Decades themed parties are the easiest to throw since you have 10 years of music, food, pop culture, and fashion to choose from. After throwing 20’s and 60’s themed parties for our last two birthdays, Megan and I decided it was time to conquer the 80’s! Back to the 80’s: Nobody Puts the Birthday Girl in the Corner.
Now to throw an 80’s party, you can go with an 80’s prom theme, a work out inspired shindig, or in our case, a full on 80’s rave. OK, we didn’t really rave, but we did have an eclectic mix of 80’s dance songs and an apartment full of black lights that totally transformed our space from the normal parties we throw. By asking people to show up in their favorite 80’s garb and throwing on an 80’s playlist we made on Spotify, the only tricky part to the party was decorating. I wanted to share some of the things we learned from throwing a black light party and how to decorate for it, since we did quite a bit of research.
Hope you get some inspiration for your own 80’s black light party! And I’ll be sharing my Jem costume next week, so make sure to check back later for that!
How to Throw an 80’s Black Light Party
1. Define your space. In order to throw a black light party, you need to define what space will be used for the party and how many black lights are needed. The space will need to be as dark as possible in order to get the full effect of the black lights, but light enough so that your guests can see one another and their food and bevvies. We live in an apartment that is about 20′ x 15′ and we turned off all of the main lights except in the bathrooms and closed our curtains to make sure no excess city light came in.
2. Pick and place your black lights. So how many and which type of black lights do you need? Do not buy the cheap bulbs, they will not give off enough glow. We used two 48″ UV black lights, one 18″ UV black light, and one UV black light bulb to achieve a perfect glow throughout the entire room. The place we were able to find them the cheapest was actually Spencer’s.
You will want to place the black lights somewhere between table height and eye level in order to get the best effect so that people’s clothing will glow. Try out the black light setup multiple nights before your party so you can adjust placement and see if you need more light. If you are going to be hosting the party in a larger space, you will need to either invest in more black lights or possibly rent some more powerful ones from a party store.
3. Supplement the light. To add light in the apartment without ruining the UV glow, we used two strands of blue lights that gave off quite a bit of light but were significantly cheaper than adding more black lights. They were a little janky, so we got what we paid for. Just make sure not to handle them too much or pull on the cords a lot.
You will also achieve more light by adding objects that glow to your party decor! I had some bright white sheer curtains that gave off an incredible amount of light. White paper and neon poster board also glow in the black light, so we added white paper to the cabinet inserts and cut out an 80’s pattern and taped it to the walls and counter tops. This was an incredibly cheap way to decorate after the major black light purchases, and it looked really great in photos! We also covered our couch with white sheets – partially for the glow and partially to save it from spills.
When you shop for other items that might glow, we read that the best way to do this is to buy a cheap black light flashlight off of Amazon and take it shopping with you. Test out items that you want to buy to make sure they glow before buying them. We bought a few things that we thought would glow and it turned out that they were duds, but we didn’t plan far enough in advance to buy the flashlight.
4. Other items that look cool in the black light/the dark. We served our guests gin and tonics since tonic water gives off a nice glow in the UV light. Colored, clear plates and silverware don’t necessarily glow but they do look really cool in the light. Glow bracelets and necklaces were a hit at our party. Playing cards, neon clothing, and your teeth will also look awesome under black light. Anything that is bright bright white will most likely glow, but it needs to have a bluish tint to it, rather than yellow.
5. Notes about photos. Just as an FYI, I used my Nikon D3300 with the basic lens with the lens in auto and the camera on no flash mode during our party. As long as people didn’t move too much, the photos came out quite well! (NOTE: There are probably other things you can adjust on your camera like the exposure, etc. that would improve the photos, but I did not have time to try this out.) We found that using an iPhone or a point and shoot camera was not as successful, so if photos of your friends are important to you, you may not want to use black lights at your party.