Let's just get it out there - I love everything about the 80's. The decade of the 1980's just gave and gave. From that time emerged the popularity of neon lights, funky disco dance moves, supercharged crazy fashions and most of all, amazingly iconic music, television shows and movies. And that's just scratching the surface.
The 80's have provided us with endless inspiration for modern-day retro parties.
If you're looking for a fun party theme idea for all ages (that's totally rad!) an 80's party is the way to go. It is a really fun theme (it's like, tubular) with lots of colour, awesome music and easy to create on a budget.
This post is the first part of a two-part series. In this post I will begin taking you on your journey through 101 80's party ideas. We're going to explore ideas for easy party décor, party food suggestions, fun party games and entertainment and more, in random order. There are sure to be some ideas here that you'll love. So let's get totally into it!
1. Pick a Theme
A generic 80's party theme is a really easy option. Going wide means that you have literally hundreds of options for your party décor, your guests' costumes (if you want to make it fancy dress) the food, music and entertainment.
But, if you think that's a bit boring and you'd prefer to go a bit more specific, you still have plenty of options.
Consider building your party theme around one of the following:
- your favourite 80's movie e.g. The Goonies, Footloose, Conan The Barbarian, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid
- your fave 80's tv show e.g. Magnum P.I., The Dukes of Hazzard, Happy Days
- 80's celebrity icons e.g. Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Boy George, Adam Ant
- a song title e.g. Thriller (Michael Jackson), Physical (Olivia Newton-John), Flashdance What a Feeling (Irene Cara),
- 80's character icons e.g. The Blues Brothers, Rambo, Terminator, Masters of the Universe
- 80's video games e.g. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Tetris, Mario Bros
2. Think Neon
For a simpler party theme option, why not host a neon party? Neon was huge in the 1980's.
Popular colours were neon pink, yellow and green. But bright blue, orange and purple were next in line. Much of 1980's design featured these colours on a white or black background. Think loud punchy designs that totally clash, with a lot of splattered paint and graffiti-style artwork.
Simple 80's party décor ideas include DIY spraying graffiti or splattering neon paint onto a white or black backdrop - a sheet or tablecloth (even the plastic party ones) are perfect solutions for this purpose.
Alternatively, have a neon graphics design printed onto a paper backdrop.
To make your décor fit together for a neon party theme, add washi tape in coordinating colours to plain block neon items, or dip plain utensils into matching neon paint.
Glow sticks make perfect neon party decorations that double as party favors!
3. Pretty Pastels
If the thought of going neon brings on an instant migraine, perhaps the pastel trend will be more to your liking.
Pastel was a popular colour trend in the 80's, especially in home décor and fashion. It is a very easy party theme to implement, because party supplies in pastel colours are readily available.
4. Décor Cubed
There's no need to spend every last cent on your party décor for an 80's party. An affordable option to decorate is to browse through local secondhand shops or garage sales for vintage items, or if you have anything that you can use laying around the house, why not use them as party decorations?
A fine example is the classic Rubik's Cube. Ideas on how you can use them are suggested below:
- table decorations and centrepieces
- give them to your guests as party favors
- they make excellent place card or label holders
I am sure you can think of many more uses for them at your party.
5. Toy Joy
Decorating your party with toys from the 80's is a great idea for easy party décor. Toys such as Cabbage Patch Dolls, Care Bears and Transformers are fun and colourful, making them perfect decorations.
Scatter them around tables and focal points for maximum impact.
6. Slinking Around
Slinkys (especially the rainbow varieties) make wonderful 80's party decorations. Below are some decorating suggestions:
- Simply place them on tables
- hang them from the ceiling
- hang them as bunting on walls and on front of tables
- use them as food containers on dessert tables
give them as party favors
7. Skate Safe
Roller skating was epic in the 80's, so a roller skating party is really fitting. You could go all out and host at a roller disco arena, or keep it simple with a DIY skating theme at home.
If you're looking for a fun party invitation, look no further than this editable and printable template pictured below.
