For Your Consideration: Throwing a Highly Specific Themed Party For No Particular Reason

for your consideration

Welcome to For Your Consideration, a new series about things we love and love to do — and we’d like to give you permission to embrace your authentic self and love them too.

Gather ye round, folks! We’re throwing a party! Not just any party! A themed party. If you must know, there actually is no other kind of party in my book. A party without a theme is like a cheese plate without Port Salut — what’s the fucking point! Why are we throwing an elaborate themed party, you ask? Because my life is — say it with me! — Falling! Apart! This is what I do in dire times. I throw a highly specific themed party.

There was the time when I threw a Winona Ryder-themed party. It was a housewarming for the apartment I moved into with two of my close college friends during that year I was very depressed and also very single despite very much wanting to be neither of those things. The apartment was on Winona Street in Chicago, and within hours of moving in, one of my housemates had already spelled out Winona 4evr with alphabet magnets above our stove. A Winona Ryder-themed housewarming seemed inevitable.

When you host a party, you have control. You can tell people what they’re supposed to wear and bring and set the rules for the evening. It provides that same sense of God-like dominance that makes playing the Sims so appealing. But it’s even better, because it’s real life!

For the Winona party, I instructed everyone to dress as a Winona Ryder character or another character from a Winona movie or in an outfit that evoked a particular era of Winona Ryder. There were rules beyond the costumes, too. Every room in our apartment had a sub-theme and specific activity — like my bedroom, which was dedicated to that one episode of Friends where Winona plays a sorority sister of Rachel who was also in love with her. I turned the bulletin board that usually contained my to-do lists and photostrips of my friends into a game of pin-the-lips-on-Rachel-Green. It was a very good game. It was also an elaborate way for me to figure out which girls in my improv class were gay.

At my first apartment in Brooklyn, I threw a Drew Barrymore-themed housewarming party. I spent the week leading up to it coming up with DB-related puns to call the sangria punch I would be serving (50 First Grapes, Charlie’s Angels: Full Bottle, Juice Berrymore, Fever Pitcher, Grape Gardens, Drunk Barrymore). It was a fun little distraction from the fact that I did not want to move into this apartment with these people in the first place. The party was a hit, even though I ended up crying about nothing and everything at the end of it. Do you ever think about how “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to” are the greatest lyrics ever written?

Every time I’ve moved away from a city that rudely broke my heart, I’ve thrown a goodbyetoyou-michellebranch.mp3-themed karaoke party, which always feels like the perfect amount of of “early aughts power ballad” sadness. If New York continues to be as unbearable as it has been, maybe there’s another one of those in my future.

Last fall, I decided I would host a Riverdale-themed murder mystery party and took on the ambitious task of writing the murder mystery game myself. I even had little Blossom Maple Syrup labels printed for little bottles of maple syrup and started coming up with potential maple syrup cocktail recipes. I picked April 2018 as an arbitrary time for the party and even texted friends in other cities to start thinking about making a trip to NYC in the spring for what I was certain would be the party of a century. I didn’t know that April 2018 would be the month my life splintered. The long lost Riverdale murder mystery party is the only party I’ve planned that never came to fruition. I’m not sure it ever will.

So it is time to plan a new highly specific themed party, one that doesn’t come with too much emotional baggage, one that can distract me from the myriad ways my life has changed against my will in the past several months. I’m ready to pour myself into party planning with the tunnel-visioned gusto of Clarissa Dalloway buying flowers and ignoring her problems. (Oh shit, should I throw a The Hours-themed party? Is that too depressing or just the right amount of depressing?)

I’ll make the guest list and spend too much time workshopping the theme! I’ll come up with games! Cocktails! A clever description for the Facebook event! I know how to throw a damn good party. I learned from the best, my mother has thrown elaborate parties my entire life. Her annual soup party is a party where you dress up and eat several kinds of soup. It’s a hot ticket social event in suburban Virginia. I really shook things up the year I brought a girl as a date. Yes, queering the annual soup party is definitely my legacy.

Here’s a secret: The best parties actually have no occasion attached. There’s too much pressure when it comes to birthdays, holidays and milestones. Throwing a party just for the sake of throwing a party is a power move. Let’s party about nothing and everything!

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 868 articles for us.


  1. This series just gets better and better.

    Can I be invited and spend the party “helpfully” cleaning in the kitchen as I avoid people and cry?

  2. wow. i am going to start planning a winona ryder themed party now because that sounds like one of the most fun things ever.

  3. if i don’t throw a party in january, i will surely perish, so pls hit me with any and all theme ideas thx

    • Best fancy dress I ever went to was COME DRESSED AS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR, which might be like a little too ~on the nose, but also works with Riverdale and Haunting of Hill House and Sharp Objects and the other ~iconic media of 2k18.

    • My home threw an enneagram v astrology party which was a little tricky costuming wise but meant that I found out the enneagram types of all my friends, could spot the queers in an instant, and there was hearty debate the whole night. A very successful time.

