A military themed party promotes revelry, even though you might think that the military, being a bastion of discipline, would squash whatever fun might be had. Not so. The military exudes adventure, pomp and excitement. Soldiers are known as much for their discipline as for their sense of adventure off-duty. For a military themed party, play on this crux—where bragging restraint meets a little abandon.
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If any guest arrives looking like a wax figure of a U.S. Army ranger, toss a pirate hat on him and tell him he's a musketeer in modern times. You don't want just troopers to show up at your party; you want troopers off-duty. Promote this sense of being off-duty. Tell guests that whatever costume they wear, one part of it should be sloppy: a tilted helmet; neck-tie undone; ammo sack twisted up. Add to the after-hours idea by hiring a troupe of burlesque dancers to entertain the soldiers, or tell your guests they can come as a dancer, singer, comedian, or, for the more bawdy, a woman of the night as part of the entertainment.
Many soldiers celebrate the victory day at the end of a war. Theme your party as a victory day from a particular war. For World War II, ask some guests to dress as show girls from Windmill Theatre, the famous London Theater that entertained British troops throughout the war. Play music from the time, such as Frank Sinatra or Django Reinhardt, the great jazz guitarist. For drinks, mix a Sloe Gin Fizz, made with lemon, gin and sugar; or a Pink Lady Cocktail, made with cracked ice, egg white, jigger of Apple Jack, dry gin, grenadine and lime, shaken well.
For a spoof on the modern military, mix vodka with milk and purple dye to look like Robitussin, popular among the soldiers of the Middle Eastern conflicts.
Or for an exotic twist, think of your favorite fantasy scenes from soldier's adventures. Lawrence of Arabia will inspire a setting of curtains on the wall, pillows on the floor and hookahs burning through the night. Include finger foods that incorporate figs and dates.
A military themed party offers many ways to break the ice and entertain your guests. Set up fake duels. Pairs can come at at each other with cucumbers; others could throw cherries from across the yard like mortars. Play strategy games: Create a few small groups of guests who have to confer on how they would win a kiss from another guest. Then set up a judging panel to determine which group's plan of attack works best.
Don't forget to set up an obstacle course as well. For example, weave around a tight line of three guests, jump over a guest lying down, dance a jig with another one, kiss a guest standing on a chair, and make it to the end all while holding a drink without spilling.