What qualifies as a reason to have a party? We’d like to humbly propose that a lowering of the party bar is in order. And if lowering the bar made you think “limbo,” then your mind is already on the right track.
Seriously, why should birthdays and big anniversaries get all the glory when life is chock-full of little reasons to gather and celebrate? The truth is, you don’t have to wait around for a big or expected reason to have a party. Any day is a special enough occasion if you decide it is. In fact, some of the best party ideas are a bit off the cuff, unexpected, maybe even purely made-up. If anything, the lack of expectations for these “alt bashes” can take off the pressure and free up you and your guests to have even more fun.
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If you’re the kind of person who aspires to treat all of life as a special occasion, then keep reading for unconventional reasons to have a party, celebration ideas and themes, food and décor tips, and more fun ’n’ festive stuff. We bet you a ridiculously large cupcake that when you open up your idea of what counts as a party-worthy occasion, you’ll open yourself up to a lot more joy shared with your favorite people.
Here is a selection of occasions that we consider more than reason enough for a get-together. We’ve also got celebration ideas to go with each of them. Oh, and if you think any of our reasons to have a party aren’t quite sufficient, then we suggest you challenge us to a competitive game of pin-the-horn-on-the-unicorn to settle the issue once and for all.
Kinda’ like a gender-reveal party, only not for a baby-to-be, but for something else exciting and new you want to unveil.
- New Home: Also known as a housewarming, this party is a chance to invite friends into your new Mansion, Apartment, Shack or House. Serve homey, comforting food and decorate with pineapple icons—a traditional symbol of welcome. Print key-shaped tags with your new address for guests to take with them.
- Tattoo Reveal: Show off your new ink and invite guests to join in the fun by providing a temporary tattoo application station. Print tattoo-design cake or cookie toppers and spin a tattoo-themed playlist to turn up the inky vibe.
- Remodel “Christening”: Whether it’s a new deck or a kitchen renovation, you can show friends your new space while enjoying it with them. Decorate with a nautical theme and have a naming contest for the updated spot. Serve bubbly but ask guests to please refrain from literally smashing a champagne bottle when you go to christen your freshly decorated space.
- New Pet: Let friends see for themselves just how adorable your new furry, feathered or scaly family member is. If your pet is up for it, set up a photo backdrop where you can take their pic with each guest. (Helpful hint: You could do a similar party for your pet’s birthday.)
Even more reveal party ideas: new hairstyle, new vehicle, new hobby, new artwork (perhaps created by you or your guest of honor), new stereo setup and turntable
Think outside the baby-shower box and honor these under-celebrated family milestones, too.
- Child adoption (new child or step/foster parent adopting their child): Welcome an older child into the love of family with a celebration that’s all about them. Tailor the celebration to the new family member’s age, interests, cultural heritage and needs and involve them in the planning if they’re old enough.
- New grandchild: If this party is for first-time grandparents, it could resemble a traditional baby shower, complete with gifts of baby gear the new grandparent(s) will need when their newest family member visits. Or it could simply be a casual get-together to toast the happy addition of a new grandchild to the family. Either way, the celebration should highlight the specialness of grandparenting.
- New niece/nephew/nibling: Aunts/uncles/piblings have cause for celebration, too! Having a party to welcome a new niece, nephew or nibling can be a way to signal an intention to be an active part of the child’s life. Decorate with a “Peas in a Pod” theme and arrange for the new nibling to attend the party in a onesie or t-shirt personalized with a phrase like “I <3 My Aunt” or “Uncle Kevin is my favorite.”
- Plant babies: Are houseplants family? That might be up for debate, but there’s no question about the fun of celebrating their progeny! Invite your people over and put them to work helping with the dirty work of bringing new plant babies into the world. In exchange for their labor, feed them snacks and drinks and give them cuttings or transplants to take home.
When you have your health, you’ve got something pretty important. When you have your health and friends to celebrate it with, you’ve got everything!
