Creating an unforgettable party is the goal of every event planner. Having fun together is a key element of workplace success, and planning that fun isn’t always easy. It is, however, great for workplace outcomes. Research shows that work should actually be fun. There are plenty of studies that show that having fun at work is good for morale, loyalty, and productivity.
Many organizations find that having office parties is an important way of bringing fun into the workplace. Chances are, you work at a company that has hosted a party before (or at least, you probably have at some point). Having a theme can make your corporate event more fun, inclusive, and relevant - but it’s not always easy to narrow down an idea. After all, what is a cool party theme? You want to choose one that is entertaining, appropriate, and encourages everyone to participate and have a great time. In this article, we’re covering some of the top themes that are perfect for your next work event. Browse some of the choices and see which one is perfect for your team - then have a great event!
Great for dressing up
1. Wild west
For a rustic theme that everyone will love, take the Western route. You can use a revamped barn space or create your own country western venue. Deck the space out with hay bales, lanterns, live succulents, etc. Keep the dance floor open and consider bringing in a line dance expert for a short lesson. Encourage everyone to dress up in their country-western best like jeans, cowboy boots, and wide-brim hats.
2. Old Hollywood
Most people enjoy looking at traditional Hollywood glamor, but never get an opportunity to dress up that way. If you’re looking for a more upscale party theme, have everyone dress up in their favorite old-school attire - think Peaky Blinders. The gents will look super sophisticated and the ladies can rock some beautiful dresses and long gloves. To really embrace the theme, why not create a speakeasy atmosphere with custom cocktails, low lighting, and live music? Look for traditional card games to set out, or other activities popular in the twenties or thirties.
3. Biggest fan
Go beyond sports and have everyone show what they are the biggest fans of. Whether they have a favorite sports team, favorite movie, or other pop culture phenomenon, your staff can dress up and prove their love. For example, people could dress as someone from Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, or simply rock their favorite athlete’s jersey. This is a really fun way to see what everyone is into and get to know your office better. Since it’s not necessarily a cohesive theme, the activities can be things like a costume contest or fun photo booth with props. You could also do pop culture trivia or set out various games. If you want to get really creative, have everyone bring a dish that complements how they’re dressed (using our examples, someone might bring butterbeer from Harry Potter or a famous dish from the Game of Thrones books).
4. Dress to impress
For a truly upscale event, like following an awards ceremony, host a black-tie optional event. This theme is best for a classy holiday party or other big-budget event. Long dresses for the ladies, suits or tuxes for the men, an 8-piece band playing tunes, high-end food and cocktails - you get the idea. Have everyone dress their best and bring a special guest as their date. Enjoy delicious food and dance late into the night. You’ll probably want to rent a great venue like a revamped warehouse space or a fabulous restaurant. Remember, this one is for those extra-special times where you want to go above and beyond for team recognition. For more team celebration ideas, check out our blog.
5. Embrace the eighties (or nineties)
Gen X, this theme is for you! It’s totally rad to head back to the 80s (or 90s if you prefer) and embrace everything from the jelly shoes to neon colors and leg warmers. Commit to the theme by having everyone dress up, playing music only from that era, and including refreshments that were popular at that time (think lunchables, cosmic brownies, Hi-C Ecto-cooler, etc). Set out a few of the games that were popular at the time and you’re sure to have everyone feeling nostalgic. Operation, anyone? You can also set up a projector to show some famous shows or movies from the decade, too.
If you have a group that enjoys beer, then a German beer festival is an easy decision. An authentic band will get everyone toe-tapping and beer-chugging. You can keep things simple with a variety of beers, pretzels and dips, and bratwurst. For more fun, include a custom-created craft brew and have everyone take a bottle home. Hang traditional blue and white bunting, and order a bunch of props like suspenders and alpine hats so everyone can dress the part.
7. Under the sea
This theme may take you back to a high school dance, but it’ll be worth it. You can make this affair more formal, or keep things casual - just get creative. Feature plenty of decor in blue shades, seafood snacks, and bubbly cocktails. Use ocean-inspired decor including shells or pearls. We’ve seen these parties really go the extra mile with live mermaid entertainers in the pool, or huge aquariums brought in with tropical fish. Turn on some beachy tunes and consider which activities are appropriate. For example, in a more casual encounter, you can bring in beach volleyball or a bonfire to end the festivities.
8. Adult prom
Similar to the dress to impress party above, an adult prom is a take on a class rite-of-passage for teenagers. If your prom wasn't the best, now's your time to have a redo! Have everyone deck out in prom dresses - the sillier the better - and tuxes to dance the night away. Keep everyone looking forward to the event for weeks beforehand by having a decoration committee just like in high school. You can also pass out music request forms at work prior to the party. Look for other ways to amp up excitement before the night of the event. For extra class, arrange transportation home for everyone via shuttle or a cab service. For more work-social events, make sure to follow our blog.
