spend can massively help you choose the most suitable option. By selecting a theme that is within your budget, you are much more likely to have a well-thought-through and exceptionally planned party.

How We Reviewed?

birthday cake

Image from Pixabay

We’ve chosen nine 21st birthday party themes that suit a range of budgets and tastes. While any of these themes should suit any 21st birthday party, some will be more suited to you than others. For each of our 21st birthday party themes, we’ve included pros and cons, plus a buying guide section. Here you’ll find a few items to get the ball rolling with each of these themes. Where possible, we’ve included buying links for some of these products to help make your party shopping easier.

Our Guide to the 7 Best 21st birthday Party Themes

We’ve selected seven 21st birthday party themes which we think have a fairly universal appeal. You can interpret our guide as closely or as loosely as you like, whether you just use our ideas as inspiration or purchase exclusively based on our shopping links.

Casino Party

This theme is a classic in terms of 21st birthday party themes. In many places, a person has to be 21 years old in order to gamble. A casino birthday party celebrates this graduation to adulthood.

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This is a theme that may require help from a professional party planner, particularly if you want to hire expensive decorative items. You may find a party rental locally that specializes in casino parties. However, there are some items you can purchase yourself. The Casino Night 13 Piece Balloon Set is a great place to start.


  • This theme can really add structure to a party
  • Helps you decide on both décor and entertainment
  • Guests don’t have to worry about costumes 


  • Expensive

Masked ball

A masked ball is a very glamorous option regarding 21st birthday party themes. The décor is less important than the costume aspect, so don’t forget to inform your guests in plenty of time so they can make or acquire appropriate costumes.

A masked ball is nothing without masks – and there are many great options available on Amazon. We recommend the Zhengya Masquerade Metal Eyemask, which is as glamorous as it is mysterious.


  • Encourage all your guests to get involved
  • Guaranteed to make your 21st birthday party a night to remember
  • Costumes will likely be visually spectacular


  • Guests may need to rent extravagant costumes or tuxes

Black and white party

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“Black and white” as a theme has several advantages. First, it doesn't require any special purchase or preparation on the part of your guests. Also, it makes for a visually stunning scene. And the black and white theme is just right for a more sophisticated crowd, now that guests are adults. Your birthday boy or girl could also wear red to stand out from the crowd.

The good news is when going for a black and white theme, you really only need to focus on décor. There are a ton of great options on Amazon, but our top pick is the Sparkle black and white fabric bunting.


  • One of the easiest 21st birthday party themes
  • Allows for a simple decorative option
  • Guests can dress accordingly from their own wardrobes


  • Party may be overly simplistic

Tropical party

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Going for something tropical or beachy can be a fun option, especially if you're thinking of having your party outdoors. It’s particularly suited to summer parties and offers a variety of options for food, drink, and decor.

A great way to make sure everyone’s included in the tropical theme is to buy a bunch of flower lei necklaces. A great option is the Joyin Tropical Luau Party Favors.


  • It's a low-cost but high impact 21st birthday party theme
  • You don't need to hire any large equipment
  • Guests can wear what they usually would to the beach


  • Doesn’t help you out too much in terms of entertainment


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In many places, 21 is the age at which a person is legally allowed to buy alcohol. What better way to celebrate this transition than by breaking prohibition? A speakeasy theme is one of the ideas that you may think requires a bigger budget, but can actually be done costing less than you’d think. What really sets the scene here is an excellent, jazzy playlist and some well-thought-out cocktail recipes, which don’t need to cost much at all.

There’s a good amount of speakeasy décor that can be found at a lower cost online. One great piece is the Beistle Speakeasy Door Cover, which sets the scene from the moment your guests arrive.


  • Allows your guests to get involved
  • A fun theme
  • Adaptable


  • Adult-friendly


Acmee 30 Pieces LED Light Up Party Favor Toy Set.LED Party Pack LED...
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This is a great option in terms of 21st birthday party themes, particularly if you want to dance the night away. All you really need to get right is the lighting and a playlist, so it can be quite easy to pull off too.

A great purchase for a rave-themed 21st birthday party is a set of lights and glowsticks. We recommend the Joyin Toy Glow Sticks.


  • Simple
  • Guests can pretty much wear what they like


  • Suited to a young adult crowd

Carnival party

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A carnival can be a grown-up event without excluding younger guests. The trick is to throw it at night with a “beer tent” for the grownups. Hang up strings of lights for a nighttime party that is sure to please the birthday boy or girl and their friends. This is one of those 21st birthday party themes that may require substantial planning and a higher budget. But it will make for a special night for the right crowd.

You could rent equipment for a carnival themed party or even offer to take the entire group to a nearby carnival if the timing is right. However, you can also set up some carnival games in a backyard. Choose balloon darts, ring toss, lawn bowling, or cornhole games. Serve carnival food like hot dogs and hamburgers, with draft beer on tap for the adults, just like at the real carnival. The best part is that for a family-friendly event, even the kids will have fun.


  • Excellent party theme
  • It can guide your decorations, food, drink, and entertainment
  • Can really put out the “wow” factor


  • You'll need enough time

What Makes for Great 21st Birthday Party Themes?

colorful baloons

image source: www.unsplash.com

We think any of the 21st birthday party themes on our list are great options. There’s a lot of variation, so you can pick whichever suits you and your party the best and personalize to your heart’s content. The key is picking one which is appropriate to the type of party you’re having, and more personal to the one celebrating their birthday.

What do you think of our list? What are your favorite 21st birthday party themes? Let us know in the comments below!

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