- Cancer free: Give thanks for a clean bill of health and honor the strength of spirit it takes to fight cancer with a “Cancer Warrior” theme. Play your favorite fight songs and decorate with the color of ribbon that goes with the type of cancer whose butt just got kicked.
- Sobriety anniversary: Sometimes called a “soberversary,” these can mark a week, a month, a year or more of sobriety. Honor that commitment with a little substance-free fun, such as a board or video game night, a living-room dance-off, or something else active and engaging.
- Mental health win: Maybe it’s a successful time in rehabilitation or therapy. Maybe the new meds are working wonders. Whatever the case, celebrate that win! Incorporate brain icons into party décor and provide a sheet or journal where guests can write what they love about the guest of honor’s beautiful brain.
- Post-surgery party: “I held a ‘going away’ party for my mom’s uterus after her hysterectomy,” says Amy T. “It was a good way for her to see everyone and laugh after her surgery.”
Helpful Tip: When celebrating your own health victory, anything goes! When celebrating someone else’s, be sure to run plans by them and respect their wishes. You don’t want to surprise a friend with a “Bye, Boobs!” party if she’d rather keep her mastectomy private.
There are beginnings, and then there are endings that are really just fresh beginnings waiting to happen. We hereby decree them all party worthy.
- New job: Whether the offer has just been accepted, or the first day on the job has already happened, it’s a great time to celebrate this achievement! Incorporate the occupation into the party theme (e.g., calculators for an accountant) and give the celebration a work-song soundtrack. (“9 to 5” karaoke, anyone?)
- Retirement: Lean into that mix of looking back and looking forward that comes with retirement by celebrating with a “Hello/Good-bye” theme. Think Hello! and Good-bye! word bubbles strung out along a party banner, waving-hand cake toppers and a guest book for friends to fill with Hello/Good-bye wishes for the retiree: “Good-bye, alarm clock. Hello, Alaska trip!”
- Empty nest: When the fledglings have flown, mama and/or papa bird have some great memories to look back on…and some celebrating to do! Decorate with a bird/nest theme. Have guests anonymously submit ideas for how to repurpose the kids’ rooms, then read them aloud and try to guess whose idea is whose.
- Single again: Also known as a divorce or breakup party, you can turn this into an empowering, forward-looking celebration by framing it in a positive way. So maybe instead of burning a gift from the ex, throw darts at a map to decide where to plan a girls’ trip or solo vacation. Or watch movies with a friendship or self-discovery theme.
- Quitting a bad job: Put that bad gig in the rearview mirror and look forward to better things to come with an open-road party motif. Include map, car and road-sign décor elements.
- Moving in together: Marriage isn’t the only joining of forces that calls for a party. Celebrate the exciting decision to share a domicile with snacks and decorative touches that are better together: wine and cheese, chips and salsa, scotch and soda, moon and stars, etc.
- New decade: There’s something rare and special about your age becoming a nice, round number. Feature that new number prominently in decade party décor. Have guests write out predictions for the coming decade and collect them in a time capsule—either physical or digital. Set a reminder to share them in a year, five years or ten years. (PS: You only get to have this party once every ten years, so you’d better not miss your chance!)
A close cousin of New Beginnings, these celebrations are all about embracing life’s changes in festive and empowering ways.
- Name change: Whether transitioning to a new gender identity or taking a partner’s name, a new moniker is a momentous change. Celebrate it accordingly with a party that highlights that exciting new name. Pipe it on the cake, have it printed on paper goods, give a piece of jewelry or other gift personalized with it. “HELLO My Name Is” tags for all guests would be a fun touch, too. (Helpful Hint: If the new name is a surprise, you could treat this as a Reveal Party.)
- Bon voyage: Bid a fond farewell with a “Leaving on a Jet Plane” or other travel-themed party. Incorporate planes, trains, globes and suitcases into décor. Provide a guest book for friends to write their bon voyage wishes and contact info. If available, provide the guest of honor’s new contact info as well.