9. Caribbean vibes
If only we all had the budget to take a Caribbean cruise for our next work event. In the absence of an actual tropical vacation, try setting up a fun event (that doesn’t require a boat or a plane). Hire a steel band to set the mood, and add palm tree and coconut decor. A beautiful array of tropical flowers is the perfect detail for the tabletops, and of course don’t forget the food. Delicious jerk chicken and other traditional favorites should be on the menu, and create big batches of rum punch for everyone to enjoy.
10. Ugly sweater
Who hasn’t been to an ugly sweater holiday party? If you haven’t, you’re missing out! It’s a rite of passage during the winter holidays, and lots of laughs. However, this theme can be fun for any time of year! Encourage employees to wear the ugliest sweater they can get their hands on. Have your office vote on first, second, and third place winners and offer some fun prizes. Amp up the theme with cold-weather beverages like hot cocoa and warm cider, comfort food snacks, and beautiful snowy decor. The theme will be “ugly” but the memories will be awesome!
11. Pajama party
For a truly comfy theme, have everyone wear their jammies to the party. Have people indulge in their casual side and wear work-appropriate pajamas - the sillier the better! You can have people bring pillows and blankets to make their work space much more relaxed. Slumber party refreshments like pizza, popcorn, and soda are the perfect complement to your event.
Best for outdoor parties
12. Traditional BBQ
Everyone likes to get out and enjoy some sunshine and great food. Most people are comfortable at an event like a BBQ because they can be more casual than in the office. A laid-back atmosphere means staff are more likely to let their guard down and shoot the breeze. It’s a corporate event that feels a little less corporate. A beautiful park is a perfect location, but you can also use your own property for a no-cost option.
Bring vacation to you without having to get on a plane! If you happen to live near a body of water or beach, that’s obviously an ideal location. However, if you don’t, you can recreate the environment by bringing in some sand and other tropical decor. You can even use an indoor venue if you take the time to spruce it up with your theme. A great luau will include tiki torches, live hula dancers, a real pig roast, and fun cocktails. If you aren’t up for an actual pig roast (or don’t have the space), try getting some Hawaiian barbeque, traditional cocktails, and plenty of tiki decor.
For a really exhilarating event, opt for a carnival theme. You can try to find a venue that is big on bright colors, or you can create the atmosphere by using lots of breezy fabrics inspired by a circus tent and lots of fairy lighting. Balloon artists, magicians, contortionists, and other performers make the perfect complement to such a party. It’s also worth noting that this is a great theme for bigger groups, such as when you invite families to join. A carnival theme provides plenty of fun for adults and kids alike, so it’s an excellent choice for events like a company picnic or other days where guests are encouraged.
15. Food truck roundup
If you want to try lots of different foods, why not bring in some different food trucks so everyone can enjoy the variety? Ask a few different ones to show up at work or another venue, and let everyone choose their favorite. Add in some live music or fun activities and you’ve got a ready-made party! Do some research on food trucks that service your area. From there you just need to decide if you’re going to pay for everything in advance, or have people pay cash on their own (or some combination like a dollar limit). Just make sure to get a few different trucks so that there’s something for everyone.
16. Winter wonderland
If you have some outdoor-lovers, the fun doesn’t have to stop when the weather turns. Get everyone outside for some snowy fun for your next event. Offer hot cocoa, food cooked over a fire, roasted marshmallows, and of course a few spirits to add some extra warmth to beverages. You can set up a snowball fight, ice skating, or other winter activities that people will enjoy.
17. Enchanted forest
Do you have any great parks or outdoor spaces that have a woodsy feel? Take things a step further by setting up your next party right in the thick of it. Hang fairy lights and lanterns, set up tables with beautiful flowerscapes… basically, embrace everything that makes the forest magical and allow everyone to feel like they’ve stepped into a fairytale. Take things the extra mile with gold-tinged foliage and a smoke machine for a truly mythical ambiance. Depending which space you want to use, there may be some regulations about what you can do, so make sure to do your research first.
18. Outdoor movie night
Help everyone to enjoy a beautiful summer (or fall) evening with a large movie projector showing a great film. You can rent (or buy) large movie screen projectors where you can display a classic film like Hook or Goonies. Set up some large blankets and pillows, and bring out a popcorn machine and movie theater candy treats. This is the perfect activity for hosting families - the adults can mingle, while the kids enjoy the show.
19. Catered brunch
Who doesn’t love brunch? Delicious food plus fun brunch cocktails equals a great time. You can scale this theme up or down as you see fit, but you don’t need much. Think chicken and waffles, bottomless mimosas, a bloody Mary bar, and shrimp cocktail. Set everything up as a buffet so that people can come and go. This is a great idea if you’re not into throwing a big party, but want to organize an event for people to enjoy during their normal workday. For example, a brunch buffet is perfect as part of an employee appreciation day or a Fun Friday activity.
20. Taco fiesta
Don’t wait for Taco Tuesday to enjoy some delicious Mexican food! If you’re looking for a buffet style set up, this theme is perfect. Everyone can DIY their own tacos, burritos, or nachos just the way they like them. Add in some margarita or sangria and you’ve got a robust spread that’s simple to manage. This theme is great for inside or outside; it’s really versatile so you can incorporate this theme into almost any event.