8. It's a Trifle Tasty
A staple of any 80's party in Britain and Australia, trifle is a great addition to your party desserts menu and it's quite easy to prepare.
Traditionally, trifle is made with layers of fruit, sponge cake soaked in sherry (or another fortified wine) and custard. It can be topped with whipped cream.
However, if that doesn't appeal, there are literally hundreds of variations on this sweet treat, that you are sure to find one you like.
9. Video Killed the Party Décor
Have some old video cassettes laying around and collecting dust? Put them to good use at your party. You could:
- leave them around in stacks for your guests to peruse (and giggle at)
- hang them from the ceiling or walls
- spray paint any unusable ones to add a pop of colour
- stick them to a wall for an easy backdrop
10. Treat Like it's 1989
Delight your party guests by serving them treats from their childhood at your 80's party. Retro desserts and sweets will add so much fun for your friends, but they can also make awesome decorations too, especially the brightly coloured ones!
Consider the following ideas:
- stack colourful boxes of 80's sweets on tables for guests to self-serve
- create classic candy favor bags filled with sweets for your guests
- fill clear candy jars with colourful lollies and display on a dessert table
- give your guests treat-filled decade tubs labelled a jar of the 80's
- host a party game name that sweet using classic 80's treats
What about party entertainment? Since 80's music was so epic, why not host a karaoke party? With an 80's song list, you and your guests are sure to enjoy an amazing time.
The karaoke themed party invitation from The Digi Dame Party Shoppe has your invitations covered.
12. Post it
Re-use old movie and celebrity posters by doubling them as party decorations. Consider creating a wall mural with them for great impact and to create an interesting focal point.
13. Top Gun Party
So it's time to don the aviator sunglasses and start flying!
14. Fab Fashion
80's parties make totally rad costume parties. Putting together fun fashion outfits for an eighties party is fairly easy to achieve and not too costly for your party guests.
If you decide to host a costume or fancy dress party, just remember that with 80's fashion, it was pretty much anything goes. 80's fashion was big in many ways!
On a budget? No problem. If you don't want to buy costumes for your party, you can raid friends' wardrobes or put something together from your own, without spending a dime. Alternatively, visit some second-hand clothing stores and grab a vintage bargain.
Unsure of what to wear? I hope these images provide some inspiration for you. And below is a list of fashion items from the 80's:
- leg warmers
- shutter shade glasses
- plastic pearls, bangles and large earrings
- hair bows
- fingerless gloves
- ruffle skirts
- balloon skirts
- glow bangles
- midriff tops
- baggy jeans (high wasted)
- anything spandex
- puffy blouses
- shoulder pads
- baggy jeans
- double denim (stonewash and jeans rolled up at ankle)
- happy pants/parachute pants
- loud patterned shirts
- thin ties
- preppy jumper tied over shoulders
- oversized blazers
- Hawaiian shirts (thanks Magnum P.I.)
- brimmed hats
To encourage guests to go all out with their wardrobe, offer fun prizes for the best efforts.
15. Slippery Nipple
The infamous layered 1980's shot is very sweet. The recipe is below.
- 1/4 Grenadine
- 2/3 shot Sambuca
- 2/3 shot Irish cream liqueur
16. James Bond Party
You could also adapt this theme into an 80's styled murder mystery theme or secret agent party.
17. 80's Icons
Do you want to go one step further with your party theme? Go big or go home, right? An 80's Icons party is the perfect solution. All party guests can dress as iconic 80's characters or celebrity icons of the 80's. Some inspirational ideas include:
- characters from television shows such as Miami Vice or The A-Team
- characters from movies, e.g. Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club
- music icons e.g. Madonna, Culture Club, Billy Idol, Prince
- cartoon characters e.g. He-Man & She-Ra, Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony
- video game characters such as those from Super Mario and Donkey Kong
- fitness icons such as Richard Simmons and Denise Austin
18. 80's Hair Flair
Don't know where to begin with 80's hairstyles? Hair in the 1980's was as big as possible! The higher the hair, the closer to God (as they say).
