Planning a Theme Party for Twenty-Somethings: Harry Potter Style

This birthday party was two years in the making. Actually, it was more like two years of good intentions followed by a week of making it happen. My best friend is probably the only person who loves Harry Potter as much as I do. So, when it came time to celebrate her 28th birthday, I already knew what I was going to do because I had initially planned to do it on her 27th birthday.

Considering that the first Harry Potter novel was published way back in 1997 and the first movie was released in 2001, hosting a Harry Potter-themed birthday party for a 28-year-old is not weird at all. We GREW UP with Harry and the crew. We knew what house we wanted to be in before we knew what our first jobs would be.

When you search “Harry Potter party” on the Internet, however, most results are strictly targeted toward kids and are SOOOO over-the-top/time- and money-consuming. Oh, you got custom wands and sewed new robes for all the kids? That’s cool, but I’m not about make robes that might end up with throw-up on them at the end of the night.

Nope, planning a theme party for twenty-somethings is not the same as planning a theme party for kids.

When it comes to planning a themed-party for twenty-somethings you want it to be themed enough for guests to get into it but not so in-depth that your time or money is wasted.

On that note however, unlike kids, your friends know when something looks like shit. So how do you find the right balance? I mean, you don’t want it to feel half-assed, but you also don’t want to be weeping over construction paper or your bank account at 2am. Here’s how I generally do it:

  1. Commit to a budget. Whether it’s $20 or $100 or whatever, the budget determines just how much you can DO in general but also how much you can DIY vs. just buy outright. A budget also encourages you to get creative. With the HP party I got VERY lucky in the decor department, but my budget also forced me to not buy/do too much. Which gets me to the next point:
  2. Devote ONE night (or 3-4 hours total) to DIY shit. DIY is all fine and dandy until you find yourself knee-deep in hot glue at 11pm with not a completed thing in sight. By putting a time limit on the DIY stuff you not only stay motivated to get it done, but you also limit the amount of DIY you commit to.
  3. Buy with future parties in mind (if you want more parties.) I am ANTI buying-specific-themed-items mainly because their ability to be reused is v. low. AND due to trademark shit, officially themed stuff can be stupid-expensive. Using things like remove-able labels, kraft paper, and household items not only saves money (in the short and long run) it can also make the party more charming.

With those three things in mind, check out a few pics from Lauren’s Harry Potter Birthday:


Okay, so the above picture is from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But below is the cake I made for the party:


Some people change out Harry for the actual birthday boy/girl’s name, but nah, we have integrity at PTY!


Ok, so I can’t take credit for this insane Platform 9 3/4 backdrop. A coworker made it for her kids (bless her) BUT I did ask to borrow it, and there’s a lesson right there: stalk coworkers’ Instagrams to see what theme parties they’ve thrown for their kids and BOOM swoop in and seize it.


Guys, these things were a hit. I was honestly surprised but apparently my friends are secret superfans of Ferrero Rochiers and/or thought this was super clever. Either way, I’ll take it. I wish I took more pictures, because there were a lot of fun things like:

  • A fat lady on the front door
  • Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom
  • Floating candles made from battery-operated tea lights, paper, and fishing line
  • A “potions” box full of shots
  • And a cauldron for the Butterbeer
  • For the birthday girl, I created a special invitation, direct from Hogwarts:


Also, has a pretty sweet font called Lumos that is perfect for anything Harry Potter related. It’s what I used for the invites as well as labels for other party items.

And there you have it, a twenty-something theme party in the books. We had enough booze, no robes, no throw-up, but enough Harry Potter to make everyone–but especially the birthday girl–happy.

See ya later, party animals.


The Irish Goodbye is the Best Thing to Happen to Parties Since the Piñata

Imagine for a second you’re at a wonderful party. The music is bumping, the conversation is flowing, and all of a sudden a guest leans into your conversation pocket, coat already on, and says something to the effect of: “Hey guys! Sorry to interrupt, but James and I have to go. The babysitter needs to leave/we have an early morning tomorrow/we ran out of things to talk about/I have period cramps/etc.”

The conversation stops. Hugs are doled out like dancer brochures on the Vegas strip and now everyone is beginning to question if they should go home, too. It’s an all-too-soon snap back to reality.

Insert, the Irish Goodbye.

You simply leave without saying a word. No disruptions. No awkward lull. No party pooping.

For those who might think this is rude–“Excuse me! You should always thank your host!”–I disagree. The host was probably busy for the first half of the party accommodating everyone’s needs and now chances are, they’ve finally reached a point of relaxation, where they don’t feel like they have to be “on.” When goodbyes start, they have to be “on” again.