21. Top-chef style
Many people enjoy watching cooking shows, and would love to compete in such an event. Divide people into teams and create a cooking competition among them. Whether you provide certain ingredients and people must get creative in making a dish, or you have everyone try to make the best version of something, cooking together is a serious bonding activity that is sure to strengthen relationships. You may need to rent a space that is designed for cooking in groups like this, so do some research in your area. You may even be able to find a venue where people can cook, eat, and drink all in one space.
22. Chili cookoff
Have everyone bring their best chili (or whatever food category you choose) and set everything up for tasting. This is a low-maintenance idea because ideally, everyone can prepare their food at home and simply bring in a crockpot. All you need to host such an event is a few tables, plastic bowls, and spoons - and of course, accompaniments like cheese and sour cream! Make this part of an in-office event where you have lots of activities going on, and lunch takes care of itself.
23. Speakeasy (more booze focused)
People in today’s society are fascinated by speakeasies, since we mostly missed the boat. If you live in a big city, you likely have an established speakeasy nearby. Do some research and figure out what it would take to get your entire crew in there one evening. Or, create one yourself by renting a small and out-of-the-way space. Create a speakeasy environment with low lighting, intimate booths, custom cocktails, etc. To make things really fun, keep the location hidden and provide your team clues of how to find it. Have them announce a code word to gain entry to get the real speakeasy experience. As mentioned, this one will probably be more focused on the beverages than the food, since most speakeasies don’t offer food. It’s the perfect after-dinner idea for an all-day team retreat.
Change of scenery
24. Murder mystery
Figure out whodunnit during your next party. Hiring a murder mystery party company will make this a lot easier. You’ll likely need the help of some hired professionals, but you can research local organizations to help (or have Surf Office do the research for you). Choose an appropriate venue and encourage costumes that fit in with the theme (like “Murder on the Orient Express”, for instance). Note: this activity is best for extroverted groups and people who enjoy socializing and interacting. A murder mystery requires plenty of audience participation, so make sure that will be fun for your team. You can work with the company to figure out refreshments, either a full sit-down meal or a simple wine and cheese spread could work. Keep a cool prize ready for the winner, too.
25. Dance party
Who doesn’t love to dance? Well, actually, some people really don’t…so you’ll want to know about your team before planning a dance party. However, if you have a group that you know loves to move, plan an event that involves lots of dancing. That can involve rounds of a video game like Dance, Dance, Revolution or you can have everyone try some VR machines. Or, you can just hire a DJ and clear the floor! Whichever route you go, if you know your colleagues like to get moving, a dancing theme is ideal.
26. Comedy show
Colleagues who laugh together work well together - at least, that’s what we have found! Do some research on local comedy venues where you can host an event, or hire your favorite performer to come to your next office event. Enjoying new shared experiences is an important way to bond and a comedy show is bound to be something people talk about for weeks to come. Have everyone grab their favorite beverage, grab a comfy seat, and have a laugh. This is a guaranteed way to refresh your water cooler talk on Monday morning.
27. Casino night
May the odds be ever in your favor…for a night of gambling! Whether you play for money or laughs, it’s always entertaining to bring out some casino games at work. Any space that can fit a big number of people can work well, whether you rent a space, remake your office, or take a shuttle to an actual casino. Add Vegas vibes with bright lights, water fountains, and fun costumes for the wait staff. You can even hire people like aerial silk performers or expert dealers. Class things up with passed appetizers, a tended bar, and dressy cocktail attire. Pro tip: many organizations offer a casino-themed night as a form of fundraiser, where part of the money exchanged goes to a worthy cause. This is a great way to not only add some fun but show that your company lives by its values.
Imagine everyone under the big top! Bring out the popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy, and other carnival food to enjoy while everyone plays games like ring toss. For added fun, bring in a dunk tank (with some willing participants). The possibilities are nearly endless, just use your imagination. For even more brownie points, have managers or other company leaders volunteer for jobs like the carnival barkers, game attendants, and dunk tank participants.
29. Saint Patrick's day party
You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy this popular holiday theme. Bring the luck of the Irish into your event by either renting a space that’s perfect for this celebration (such as a traditional pub) or decorating your office with plenty of green and gold. Have everyone dress up in their favorite festive gear, serve green refreshments, and of course, don’t forget the beer.
Team building + Theme party = A perfect retreat
Many companies host parties as part of a larger effort to get employees together and have a great time. If you’re planning a team-building retreat, consider including a party and picking a theme that fits your group.
A theme party is the perfect way to liven up or close out a team retreat - and we can help! For example, one of our clients recently planned a pirate-themed boat party to end their team building retreat. Surf Office helped to find the perfect boat in Lisbon and worked with planners to ensure the party was executed perfectly. You can read about the employees’ response to their successful event on our blog. For help planning your own perfectly themed party, reach out to Surf Office.