A party doesn’t have to be just groups of people standing around eating canapés, drinking and chatting. There are many forms a party can take.
Note: If you are planning a surprise party for your 40-turner, are you absolutely certain it’s what he/she would want? Apart from anything else, the anticipation of a party is often half the fun.
Are you thinking of personalising your loved one's party by making a speech at it? Nice idea. If you'd appreciate some help with your public speaking, here's a useful article to read about preparing a party speech.
Don't forget the festive accessories
To make the occasion special and distinguish it from other parties, deck the halls with fortieth birthday novelties. Some fortieth birthday tableware, balloons, confetti and decorations add to the fun and ensure everyone remembers what you're all here to celebrate!
Let’s have a look at what sort of party you could give.
Traditional party, with added magic
There is a great deal to be said for having groups of people standing around eating canapés, drinking and chatting, which is why people do it so often. These are people you like, whose company you enjoy, and the format is good. However, what can make it even better is hiring a magician to create magic for you and your guests. Strolling, close-up magic blends well into the party atmosphere and you might like to have a spot of cabaret magic as well.
Traditional party, with a theme
Another way of making your party a bit different is to have a theme. Basically, this is a fancy-dress party with a specific focus, which acts as a guideline for choosing costumes and also suggests decorations/tableware, activities/games and party favours.
For fancy dress ideas and to buy fabulous costumes, have a look at Jokers' Masquerade.
Some examples of themes for your 40th birthday party are:
James Bond party
Create the atmosphere with tunes from the Bond films playing in the background, James Bond posters on the walls, a life-size silhouette of a secret agent, some casino confetti scattered over the tables.
To drink, you'll have to offer vodka martini (shaken, not stirred) but other cocktails, spirits or champagne are also very much within the theme - and in his recent incarnation, Bond seems to prefer beer.
As activities, you could:
- hire a fun casino and gamble using pretend money
- have a Bond trivia quiz, with questions you have prepared earlier from your own knowledge or with the aid of the James Bond Encyclopedia
- encourage the thespians at the party to act out classic Bond scenes
- play clips from the films and have a What happened next? competition
- hold a competition for the most accurate writing, from memory or imagination, of the first line or paragraph of one or all of the James Bond books
Gangsters and Molls party
Set the tone by having a bouncer ask for the password as your guests arrive at the door (you can let them know what it is on the invitation). Then you can welcome them with cocktails in tea cups, since the 1920s was the era of prohibition in America and alcohol had to be disguised.
To create a 'speakeasy' feel, have low lighting, possibly a bit of smoke from a smoke machine, black and white decor, wooden tables, crates, barrels, wrought-iron candlesticks, perhaps the odd violin case in a corner. Strategically place some bullet-hole stickers on lintels, walls and furniture, to give the impression of ongoing gangster warfare.
The most obvious activity for a gangster and moll party is gambling. Every speakeasy had a back room where illegal gambling took place, and you can replicate this with a fun casino.
The roaring twenties were famous on both sides of the Atlantic for their racy dances, so get hold of some 1920s music and get your guests doing the charleston, foxtrot, jive, lindy hop, black bottom. Since most people these days don't know the steps, it might be a good idea to hire a dance teacher for the evening, someone to show you all how it's done and encourage your guests to get involved.
The Great Gatsby party
If you like the idea of the 1920s but want to do it slightly differently, you could throw a Great Gatsby party. This short novel by F Scott Fitzgerald is viewed as a classic that more or less defines the Jazz Age and the corruption of the American Dream. In 1974, it was made into a film, with Robert Redford in the title role. Now it has been remade, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire.
Gatsby was renowned for his extravagant parties and, even if you haven't got a mansion with extensive grounds and a swimming pool, you can have a lot of fun recreating this sort of feeling. Men need to dress smartly in a suit (a pink one, if you can find such a thing) and tie, with braces and some sort of dashing hat. Women can enjoy dressing up in elegant, comfortable, flapper dresses and beads. Then you can all dance to 1920s jazz music, exchange gossip and lounge around looking glamorous while drinking mint juleps (mint leaves, water, sugar and ice, filled up with bourbon).
1970s party (decade you were born)
A party celebrating the fashion and lifestyle of 40 years ago offers a lot of scope for the letting down of hair, overacting and gyrating on the dance floor. Spacehoppers, beanbags and lava-lamps take their place amongst orange, green and brown decor - and don't forget the glitter ball over the disco area! A beaded curtain in your kitchen doorway would add authenticity, as would some 'smiley faces' around the place and a slinky on the stairs.