- Welcome/welcome back: Let the guest of honor know you’re thrilled they’re here by rolling out a party with “Welcome” written all over it…in different languages (Willkomen, Bienvenue, etc.). Plan an icebreaker activity like the M&M game, in which guests share one thing about themselves for each piece of candy they’ve taken.
- Swap party: When you want to summon the winds of change into your wardrobe, accessories, bookshelves or cat figurine collection, host a swap party! Let guests know in the invitation what type of swap items to bring and what rules to expect. At the party itself, provide a display area, then snack, sip and swap away.
- Coming out or transition party: Spread the pride and fun around with a party celebrating the guest of honor’s LGBTQ identity. Rainbow everything is a good bet, or you can make it more personal by decorating with the specific pride flag colors that correspond with the honoree’s gender identity or sexuality. Invite all guests to fill out and wear a name tag including their preferred pronouns.
- Menopause or perimenopause party: Groups of friends will likely be experiencing this milestone around the same time, so it could be a true group celebration. You could lean into the increased spending power of middle age by pooling funds for an elegant catered affair. Or you could go full-on irreverent with a “Hotter Than Ever” theme, lots of pink and activities centered around “Aunt Flo” and all you won’t be missing about her.
Years are long. So don’t go party-less between birthdays, anniversaries and holidays—plan something for the off times, too.
- Season-based party (fall party, winter, spring, summer, solstice, equinox, new astrological season): Revel in the beauty and traditions of your favorite time of year! Theme-wise, go all in on the season you’re celebrating. Weather and allergies permitting, these would be great celebrations to take outdoors. You could do a photo scavenger hunt for natural signs of the season—for instance, the pumpkin-spice patches often seen during autumn.
- Summerween (see also, Christmas in July, Springsgiving, etc.): Give your favorite holiday new life by celebrating it an extra time each year! In the case of Summerween, that might mean dressing up in monstrous warm-weather costumes, carving jack-o’-lanterns from watermelons, and projecting scary movies on a wall outside.
- Half birthday: Formerly just for summer birthday kids wanting to bring treats to school, but now for everyone! Consider a “half” theme for party snacks and gifts: “One of my favorite memories growing up is when my mom would surprise me on my half birthday with half a card and half a cake,” says Mercedes L. “It was so cute!”
Once upon a time, certain achievements went without saying, much less celebrating. We think that’s just wrong. Bring them out into the open where they can catch some sun—and possibly confetti!
- Debt free: Celebrate the wonderful lightness of paying off student debt or other loans with plenty of helium balloons. Don’t break the bank but spread the gold chocolate coins around and mix some $ signs and play money into party decorations.
- Fitness milestone: Whether it’s a workout streak, quitting smoking, a marathon run or a goal weight reached, take time to honor that noteworthy accomplishment. Keep the party food on the healthy side and keep the sweaty groove going by playing your favorite workout playlist.
- Driver’s license/new driver: A learner’s permit or driver’s license marks an exciting new stage of freedom and independence. Shift the celebration into gear with photos of the new driver and guests leaning against a car looking wild and free—yet responsible! Have guests record their best driving tips for the honoree.
Other wins to celebrate: accepted into dream school; court case win; starting a new business; promotion or honorable award; getting tenure at a university; accomplishing something scary (skydiving, giving a big presentation, etc.); “I built/grew” something
- First day of school (for kids)
- First day of school (during the day, after drop off, for parents)
- First day of school/kindergarten/middle school/high school
- First grown-up paycheck
- TV show premiere
- Movie premiere
- Art openings
- Album drop
- Book release
- Last episode of a tv series or season
- Last day of school
- Last day of summer vacation
- End of semester (for teachers, parents or students)
- After party for recital or concert
- Cast party after a play
- My-sports-team-is-out party
- Team championship
- Big game watch party
- Opening day/start of season
- Meet the neighbors (yard or block party)
- Nostalgia night (bingeing an old show or pop-music era)
- Supper club
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