Mullet hairstyles were massive for everyone. Crimped or tightly curled hair with a teased fringe (and lacquered to within an inch of its life) was big for the gals, as were side-ponytails. Colour in the hair was also a thing, so you may want to stock up on some hairspray or invest in a fun wig, to save yourself the trouble (and possibly your hair).
Eighties-style wigs for parties are readily available at party outlets.
For further ideas and inspiration, search some 80's pop and fashion icons online.
19. Making Faces
Makeup in the 1980's was as big as possible and bright! The more colour, the better.
Eye makeup reached right up to the brow bone and was usually multi coloured. Eyeliner was thick and usually coloured, on both upper and lower lash lines. Pink and red lip colours dominated.
Cheek colour was high on the cheekbones, travelling up to the temples, and was usually strong.
Metallic and shimmery textures were teamed with strong colour.
20. You Spin Me Round
Hula hoops made a resurgence in the 1980's. Give your friends a good laugh with a hula hoop challenge - the longest spinner wins!
21. Pac Man Munch
Cheese, anyone? Make it more fun by turning your brie, camembert or cheddar into an 80's work of art, as shown above!
22. Vintage Tech
Retro technology items make fun props for an eighties themed party. Think of the items that you can use from the era, and place in strategic places to create atmosphere. You can even paint them up to make them a real part of the décor.
- vintage game equipment e.g. Nintendo, Atari etc.
- cassette players
- video cassette players
- record players
23. Totally Tasty
Why not name your party food dishes and snacks after 80's icons and themes? Some suggestions are listed below:
- Pac-Man Pies
- Rubik's Rolls
- Madonna's Mix
- Sting's Sausage Rolls
- Prince's Pizza
- Culture Clubs
- Cassette Cakes
- Top Gun Tasties
- The Police Pretzels
- Cyndi Lauper Crisps
- Mr. Tea
- Miami Rice
- Mystic Pizza
- King of Popcorn
- I want Candy
- Cabbage Patch Vegies
- Ice Ice Baby
- Big Cheese
- Egg Man
- Just Like Honey
- I Love Rocky Road
- Purple Rain Jelly Shot
I am sure that you can come up with many more creative ideas!
24. Ice Ice Baby
Do you remember coconut ice? I sure do. Growing up in the 80's, I fondly recall this pretty and sweet treat on the tabletops of my family's dinner parties and gatherings. My cousins and I used to push each other out of the way to get the first helpings.
Traditionally, the recipe called for copha, but this particular recipe (which I personally love) leaves out the copha and uses condensed milk instead. It's a little healthier and just as delicious. I am sure that you will love this recipe too.
Your party guests will appreciate this sweet treat that is a rare delight these days! Here's the recipe below.
5 cups/800g icing sugar, sifted
3 cups/240g desiccated coconut
395g condensed milk
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
food colouring of your choice
Grease and line a square cake pan.
- Mix icing sugar and coconut in a large bowl.
- Add condensed milk, egg white and vanilla extract, and mix well.
- Divide mixture into two bowls. Colour one bowl with a few drops of food colouring and mix until the colour is fully even.
- Add coloured mixture into cake pan, pressing down and spreading out evenly. Then top with white (uncoloured) mixture, pressing down again evenly.
- Set in fridge overnight, covered.
- Once set, cut into dainty squares with a sharp knife before serving.
25. Arcade Party
Love retro video games? Why not host an 80's arcade video party? You have the option of hosting your party from an arcade venue, such as Timezone or Playtime.
But if you prefer to host at your own venue, you can opt to hire some arcade games instead! Party hire companies hire out games that are perfect for 80's theme parties, including:
- racing simulators
- pinball machines
- tabletop arcade games
- upright arcade machines
- dance pads
- hand held games and controllers
If these options are not in your budget, you might be able to find some retro games to purchase from secondhand retailers at a bargain price.
26. DIY Boombox Piñata
Love to DIY? Oh Happy Day share their tutorial for this gorgeous boombox piñata, if you'd like to have a go at making it for your next 80's celebration.
