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The 90s may have been a literal century ago – just kidding, it’s only been TWENTY TO THIRTY YEARS – but that doesn’t mean they didn’t know how to party.
We’re going to see how we go about recreating these legendary bashes or just giving your party a retro, 90s feel. From attire to music and food, everything needs to be 90s-fied to perfection.
- Party decorations
- Food & drinks
- Party songs / playlist
- Party games & activities
- Mad Libs/Write your own 90s teen movie
- Guess the song/year
The preparations start earlier than you think – before you send out the invitations. Not any boring old invitation will do, you gotta make it themed.
Have you considered sending a really cheesy e-vite?
Dig out your ancient Hotmail address or AOL (LOL) and write the cringiest email you can muster, complete with plenty of old-timey smiles and text speak.
Alternatively, you can send an honest to god paper invite (you’re the reason our forests are dying, btw) and go to town on the arts & crafts.
If you’re lazy and/or talentless like me, you can take the piss and just create a horribly awkward image in Microsoft Paint or something (use Word Art for maximum 90s-ness), complete with colorful balloons and some godawful borders. Make sure to print it on a printer that’s low on ink so you can get that D+ quality and white lines going through it.
If you want to put in a bit more effort, feel free to make them by hand, and write out lyrics to Backstreet Boys songs or something.
No self-respecting party lacks a dress code, so you better state it on the invites when you send them out. Now, there’s more than one way to do this.
You can either go fully themed and have everyone dress up as their favorite character or celebrity from the 90s (whether that’s a movie, TV show, or band) or even have everyone dress up as a character from the same universe (say, Clueless).
The other (easier) way is to just let them rock up in their best 90s ensemble. That’s going to include a lot of crop tops, jelly shoes, silly sunglasses, and butterfly clips, but there’s tons more where that came from. I babbled a lot about it in a different article about What To Wear To A 90s Party.
And if we can force our guests to dress a certain way, like some kind of deranged puppet master, why not dictate the way they are allowed to speak, as well? You’re trying to recreate the glory days of an era, here, so to make it authentic, everyone needs to use some bitchin’ 90s slang. Allow me to demonstrate:
- As if! (as uttered by Alicia Silverstone’s Cher in Clueless)
- Dawg (only if you’re Xzibit)
- Beeotch (…this one requires no explanation)
- Like (And I was like, Stacy, why are you being such a bitch? Like, it’s so uncool, like you know what I mean? It was like, so lame.)
- Whatever! (another Clueless one, eyeroll optional – who knew Clueless would be such a massive influence on a generation?)
- Scrub (as popularized by TLC: “I don’t want no scrub, a scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me”)
- BFF (Best Friends FOREVERRRRRR 😡 <3 🙂 )
- Chillax (Chill + relax, but we need to let this one DIE)
- Word (agree, or understood – you know, as in “BSB are the best boy band evaaaaa :D:D:D” “Word”)
- Fugly (F*cking Ugly)
- Dope (“That gig last nite was dope, man!”)
This is where the REAL fun begins. There’s nothing more fun than decorating for parties, so this should be a piece of cake. Essentially, what you need to do is make sure your house looks like the 90s threw up all over it. Shouldn’t be too hard.
That means top to bottom, you gotta have something 90s. For the walls, posters are where it’s at: boy band and girl band ones first and foremost – if you need to beg, borrow, or steal, then fine; you need to have them. Same goes for movie posters.
I’m sure there’s tons of people who still have them or who are trying to offload them on some poor sucker online or at the flea market.
Here are some of the ones you CANNOT miss:
- Spice Girls
- Romeo + Juliet
- Britney Spears
- New Kids On The Block
- Pulp Fiction
- Jurassic Park
- Pretty Woman
Okay, but what about shelves and tables and stuff? Well, do you have any old toys from when you were a kid? You know, super 90s stuff:
- Troll dolls
- Hot Wheels
- Beanie Babies
- McDonalds Happy Meal Barbies
- Polly Pocket
You can display these bad boys, but you can also use them to entertain guests or even offer as prizes for people who win your party games.
Scrapbooks & magazines
Bonus points if you’ve got any of your old scrapbooks. I was sooo not the only one who used to cut pictures out of magazines and then glue them into notebooks, come on. They make the perfect flip-throughs for your guests. If you’ve got any old magazines, even better. The lamer and boyband-ier, the better. Teen magazines make the ideal cringe material.
You can also bust out any old items and gadgets, if you have them or can borrow them, such as old TVs, walkmen, pagers, SEGA, radios, etc. They add a touch of authentic charm and can be the source of a lot of laughs and stories about these gadgets of yesteryear. Who here hasn’t beaten up an Atari console when it stopped working? Just me?