To eat you can serve canapés on cocktail sticks, vol-au-vents, quiche and perhaps a fondue. To drink, you can make a fruit punch, alcoholic or otherwise. Also popular in the '70s were Babycham, which has has a recent revival, and the cocktails Harvey Wallbanger (vodka, Galliano and orange juice) and White Russian (vodka, Kahlua and cream or milk).
This is the decade of Charlie's Angels, Kojak, Starsky & Hutch, The Rockford Files, Happy Days, Saturday Night Fever. If you were a child then, it probably has the aura of an age of innocence about it and there's quite a sense of nostalgia attached to this time.
In terms of music, you have loads choose from, including: Abba, The Bee Gees, David Cassidy, Blondie, The Eagles, The Jacksons, The Osmonds, Cat Stevens, Genesis - as well as groups that were more of the moment, such as The Carpenters and The Bay City Rollers. For ease and speed, you can get a box set of 100 Hits from the Seventies, by various artists.
As for activities, disco dancing is a must but you could also try a bit of limbo dancing, since that was in vogue 40 years ago. Or you could combine singing and acting skills and cheese-and-ham up the 1970s Zeitgeist with a Grease sing-along DVD.
Other suggestions for themes for your 40th birthday party
Ideas for party themes are limited really only by your imagination. Here are a few more suggestions:
- Wild West / Cowboys and Indians
- Witches and wizards (including Harry Potter & Co)
- Hospital - doctors, nurses, patients
- Costumes/disguises beginning with the first letter of your name
For more ideas and to buy great costumes for all sorts of themes, see Jokers' Masquerade.
Murder mystery party
Continuing with the role-playing scenario, if you'd like your 40th birthday party to be dinner for 6-12 people but you want to make it a bit different, what about a murder mystery game? This works best when you're a group of friends who meet regularly and know each other well, so you don't mind play-acting and being silly together. Also, if you don't meet often, it can be frustrating to see your friends but not be able to talk to them normally, because you're all pretending to be somebody else. However, with the right group, a murder mystery party can be a lot of fun.
Choose a theme that interests you and order a box that contains everything you need to organise the party, in terms of instructions, character roles, clues, invitations and suggested menu.
Traditional (or fairly traditional) party, in a non-traditional location
Depending on your preferences and budget, you can throw your party in a wide variety of places. You can hire, for example, a boat or barge, a castle or stately home, a train, an aquarium or a function room at the zoo, in a theatre complex or at a museum.
For the joy of freedom and ease of falling into some sort of bed at the end of the festivities, you could take all the rooms in a small hotel or you could hire a field and pitch some tents.
Traditional party, with games
Traditional party games can be great fun. There are loads to choose from - pass the orange, guessing the name stuck to one’s back, pin the tail on the donkey, charades, sardines, etc, etc.
If it’s a smallish party, a board game can work well – Trivial Pursuit, Articulate, Cluedo, Balderdash, Pictionary…
If you want a slightly different atmosphere, you could have a darts or table-tennis tournament. You could play Name that Tune with your cd collection or Name that Drink, in which a blindfolded person sips various liquids and guesses what they are. You have to be a bit careful with this one but it can be fun, as well as surprisingly difficult.
You could customise your own game of bingo, using pictures, words or phrases relevant to you.
Or you could have a completely different style of party. You can hire, for example:
- a swimming pool
- a cinema
- a skating rink
- a room at the golf (tennis, squash, etc) club and base your party in there, while you and your guests also enjoy a few rounds of golf (games of tennis…)
- a church hall with a stage, where you and your guests can do turns for one another
Alternatively, you and your friends could go paintballing, indoor skiing, ten pin bowling or roller skating, you could go to the races or spend the day at a theme park or being pampered at a health club/spa.
You might like to take it a step further and rent a villa in a nice hot place, a chalet on the ski slopes or a cottage in some beautiful part of rural Britain and let the festivities continue over a long weekend or even a week.
(See 40th birthday travel.)
If you book well in advance, you could take a group of guests to a Meet the Magic Circle evening (usually a Tuesday) at the London headquarters of The Magic Circle. Or to Simon Drake's House of Magic.
Don't forget to take photos!
Whatever sort of party you're giving to celebrate your fortieth birthday, encourage your friends to take lots of pictures - and to share them with you, so you've got a nice visual record of the event.
Beyond keeping them in a file somewhere, you might like to have a few of these photos on your wall or even made into commemorative items such as a jigsaw puzzle, mug, cushion, mousemat or coasters.
Whether you want straightforward, good quality prints, a photo book or to do something different with your pictures, Photobox is the place to go.