27. DIY Fashion Bar
A fun idea as shown above by Birthday In a Box is to set up a dress up bar for your guests. As they arrive they can help themselves to your accessories!
28. Get Foot-loose
The 80's gave us some gnarly dance moves. For fun entertainment and a chance to give away some party prizes, hold a party dance off!
- the Moonwalk
- disco moves
- the Running Man
- Roger Rabbit
- the Pendulum
- the Sprinkler
29. Disco Party
A fun idea for an 80's party is to go disco! Guests can dress in disco attire, you can play disco music, and decorate with a disco dance floor. Groovy!
The Disco Dance Party Printables Pack from The Digi Dame Party Shoppe will get you started on your disco party décor. There are matching printables to coordinate with this pack:
Party Lunch Box Pack
30. Animal Print
Brightly coloured animal prints were huge in the 80's; especially neon animal prints. For something different, go wild for your next event with an animal print party decor scheme, as shown by this wonderful cake by Good Gosh Ganache.
31. Op to Pop
Ring Pops were the hugely popular in the '80s and '90s. They launched in 1980, and are still available, making them great options to add as decorations or fun party favors for your party. They're also perfect to include in the piñata!
32. Press Play
The music of the eighties was massively epic. To DIY your party music, put together a playlist of as many 80's hits as you can find. There are absolutely loads to choose from, especially since the decade was full of one-hit-wonders.
Just remember to include some hits from the leading artists of the time. By no means a comprehensive list, but here's a few ideas to get you started:
- Michael Jackson
- Bruce Springsteen
- Air Supply
- The Police
- Bon Jovi
- Whitney Houston
- Tina Turner
- Cyndi Lauper
- WHAM!/George Michael
- Van Halen
- Billy Joel
- The Police
- Phil Collins
- Def Leppard
- Janet Jackson
- Lionel Richie
- Duran Duran
- Hall & Oates
- Pat Benatar
- Elton John
- Rod Stewart
- David Bowie
- The Rolling Stones
- Stevie Wonder
- The Pointer Sisters
- Fleetwood Mac
- Depeche Mode
- Culture Club
- Kenny Loggins
- Billy Ocean
- Tears for Fears
33. Memphis Style
The Memphis design style of the 80's was comprised of bright or pastel geometric shapes teamed with black and white. It was busy and fun.
If you like this style for your party, you will want to check out this printable 80's party invitation in Memphis style by The Digi Dame Party Shoppe, as shown below.
34. Devil's Advocate
Perhaps it's because I grew up in the 80's, but I absolutely love deviled eggs! They were a staple at every dinner party in the 80's. Below is a recipe for the classic style ones.
You will need:
6 hard-boiled eggs
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 tsp white vinegar (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
paprika or chives for garnish (optional)
1. Peel cooled eggs.
2. Cut them in half lengthwise and carefully remove the yolks.
3. Place yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.
4. Add mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix well with a fork.
5. Pipe or spoon yolk mixture back into the egg white shells.
6. Sprinkle with garnish if desired.
7. Store in an airtight container or on a plate wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator.
35. Twisted Sister
The game Twister was first popular in the late 1960's, but made a resurgence in the 80's. It's a fun game to include in your retro party, for adults and kids alike.
36. Do you remember?
Keep your party guests guessing with some 80's trivia! You can purchase a ready-made game as shown above (there are a few varieties available) or you can DIY.
DIY suggestions include playing your own versions of:
- 80's charades
- 80's celebrity head
- 80's Pictionary
37. Sweet Rings
Candy buttons on paper tape make adorable napkin rings for a retro party. If you cannot source any of these sweet treats or prefer to make your own, you can by colouring royal icing and piping it onto sheets of baking paper.
38. For the Gals
Wanna host a party for the girls? Gather all of your gal pals for a girl's night in! Celebrate everything Pretty in Pink or 16 Candles and give the gals a fun girly treat.
39. Top of the Table
Tables are often a major feature of party décor. With an 80's theme party, there is no need to go to great expense to dress up your tables.