Otherwise, it’s time for seating – if you can get your hands on those inflatable chairs, you’ll be THE MAN! Those things are SOOO fun, if incredibly impractical. I mean, who has room in their house for that sh*t? And remember how careful you had to be around them?
But they look really cool and super 90s, and they’ll ensure all of your guests’ thighs stick to them. There’s nothing like literally peeling your guests off your chairs.
If you’re REALLY ambitious, you might want to even recreate the aesthetic or scenes from your favorite 90s movies. Think Sophia Coppola movies and how she has that tendency towards dreamy pastels, for example – you can theme your space after The Virgin Suicides by making sure everything is pastel-y and drape-y.
Otherwise, swing wildly (and violently!) in the opposite direction and go full Tarantino: black, red, yellow, and tons of blood and weapons.
Food & drinks
Okay, so your guests have RSVP’d and now you know how many people you can expect and how much food you need. That means that it’s time to start planning food and drinks.
Listen, no one wants a freaking sit-down meal at a party, so you’ll have to improvise – what did you used to eat back in the day? Tons of candy will be on the menu, of course, but I’m gonna talk about that a bit later. Right now, let’s cover actual food.
Maybe this is cheating, because it’s not like McDonald’s went anywhere, but if I were you, I’d order a Happy Meal for everyone at the party. Since we were all kids in the 90s, that’s bound to bring back some really great memories.
Snacks & sweets
And if that’s not enough for them – and it won’t be – here are the totally unhealthy snacks they can stuff their faces with:
Your guests will love their complimentary push pops …
And of course, it’s not a party if you don’t have cool stuff to drink:
- Sunny D
- Minute Maid Juice Bars
- Bloody Mary
- Crystal Pepsi
Party songs / playlist
It wouldn’t be a party without some 90s music, so here is where the 90s-ness is going to feature super heavily. Except for movies, TV shows, and our favorite toys, music probably delivers the biggest hit of nostalgia, so you’ve got to put some effort into this one.
You could be nice and ask everyone what they want to listen to ahead of time, to make sure you include everyone’s childhood faves. Or you can trust your gut and your better judgement and just go ahead and select your playlist accordingly.
The basic playlist
Of course, there’s tons to choose from, but I’m gonna go ahead and make some suggestions of absolute BANGERS that are must-haves for any 90s party with any self-respect – full disclosure, these came from VH1 100 greatest songs from the 90s, but I had to trim them a bit, cause that list was hella long.
- Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)
- U2 – “One” (1991)
- Backstreet Boys – “I Want It That Way” (1999)
- Madonna – “Vogue” (1990)
- Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Baby Got Back” (1992)
- Britney Spears – “Baby One More Time” (1999)
- TLC – “Waterfalls” (1994)
- Sinéad O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U” (1990)
- Mariah Carey – “Vision of Love” (1990)
- MC Hammer – “U Can’t Touch This” (1990)
- Destiny’s Child – “Say My Name” (1999)
- Metallica – “Enter Sandman” (1991)
- Hanson – “MMMBop” (1997)
- Salt-N-Pepa with En Vogue – “Whatta Man” (1993)
- House of Pain – “Jump Around” (1992)
- Eminem – “My Name Is” (1999)
- Ricky Martin – “Livin’ la Vida Loca” (1999)
- Vanilla Ice – “Ice Ice Baby” (1990)
- *NSYNC – “Tearin’ Up My Heart” (1998)
- Spice Girls – “Wannabe” (1997)
- Oasis – “Wonderwall” (1995)
- Christina Aguilera – “Genie In A Bottle” (1999)
- Goo Goo Dolls – “Iris” (1998)
- Hootie & the Blowfish – “Only Wanna Be With You” (1995)
- 2Pac (featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman) – “California Love” (1996)
Like with all the other categories, you can also go themed; you can have a boy band portion of the night, a girl band one, etc. If you’re SUPER dedicated, you can theme each room as a different 90s trend or vibe.
Like, let’s say one room is dedicated to 90s grunge music and decoration, one is dedicated to bubblegum pop, where you’ll find your Britneys and X-tinas, an R&B room, a Hip-Hop room, etc.
Movie soundtracks make excellent material for parties like this because they offer a diverse selection that is all period-appropriate and probably super popular, while also being in keeping with the movie itself. It’s like a 90s C-C-C-COMBOOOO!
Another excellent idea that has extra nostalgia points is asking everyone to make a mixtape for the party, or just make your own or source them from a flea market. Of course, now you’ve run into the issue of actually having something that will PLAY cassette tapes, but I’m sure you can find a cassette player that still works somewhere.
