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Welcome to the “New Kids on the Block”

An 80s Glam Party to Welcome New Neighbors

When I started to plan a gathering to welcome our new neighbors, the band “New Kids on the Block” came to me—and stuck like an earworm. As it turned out, a 1980s party was the perfect theme to welcome the newcomers to the block! 

Hosting a 1980s Theme Party – The Plan

As with any party, the invites set the tone for what to expect. 

Pro Tip: I sent the invites by USPS and also sent the image as a text message to make it easy for people to respond. I love paper invites, but find that they get lost in the shuffle, so a secondary message by text is helpful.

Strategies for Getting a Group to Mingle

The goal of this party was two-fold: to welcome the new neighbors and to get the other neighbors on the block mingling. We have a small city block with 15 houses only, and yet many of us do not know each other’s names. I knew lots of people would be meeting for the first time, and I wanted to get beyond the surface conversations to help people really connect. I could have left it to chance, but there is always a tendency in a big crowd for people to gravitate towards their friends. I employed a few tried-and-true party tactics to get the group mixing. Incidentally, these are all tactics you can tailor to your party theme, with a little imagination. 

  1. Costumes Encouraged: On the invites, I encouraged “80s dress” and promised “prizes for big hair.” It was great fun to see what the guests chose to wear and for the over-40 crowd to reminisce about what used to be so cool.
    • Pro Tip: Costumes are an amazingly effective way to spread the spotlight and avoid attention on the guest of honor. If you ever need to smooth over the potentially awkward moments that come from intense attention and forced networking, encourage a dress code or costumes, and watch a group loosen up. 
  1. Nametags: I was a super crafty child in the 80s and have fond memories of puffy stickers and label makers. At the door, I greeted everyone with an 80s nametag. Florescent paper, zig-zag cut, with their name stamped with an 80s-style label maker. I added a photo of each neighbor’s house to the nametag, to help everyone learn who-belongs-where. It took 15 minutes to do this, and it was well worth the effort.
    • Pro Tip: Fun nametags are unexpected and make everyone feel like they were expected. “You knew I was coming…” is a great feeling to have when you walk into an unfamiliar place.
  1. MTV Welcome: I added a little drama with an MTV live welcome. Using a microphone, I interviewed the new neighbors and passed the mic to those who had been on the block longest (more than 30 years!).
    • Pro Tip: A formal “official” welcome is an underrated strategy at a party, and I am a big fan. You need not prepare a big speech. It can be as simple as taking the floor, silencing the crowd, and saying a few words of welcome.
  2. Conversation Starters: For fun, I set out some 80s Trivia cards, Rubix cubes, Twister, and 80s temporary tattoos. I created “Where were you when” conversation starter cards, with 80s milestones, and set them by the drinks. (Email me for a copy.)
  1. Prizes: The invites promised prizes, and I found Aqua Net hairspray, the perfect silly trophy. At the end of the night, the new neighbors selected the winners.
  1. Music & dancing: The playlist for this party was easy because 80s music is so well loved. We sang along and there was a little dancing. This Electric Slide step tutorial greeded everyone at the front door, and our Ring doorbell camera caught a few people practicing their steps. Priceless!

The Menu: Elevated 80s Glam, Reimagined

Researching the menu for this party was quite fun. I put up a question on the @Food52 community board and asked around for a few weeks as we planned for the party. Everyone has different memories of the 80s, but to me it was a lot of curly parsley garnish alongside everything made from a boxed mix…served on a paper doily! I go for mostly homemade dishes for my party menus, and the question is: Is it still 80s if you don’t use a single boxed mix? Consider this an ‘80s reimagined’ menu:

  • Cocktail Meatballs, homemade and without grape jelly, from @onceuponachef
  • Ham & Cheese Sliders from @onceuponachef, served with cranberry sauce because the party took place in early November
  • Trio of Cheeseballs (Blue Cheese, Goat Cheese, and Cheddar) from @purewow
  • Life Changing Crackers (these are made with oats, seeds, and nuts and gluten free) from @mynewroots
  • Bacon & Dates (No recipe link, but here is what you do: skewer half a strip of bacon around a pitted date, and bake at 400 F until it’s caramelized, about 15 minutes) 
  • Pizza Bianca from @seriouseats 
  • Wheatberry Salad with Stewed Figs & Red Onion (I added kale, and this was a big hit—great for parties because it can sit for a while and not get soggy, and it’s vegan) from @kitchn
  • And because every 80s party needs a crock pot…We made a big batch of Harira Soup (Moroccan-spiced lentil, chickpea, rice stew) from the @bonappetit ‘best hits’ list 
  • Supernatural Brownies from @splendidtable
  • Pumpkin Spice Cake with dreamy creamy Maple Cream Cheese from @leiteculinaria 
  • Popcorn with a white chocolate drizzle (No recipe link, but here is what you do: make popcorn and top with melted candy disks and a sprinkle of sea salt)
  • The punch was apple cider (half a gallon) and ginger ale (2 liters) – the easiest mix that’s such a crowd pleaser

How’s that for revisiting the 80s?