EVENT BASICS: The key elements of a really successful immersive event are:
1) The setting
2) The food
3) The activities
4) The costumes
SELL THE ILLUSION: You can SAY you’re holding a Last Night on the Titanic dinner party, but if there’s nothing remotely nautical about the setting, and the menu is modern, and nothing happens but normal party small talk, your event does not qualify as immersive. You have to really SELL the illusion that you’ve traveled through a magical portal to visit another time and place.
INCORPORATE ICONIC ITEMS: Build that world that you love with iconic items from the story amongst your decor, authentic food and drink that the protagonists of your story would have consumed, story-themed outfits and costumes, and most importantly, planned activities that mimic parts of your fictional world.
For example, you can make potions at a Harry Potter event, or learn swing dancing at a Great Gatsby event, or decorate hats with flowers at an Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter tea party … there are so many options, and it’s the things that you do that get people out of their seats and into the fictional world that really completes the fantasy, and make your event unforgettable.
ALL THE TIPS AND TRICKS: Now, creating and hosting immersive events is fun, but it takes imagination and some practical tricks to build fictional worlds inside real world spaces on a budget. Follow these links to learn all the secrets you'll need to create your own immersive event!
Favorite Fictional Themes
At The Storyteller's Cottage, we hosted hundreds of themed events over the course of three years -- casual and fancy, for adults and children, during the day and at night, and everything in between. For every event, we created unique themed decor, food & drinks, activities, and often costumes!
Each of the blog posts below describes exactly how we produced our events. Get inspired, steal some of our tricks, and add your own spin! Below the post grid you'll find a link to our YouTube channel, where you can watch the same "how to" instructions with MANY more photos of each event!
GET INSPIRED BY SOME OF OUR FAVORITE PARTIES!
Themed Food & Drinks
One of our most favorite aspects of planning themed events is creating an immersive menu including foods & drinks from our fictional world. Some stories include descriptions of specific refreshments (like butterbeer and chocolate frogs), while others don't mention any foods at all. When planning your own menu, your challenge will be two-fold:
1) Will you need to recreate specific foods
or make up your own themed refreshments?
2) Will you make your refreshments from scratch, purchase ready-made foods,
or modify food from somewhere else?
Sometimes your fictional world features its own special food items that everybody recognizes, like the Turkish Delight in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or the sugar plums in the Nutcracker, or Raspberry Cordial in Anne of Green Gables. You can build a whole menu around that one item -- perhaps a tea party with tiny scones and dainty little sandwiches, and in the case of Anne’s cordial, you can actually serve any red, syrupy drink and just call it Raspberry Cordial. Your one recognizable food can carry the menu, and you’ll just have to choose a few complementary dishes to go with it.
Now there are other stories that mention foods, but those items aren’t so well-known that they’re automatically associated with the story. For example, in a Wrinkle in Time, Charles Wallace makes hot cocoa for Meg and his mother. Hot cocoa isn’t immediately associated with that story, but fans will remember the scene and appreciate the reference. So with stories like Little Women where Meg has trouble making jam, or Little House in the Big Woods when Ma makes the girls special heart-shaped cakes with the rare white sugar, or Fantastic Beasts when Queenie bakes apple strudel… you can build your menu around these items that call back to passages in the story, and set out little cards printed with the relevant paragraph to refresh everyone’s memory. As long as you build the rest of your menu in the same spirit as the featured item, it will come together as a cohesive whole.
Watch my comprehensive lesson below to learn all the tricks you'll need to know to create an amazing Fictional Feast!
HOW TO CREATE
MORE OF OUR FAVORITE FICTIONAL FOODS
Who doesn't love dressing up? So many of our favorite childhood memories involve some kind of cosplay, and that's because just a few special items can make us feel as if we've transformed into someone completely different.
Just as with your decor, you don’t have to go out and buy fancy, expensive period costumes if you don’t want to. In fact, in most cases, you’ll be able to suggest your character with one or two carefully-chosen accessories. For example, a maid can wear an apron with just a plain dress that she already has, or a carpenter can wear a tool belt, or a bodyguard can wear dark sunglasses and a dark suit, or a rich lady can wear large costume jewelry and some fancy scarves -- you get the idea.
Tips and Tricks
From a Professional Event Planner
FIRST, REMOVE ANACHRONISTIC ITEMS FROM YOUR SPACE: Whether you’re building your world in an apartment common room, or your own living room, or a school gym, or your yard, take a hard look at what items are there that will ruin the mood, and are light enough to move. Grab a friend and move the worst offenders into another room, or stash them in the basement for a while. Take the electric clock off the wall, move the water cooler, put all the charging cords and the calendars and the car keys somewhere else. And if you’re stuck with something that’s too big to move, or it’s permanently installed, like a tv on the wall, try to cover it up.
COLLECT GENERALLY EVOCATIVE DECOR: These are the simple items that form the base or the background for your fantasy world. Go on a scavenger hunt through your whole house and gather up everything you already have that “suggests” the era of your world. For example, If you’re going for an ancient setting, like a castle or a sorcerer’s lair, look for things like pillar candles, wooden salad bowls, iron servingware, oriental rugs, old bottles, old books, wooden boxes, and fabrics like black velvet or red silk.
If you’re building a world in a very specific era, like the Art Deco era for example, look for things that you already own that have that shape and style, even if they’re not traditional decorative items. Maybe you have an Art Deco picture frame, or some martini glasses, or even something like a toothbrush holder that you can repurpose - stick some flowers in that and pretend it’s a vase!
You can literally use anything as decor to build your world - when you group together related items you’re creating a still life, and you can put anything you like into that collage. A top hat, or white gloves, or a paper fan, or a string of pearls or a beaded purse. Collect everything that seems to even remotely belong in your setting, pile it all up in your space, then artistically redistribute it around the room so it has the maximum effect.
To make your little still lives look like they’re organically part of the room, you’re going to anchor them with a few other normal items that everyone has. You can use a tray to turn mismatched china into a deliberate group, or a pile of old books to put a magnifying glass on, or a mirror to pull together a hat and gloves, or even flowers string lights. Large potted plants are also a great way to fill in any gaps you might have around your space. The addition of these anchors transforms your items from “holiday decorations” that are set on top of real life, to artifacts from a real place.
INTRODUCE A FEW SPECIFIC FANDOM ITEMS: Now you'll narrow down your atmosphere from just "a castle", to Hogwarts, for example. Chances are you already have items all over your house that you can use for this step. And don’t limit yourself to the obvious … sure, bring out the Sorting hat, but also grab that empty bottle of pumpkin juice that you brought home from Universal because it looked cool. Everything works in a still life! Then, put your most prized possessions in central locations so they have the most impact.
For more specific tips and tricks about planning your immersive themed event, check out these practical posts:
Shop Event Supplies
Find items and inspiration for a variety of party themes, from Jane Austen to Outlander and everything in between
Whether you need poison label cupcake toppers or themed pint glasses, we have designs you won't see anywhere else
Create your own unique take on your favorite character with our affordable separates from Amazon
Shop a wide array of themed cookbook and entertaining books based on popular fictional worlds