Bringing Your Bookish Event to Life with Themed Activities
Updated: Mar 4, 2022
The most important element of a book-inspired event is not the theme, the decorations, or even the cute food. When you are hosting an event that is meant to take place in another world – like a Harry Potter party or an Alice in Wonderland tea – the REAL reason your guests will feel like they’ve actually traveled into a story is the things that you DO during the party.
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Imagine that you’re the guest, and you arrive at this hypothetical Harry Potter party in your house robes, clutching your wand. In that moment between when you ring the doorbell and your host opens the door, you will have a moment of panic/hope, where your brain says, “ooh, I hope this is good! But what if it isn’t?” That Potterhead fan deep inside you really wants that door to open onto Hogwarts.
If this event turns out to be just a normal get-together at a friend’s house, where everyone stands around eating, drinking and chatting, that’s … fine … but it’s certainly not the enchanted evening your secret internal book nerd was hoping for.
But … if you have to give a password to the Fat Lady to enter the house, then you sit on a stool in the front hall with the Sorting Hat on your head and hear someone call out your house, then they hand you a Marauder’s Map of the house and you see that “classes” are set up in each room, so you go to the dungeon and make potions, then you go to Divination and have your tea leaves read, then you go to Charms and make a fancy wand with a dowel and hot glue and paint, then you go to History of Magic which is actually a Harry Potter trivia game with all the other guests … you will have a spectacular time, and you’ll remember that party forever.
The secret to hosting a really thrilling immersive event is to plan some themed activities throughout the party. Getting your guests up out of their seats and interacting with each other in a fun way that references back to the original book or story is the key.
Now, some books/movies/stories don’t have specific activities written into them, while others are FULL of potential activities that you can use – I mean seriously, I can go on for ten more minutes just listing off more Harry Potter activities, like playing Quidditch, learning martial arts “defense against the dark arts”, having a spell duel, having a triwizard tournament – honestly, it’s endless. But let’s say I sit down to plan a Twilight themed event …. Well, the ideas don’t really come cascading out.
But, never fear … there are some easy basic activities that you can customize for any theme or fandom, and I’m going to explain to you how it’s done.
This list I’m going to give you will be a sort of template, or fill-in-the-blank for you to use to plan engaging activities for any themed event.
The three basic activities that are always a hit at parties are:
A themed game
A hands-on craft
A trivia contest
You can do one, two or all three, depending on the ages of your guests and how much space and time you have. You know, if you’re throwing a Downton Abbey tea party for your grandmothers and great aunts, they may prefer to skip the game, or if your group is made up of all small children, then the trivia contest might not be right for them … but this is a solid place to start. Think about what your guests would enjoy doing, then just customize these basic ideas to your favorite theme, and your immersive event is ready to impress your guests. And of course, you can add any additional activities beyond these three that sound fun to you.
Let’s take a Jane Austen book as an example. Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility … any of her books will do since the settings are so similar. Start to think about the Regency-era atmosphere of th