As far as gratitude goes, thank your hosts after you leave. Send a text thanking them for the wonderful party and if you had to leave early for a reason, feel free to explain. Better yet, send them a note the next day when they probably have more time to read it.

Obviously, there are a few times employing the Irish Goodbye is frowned upon:

  1. If the crowd is small enough that your lack of presence would obviously be noticed. Still, if everyone else is still in it for the long haul, try to excuse yourself as quickly and simply as possible.
  2. If you’re the host or guest of honor. Unless you’re violently ill. Then by all means, GTFO.
  3. If the hosts are of another dimension that they would be VERY OFFENDED if you did not say goodbye. This is rare.

Sometimes I’ll let a friend know I scooted out (especially if the party is at a bar or restaurant) so people don’t worry. Otherwise, Irish Goodbye your heart out. I do it all the time and have zero regrets.

Anyone else Team Irish Goodbye? Anyone opposed? Love to hear your thoughts.


The Hunt: A Group Drinking Party

Oh, the Hunt. One of my favorite kinds of parties. I was introduced to it when I moved to Minneapolis in 2013 and it’s been going strong ever since. Basically, it’s a traveling-drinking-competitive-theme party perfect for any time of year and GREAT for large groups. We did a Jazzercise-themed on this past weekend and it did not disappoint.


If you like to day drink, you’ll enjoy hunting.
If you like to dress up, you’ll enjoy hunting. (Although I suppose it’s not required.)
If you like fun, you’ll enjoy hunting.

Here’s how it works:

Gather 20-50 of your most ready-to-party friends.

I’ve done hunts with 20 people. I’ve done them with 48 people. How many you invite is up to you, but everyone needs to gather in one place, be that an apartment or backyard, somewhere where people have space to break up into groups.

Tell each friend to bring THREE light (chuggable) beers and $5 cash.

People usually go in on a six, twelve, or a case together. As the host, collect the $5 from everyone as they arrive.

Select someone to be the HUNTED.

If you have a friend who doesn’t like to drink/can’t drink, this is a good job for them. The Hunted does not compete, but they have all the control in this game.

Everyone else breaks up into groups of FOUR.

We usually have people rank themselves on chugging ability (1 being weakest, 4 being strongest) and make each group have one of each to keep it fair. We’ve picked groups out of a hat, we’ve had people assign, whatever is easiest. Just make sure it’s FOUR or less so everyone can fit in one Lyft/Uber. Once groups are settled…

Choose 10-13 bars all in walking distance of each other.

This is a great opportunity to explore new bars or a new area you’re unfamiliar with. Probably not any super nice ones–the divy-er the better is what I always say.

Give the Hunted the pot of cash, and send them on their way.

The Hunted chooses a bar from the list to go. They don’t tell anyone which one it is. They simply hail a Lyft or Uber and get moving. Once they get to said bar they text the group to say they’ve made it. The Hunted can now start spending that money any way they want. They can buy a drink for themselves, a drink for the staff. Whatever.

Let the games begin!

Once everyone gets the notice the Hunted is at the bar, the games begin. The goal is to find the Hunted. But FIRST, each group must finish 3 beers per person before leaving. The stronger player can take some of the weaker players beers if needed, the rule is, 3 beers per person on your team.

Once your team has finished all your beers, you can head to one of the bars on the list. If you go to a bar and the Hunted isn’t there, TWO people on your team need to have a drink (shot, beer, mixed drink, up to you) before you can leave.

  • Teams are not allowed to split up
  • No window shopping (you can’t peep in bars and not go in)

The first team to find the Hunted wins

The first team to enter the bar of the Hunted wins. The hunted gives the team whatever is left of the cash pot. The team can spend it however they like (usually continued drinking.) As teams roll in, there’s usually some crazy stories to hear, too.

Loser tunnel

It has become tradition to make a tunnel for the last team to run through when they get to the bar. Sometimes strangers even join in. The rest of the night is spent hanging, drinking, and dancing.

But wait, didn’t you say THEME party?

Yes. Every single hunt I’ve ever done has had a theme. Usually the Hunted dresses up as one thing while everyone else dresses up as another. Here’s a few themes to get your creative wheels turning:

  • Thanksgiving: The Hunted dresses up as a turkey. Everyone else dresses as Pilgrims.
  • Valentine’s Day: The Hunted dresses up as Cupid. Everyone else wears red and pink.
  • Kentucky Derby: The Hunted wears a wreath of roses. Everyone else dresses up.
  • Where’s Waldo: Everyone dresses up as Waldo.
  • Hunting: The Hunted dresses up as a deer. Everyone else wears camp and blaze orange.

Those are just a few, I can’t wait to see what the next Hunt will bring. Happy Hunting!

Note: This post promotes binge drinking. Please party responsibly.