Formal parties occur every year, and many of them are held to celebrate the birthday of a young girl. Bat Mitzvahs, Quinceñeras, Sweet Sixteens, Twenty First birthdays and many more occasions provide cause for formal events. Many girls have an idea of what they want for their theme, and masquerade balls are becoming more popular.
The masquerade originated in Italy in the twelfth century, as the Italian Carnavale, or Carnival. Carnavale celebrates the week before Lent begins, and today is better known as Mardis Gras. The allure began when Carnavale allowed the people, nobility and commoners alike, to go against Christian rule for a short time. By law, masks in Italy were forbidden during the middle ages, except during the celebration of Carnavale. Men could dress as women, women could dress as men, and almost everyone was masked, allowing this very rare and very scandalous freedom. The idea of a masked celebration traveled to the rest of Europe during the Renaissance, but unlike its Italian counterpart, Masquerades were only for the highest ranks of nobility.
Today, most Masquerades sport the cliché Mardis Gras theme. Unfortunately, the bright Mardis Gras colors of Green, Yellow, and Purple make this theme more tacky than traditional. Masquerades are considered to be very formal and can also be very creative. For a very memorable party, take the idea all the way back to its medieval Italian roots. Instead of purchasing a mask for each guest, make them by hand. Michaels craft stores sell white plastic masks, each waiting to be turned into a one of a kind design. Today, masks sit snugly on the face using an elastic band. During the middle ages, elastic was not around, and masks were either attached to sticks to be held to the face, or were tied on using ribbon. Either design can be used, but it is more elegant to provide guests with hand-held masks. Micahels also sells Popsicle sticks, which can be painted or wrapped with ribbon and then glued to the side or bottom of the mask, depending on the shape. Both full and half faced masks are sold at Michales, and both were worn during the original Masquerade balls. For the mask itself, use naturally colored feathers, sequins, paint, fabric, and anything else lying around that can be turned into art supplies. However, it is best to stay with warm as well as pearlized colors. To give the masks a really elegant Venetian look, dye sheets of music in tea and decoupage pieces of the music onto the masks. For inspiration, look up Venetian Masks online.
While masks are the focal point of a masquerade, decorations are also very important. The best way to set the scene is to decorate the party area as if it is being held in a medieval European castle. Provide soft candle lighting and warm colors. Have fun with the royal idea. Use tablecloths made of lace, brocade, satin, any elegant fabric. Hang the same or an accenting fabric down each wall, creating the feel of having hanging tapestries. Wedding decorations can also be used, as they are usually very formal and romantic, but it is best to stay away from anything sporting hearts, bells, or any of the cliché wedding symbols. Oriental Trader sells golden paper Fleur de Lis napkin rings, which would look perfect on the table. For centerpieces, stay small and simple, using flowers with a warm tone, such as a muted purple, pink, deep red, or white. Food as well should follow this elegant theme, desserts especially being very rich and intricately decorated. The main rule to remember when planning a Masquerade is to be elegant, not tacky. Eat, drink, and be merry!