Turning 21 is a big deal. You might have thrown themed parties and fancy-dress events before now, but this year it needs to be different. Your 21st birthday party should be more elegant than your 18th, but still packed with more fun and silliness than you might get away with at your next milestone birthday (that’s your 30th – eek!)
Here is shortlist of playful and grown-up themes for venue, décor, menus and outfits that will help you celebrate your birthday with an incredible evening that you and your guests will never forget.
A Glittering Night at the Oscars
If your 21st birthday isn’t the perfect excuse to get dressed up to the nines, Oscars-style, what is? Issue your guests with golden tickets instead of invitations and enforce a dress code of jaw-dropping black tie. Ladies should be rocking floor-length gowns and gents can don dinner jackets and bowties. Check out the photos from Vanity Fair’s after-party for inspiration. Serve up champagne (or at least prosecco) and a finger-food buffet and hire a photo booth with props to help you remember the night forever.
An Exciting Eastern Delight
For a truly stand-out event, look to the East. Hire a sumptuous Bedouin tent to transport your guests to a magical faraway place, and keep them entertained with belly dancers, henna body painting and an authentic buffet. It’s the perfect excuse to dress up as Arabian royalty, decorating the space with luxurious purples, rich reds and opulent golds. Moroccan-inspired outfits are optional, just make sure you’re wearing something comfortable to dance the night away.
A Throwback to 1995
If you’re turning 21 this year, your childhood was all about the late nineties and early noughties. Embrace your past by throwing a bash dedicated to all of the other wonderful things that came out of that era, like the Spice Girls, platform shoes and leopard print on every surface. Get the guys to dress up in retro sports gear from Kappa and Fred Perry polo shirts, while the girls can have some fun with mesh shirts, low-slung combat trousers and butterfly hair grips. Treat your guests to a nineties playlist packed with boybands and blur, and have Clueless or 10 Things I Hate About You on in the background.
An Ultraviolet Party
Celebrate your “glow up” by throwing a party where everything glows right along with you. Whether you hire a venue or have your party at home, you’ll need to get hold of some ultraviolet lighting to set the mood. Stock up on glow-sticks, fluorescent decorations and even a UV-reactive bubble machine to really make the room pop, and make sure guests know to dress for the occasion (anything white or neon will give off a glow). Set up a UV face-painting booth to get everyone in the spirit and serve luminous food and drinks – tonic-based beverages will shine bright blue, while these neon-rainbow sticks of candyfloss look awesome.
A Sinful Soirée
If you can’t decide on just one idea, throwing a bash inspired by the seven deadly sins is great a great way to roll multiple ideas together. This theme works particularly well if you are hosting the party at home, where you can style a room to fit in with each sin (they are envy, greed, gluttony, lust, pride, sloth and wrath). For example, fill your kitchen with overflowing food and drink stations to represent ‘gluttony’ and stack as many mirrors as possible in your bathroom for ‘pride’. Send out invitations on fake dollar bills to represent ‘greed’, or in the style of a personal ad, for ‘lust’ and have fun serving sin-inspired cocktails to your guests – we recommend starting with Pornstar Martinis and shots of gold-speckled Goldschläger.
A Fabulous Fiesta
Cute cacti and tasty tacos are still having a moment right now, so why not incorporate them into a Mexican theme for your party? It’s a great excuse to serve nachos and quesadillas all night long, topped off with some sangria and margaritas! This one should absolutely be thrown outdoors, although the decor is surprisingly simple – just hang as many paper lanterns and strips of fringed bunting as you can. Get your guests to wear bright colours and summer dresses and provide sombreros and maracas as the perfect picture props.
Whether you want to go for the all-out glamour of awards season or take the chance to feel like a kid one last time, make sure the night is all about you. You’re only 21 once, after all!
Article contributed by Charlotte Hearn