Instantly pack a punch with colour, using brightly-coloured sheets or plastic table covers. Plain block colours or patterned designs are both fine to use.
Try layering several bright colours, or use a single tablecloth with a another folded over the top as a runner. Don't worry if the colours or designs clash; everything clashed in the 80's.
40. Splatter Matters
For extra creativity at low cost, DIY splatter neon paint onto a plain table cover as shown at Kara's Party Ideas.
41. Long Island Iced Tea
Served in a tall, ice-filled glass, this very popular cocktail is dangerous because it is so easy to drink! Garnished with lemon and topped with cola, the recipe follows.
- 5/12 shot white rum
- 5/12 shot dry gin
- 5/12 shot vodka
- 5/12 shot agave tequila
- 5/12 shot 40% triple sec liqueur
- 5/12 shot sugar syrup
- 5/12 shot fresh lemon juice
- 5/12 shot fresh lime juice
- 2 shot cola
42. Sync or Sink
Do you like the idea of a karaoke party, but could live without the bad singing that goes along with it (and the consequent headache)?
Enjoy the fun without the aching ears, with a lip syncing challenge! Perhaps guests could dress up as their favourite 80's singer and perform one of that artist's 80's hits.
43. Tapes the Ticket
Cassette tapes make perfect decorations for your 1980's party. You can leave them as they are, or for a more uniform look, spray paint them in your chosen colours.
You can use the tapes as table decorations by stacking them in piles or scattering them around. They also look amazing strung from the ceiling, which makes a totally awesome backdrop.
For fun and unique tabletop labels or signage, use handwritten or printed labelling, as Birthday In a Box has done.
Parties for Pennies has created a tubular cake platform!
44. LP's the Bees Knees
Hang 80's album covers along with posters on the walls for quick and easy décor, or scatter them on tables for you guests to casually peruse.
45. A Funny Read
Set out 80’s magazines on the tables. Your party guests will love flicking through the pages and reminiscing with a good giggle!
46. Play that Funky Air
Your party guests will be stoked to show off their best moves with an air guitar contest! Give prizes for the best performances.
47. Get Glowing
Create this amazing party centrepiece using glow sticks and a Styrofoam ball, using the tutorial from The Cards We Drew.
48. Origami of Fortune
Shaken Together Life shares this fun tutorial on making an 80's fortune teller garland. So cute!
49. DIY Décor
No 80's party is complete without one or two Rubik's cubes. You can create your own by painting square boxes of any size, as shown by Parties for Pennies.
50. Who Ya Gonna Call?
Catch My Party has some great inspiration for Ghostbusters themed parties which look really fun!
Just like cassette tapes, old vinyl records make great party decorations for an 80's party.
If they're still in good condition, you can leave them in their covers as mentioned previously. If not, you can safely remove them to decorate. Below are some ideas:
- mount them to walls for a wow feature or backdrop
- hang them as bunting on walls or tables
- string them from the ceiling
- use the larger sizes as placemats
- use the smaller sizes as drink coasters
- paint them in bright colours
You can even create a cupcake stand using vinyl records, as shown by It's Written on the Walls.
52. Right Round like a Record, Baby
Keeping with the record décor, these LP tables are easy to implement with black tablecloths and coloured card stock. They look amazing!
53. More than Meets the Eye
For a different but fun party game, get your guests to race each other at transforming Transformer robots. If you have a few robots, you can set up two teams and hold a relay race.
54. I'll Drink to That
What were some popular cocktails in the 80's? One of the best known and most popular drink was the B-52. Named after B-52 bombers in Vietnam, the shot is served in a shot glass using refrigerated ingredients, the recipe is below.
Layer the ingredients in the following order:
- 1/2 shot coffee liqueur
- 1/2 shot Irish cream liqueur
- 1/2 shot cognac orange liqueur
So, we're now more than halfway through our 101 80's Party Ideas. I hope these ideas have already helped to inspire you to get creating for your event. But we have a lot more ideas to get through!
Ready for more 80's party ideas? You can read Part Two right now!