        • Most of the queers had *feelings* about astrology – either FOR, passionately, or AGAINST, passionately, or devastated by their own lack of opinion and wracked with “am I queer enough” angst. It was an emotional party to say the least

    • Could it be 20gayteen themed? in january of 2019? premature nostalgia is definitely on brand for us millennials

    • Straight people are wild party where people come dressed as their favorite straight people. Like the dude who’s gender reveal party lead to a forrest fire, or the woman to use a lie detector on her friend to catch the mole in her 24k gold party.

    • Cameron and Rhea (pre-separation). Have people imitate their outfits. Play Take My Wife in one room. Play albums and/or YouTube videos in another room. Have a third room for listening to their podcasts. Make sure to dedicate some space to large, print-out pics where I–I mean your guests–can simply admire their queer beauty.

    • My favourite theme parties that I have hosted/attended, off the top of my head:

      – my friends in high school threw a Communist party. The invitations were addressed “dear comrade” and printed on red paper, everyone wore red, we had communist-themed foods (dictatortots anyone?) and a generally good time was had by all.

      – I have hosted many a wine tasting party. Sounds posh but really just an excuse for everyone to get sloshed. Everyone brings a bottle of wine under a certain price point (I usually say $20), you put it in a brown paper bag with a number on it when it arrives. Once everyone arrives (ideal group size is 8-12), you sample the wines, snack on the snacks, and everyone votes for their top 3 wines. Winner of the evening gets a $20 gift card to the liquor store. You get a lot of half-finished bottles of wine. Everyone is happy.

      – my friends had a Twin Peaks theme for their engagement party. It was pretty on-brand for them, and pretty damn good.

      – Harry Potter themed birthday party. Need I say more?

    • For the last several years of my 20s I threw rhyming theme parties every year for some reason. It started with the Gender Swap Yankee Swap party, and then continued with the Lumberjack Flapjack party, the Glitter and Bitters party, and the Falafel Waffle party. I recommend this method if you enjoy making up themes from unrelated things!

  4. Alternatively, love a good THEME BATTLE, so 60s Mad Men vs Hippies, 90s grunge vs Clueless, etc etc etc. The present is hard! Live in the past! is what this theme will yell!

  5. I’m throwing a Carol party on NYE. It has an occasion, but I don’t really care about the NYE part, honestly. It was just a time when people are around and looking for something to do. But if you DO throw a party for no reason, invite me ’round.

  6. Now I wish I had thrown a Goodbye To You themed party instead of driving around my new city aimlessly listening to it on repeat after a girl – I mean city – broke my heart in 2002.

    Honestly this series is making me rethink all my life choices and I mean that as a compliment.

  7. My birthday this year was supposed to be a Jon Bon Jovi/80s Rocker themed party (decided once I realized that at 35 I was “halfway there” between 30 and 40 and wanted to embrace that shit). I was gonna serve Hit me With Your Best Strawberries and Pour Some Fudge Sauce on Me. Finger foods to include I’m Gonna Quiche (500 Miles), Artichoke One Bites the Dust and You Spanakopita Me Right Round. I also had temporary glitter rocker tattoos galore. Unfortunately a huge load of anxiety/panic triggered by a really unsettling ableist thing where I got kicked out of a museum because I needed to lay down meant I had to cancel. I’m still really sad about it.

  8. My friends threw a clinton themed party (again, too depressing? or the right amount?), and people came dressed up as Socks, the cat, the zombie Health Care Bill, and College Hillary, among others, and I recreated Bill’s memoir cover in MS Paint and made a large book jacket out of cardboard and tromped around in it all night.

  9. My next party will be themed. I haven’t decided what theme yet, a lot of the friends attending will be straight, it’s not their fault they don’t know queerness is the best. I’ve had 3 pirate parties (age 8, 10 & 18), Hollywood on a budget, Doctor Who, Fractured Fairy Tales, a video game theme, can’t recall any of the others right now. Themed parties are fun! I kinda want to throw a Greatest Showman party but I’m the only person I know obsessed with it…it’ll probably be something like Harry Potter, let’s face it.

  10. “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to” is truly the absolute best lyric of all time.

    We should be throwing _you_ a party.

    A “For Your Consideration” party. Or better yet, an Anti-“For Your Consideration” party to unravel the sweaters, tear down the art, pour the wine down the drain, throw the pasta out the window, unplug the mic, undo it all, level things out, fill in the hurt.

    What can we do ? We’re so far.

  11. Flashbacks to when I tried to throw a Christopher Lee-themed costume party for my birthday one year and had to cancel it because everyone I knew at the time told me they wouldn’t come if they had to dress up.

    Other parties I’ve had to cancel because they were too weird for central Pennsylvania and everyone bailed on me: the Rod Stewart party and the National Meningitis Week Party

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