Sweet 16 – a Celebration of Those Things Past and Those Still to Come

Progressively we are seeing the age at which parents provide a major party celebration and gathering reduce. Traditionally it was at twenty one years that the ‘big’ party was thrown but has now all but been replaced by the eighteenth birthday party being the major milestone social gathering. This is related to a social shift which, among other changes, has provided a shift towards earlier integration of the individual into adult society combined with an increase in the amount of disposable income available to younger people. Although this is still a ‘rights of passage’ event, the party itself is now aimed more towards friends than family.

With the social shift towards the earlier integration of youths into adulthood has come a downward shift in the age for the family celebration and it is against this background that we see the rise in the popularity of the ‘Sweet 16’ birthday party albeit that it is primarily focused on female family members. With the move towards the eighteenth party being a celebration amongst friends rather than family, Sweet 16 parties have grown from being simple family gatherings and tea parties into being full-on themed events.

This article hopes to identify some of the most popular themed party ideas and provide the reader with some examples for decoration and costumes. As with the planning process for any party there are some issues that need to be considered at the outset as these could have a bearing on the final theme selected;

Intended date for the party: The date of the party will give you the season and the expected weather conditions. The idea here is to theme a party towards the overall comfort of those attending and therefore a beach party in the middle of winter although a fun concept will require considerably more planning and decoration (and heating) than one during the summer.

Interests: The theme has to reflect the interests of the party hostess or if that doesn’t provide a workable theme then at least something they like. There is little value in throwing a party that only the adults enjoy.

Invites: Get them out early and theme them to the overall party. Be imaginative, invites don’t just have to be on paper of card, write or print your invite on a sticky label and attach it to something unusual, say folded over the arms of a cheap pair of 50’s style glasses for a 50’s style party. This starts a level of intrigue amongst your guests about what is to come. Be sure to include details of what you expect from your guests; if you don’t tell them to arrive in fancy dress, then don’t be upset if they don’t.

The following suggestions should provide some possible ides for your party;

Hollywood Awards Celebration party theme. This is a great theme for a great number of celebrations and you can find extended details in another article; “Hollywood Awards Party – A few Tips for a Star Spangled Night” from this series. Based on budget availability and number of guests, it would be possible for the young hostess to hold her own mini film awards ceremony giving awards or tokens to those attending. Dress could be formal and sophisticated (a firm favorite with adults) any venue is easily decorated from the wide selection of available decorations.

1950’s theme party. Still a great party theme thanks to the longevity of the film “Grease”. With the decorations available in shops and on-line, it is easy to turn the venue into a soda shop complete with d├ęcor and inflatable juke box – assuming that you don’t have the real thing. Ice cream served in sundae glasses and Coke or Pepsi in bottles and fancy dress costumes, poodle skirts, soda shop uniforms, leather jackets etc are readily available in store or on-line including 50’s styled wigs and accessories. 50’s music is still easily available and a compilation CD would be best.

Taking this theme further, what about showing the film either indoors or outside projected onto a big screen (see TV and Sound Hire Equipment) and providing tons of popcorn, pop and tissues for the guests?

60’s/70’s Disco theme. Although this theme has never gone away, it has seen a remergence probably with the interest in the Austin Powers films. Whatever the reason, a 70’s disco provides great scope for costume selection all with exaggerated afro wigs and can be linked to a great number of films ‘Saturday Night Fever’ etc. The theme can be treated in a number of ways; either showing the film similar to the 50’s theme above, or by holding an actual disco. Clearly there are sub-themes that can be spun off but still with a 60’s/70’s feel; Austin Powers (requires boys!), Hippy Chick; Flower Power. Decoration must include the disco ball and lights but these should be provided with the Disco.

Luau themed party. Again this is another very popular party theme allowing great expression in costume choice. Very relaxed party style which can require the most work to ensure that there is enough to do. You can find further details on this in the related article; “Luau Party – simple tips to make it a fantastic event”. Great theme if it is possible to hold the party outdoors which also allows a family BBQ to be integrated into the overall theme.

Las Vegas. There is a popular theme and decorations are readily available. There will be a separate article on this but I would consider this a more adult theme – but, hey it’s your choice. It is possible to recreate the feel of Vegas using many of the accessories used to theme the room for a Hollywood Awards party, and clearly there are blockbuster movies to suit. Costumes can be either sophisticated or casual as desired.

Unexpected party themes. Why not catch your guests off guard with an unexpected theme. If the party falls on a night with a full moon why not go for a Halloween Party, or if it’s the 25th of any month, or the middle of summer, why not select a Christmas theme? If they know you can’t sing, hire a karaoke and hold a ‘Pop Idol’ competition (just warn the neighbors).

Finding a suitable theme for a Sweet 16 party is a great game and there are no rules, so simply select a theme that suits you as an individual and go with it. Just remember; Have Fun.