You just have to make sure that you’ve got a dance floor available, or at least an area of the house where there is enough space to let loose and get wild with your dance moves. Where will people bust out their HAMMER TIME moves, if there’s no place to do it?
Party games & activities
Okay, but there’s no party without activities. Yeah, music is cool and all, and getting drunk is fine (as long as you’re not driving!), but when people want some down time or to just hang out and chill, they need something to do. Luckily for us, the 90s provided ample options for entertainment.
Movies & TV shows
The first and most obvious option is to go ahead and pop something on to watch, like a VHS tape of a classic 90s movie, or a TV show. Even cartoons will do. 90210 is calling your name, mate, as are Will Smith and the Olsen twins. Go for Toy Story, Scream, or The Big Lebowski if you want a crowd pleaser. And if your guests don’t like that, then they need to be unceremoniously kicked out, because you do NOT disrespect The Big Lebowski.
But that won’t be to everyone’s taste and some of your guests will be complaining about being bored, so you’ve gotta have back-ups. The greatest thing that’s ever come out of the 90s is undoubtedly Super Mario World, so there’s your main video game of the night.
Otherwise, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter are always popular choices, because they allow you to kick your friends’ asses HARD and then gloat for the rest of the night. Need For Speed is a close second. In fact, any fighting or racing game is excellent for parties, because people are hella competitive, and there’s nothing like a crowd chanting your name to motivate you to beat up your opponent, right? Not advocating for violence or anything like that.
Of course, you’re the REAL hero of the night if you manage to get your hands on Dance Dance Revolution. That’s my personal fave, and lemme tell ya, it’s the perfect merger between a fun, dance-y, 90s game that offers you a good time and the competitive games we talked about just now. You want to completely HUMILIATE your friends? This is your guy.
WHO DOESN’T LOVE KARAOKE? Well, me. But don’t mind me, I’m just super self-conscious about my bad singing and I hate attention. But I assure you, once they’re well and truly drunk, all of your guests will be more than willing to serenade all of you with 90s bangers.
Just take a peek at that list I included earlier in the music section; any of those songs will do for a karaoke session, and things are bound to end up hilarious. Although you may be genuinely surprised at how many of you still know all the lyrics by heart. Sometimes, I’m horrified at all the brain space that is filled up with useless S Club 7 songs from the 90s.
And speaking of getting plastered, who’s up for a good ol’ drinking game? Sure, drink responsibly and all that, but it’s not a party until some gal is crying in the bathroom about why Jamie won’t text her back (or page her back, I guess, it IS the 90s), and everyone needs to be drunk for that.
Any regular party games are great here, but if you want to 90s it up, then introduce one while you’re watching a film or TV show from the 90s, like the first season of Friends or something. The rules will, of course, be hilarious:
- Drink for 90s slang
- Drink for specific 90s fashion (i.e. Adidas tracksuits, crop tops, brown lipstick, etc.)
- Drink for mentions of products or businesses from the 90s that no longer exist (Radio Shack, Blockbuster, Delia’s, etc.)
- Drink for 90s tracks
- Finish your drink for mentions of the current year
Don’t let the drinks spill. These novelty floppy disk coasters will help you out:
Trivia is always a good time, if you ask me, so of course I’m going to include it in this line-up. The neat thing about trivia games is that you can play using virtually any niche or topic in the world. All you have to do is pick something broad enough that most people will have some knowledge about it, and pick out some good questions.
In this case, the questions are going to be about 90s pop culture. You know, stuff like:
- What’s Britney Spears’ middle name?
- TLC sings the song “No ___”
- Name all the members of Backstreet Boys
- Name five different members of the Mickey Mouse club
- Who was Hugh Grant dating all through the 90s?
- What did Johnny Depp’s “Wino Forever” tattoo say, originally?
Every games master must wear a Mickey Mouse hat:
Mad Libs/Write your own 90s teen movie
Okay, so I love this one. I’m a big, big fan of mad libs because I think it’s freaking hilarious. A bit like Cards Against Humanity before CAH was a thing. You can make these about anything, really, but the idea I want to propose is to have all of your guests write their own 90s teen movie.
It’s easier than it sounds, I promise. All you need to do is write one (or multiple versions) and leave blanks in key places.
You can have A LOT of fun with this one and make it as stupid, batshit or dirty as you want. Popular 90s plots include the “ugly” girl who turns hot when you take off her glasses and ponytail, going out with someone on a dare to prove a point or win a bet, being secretly a prince/princess, etc.
The options are endless!
Guess the song/year
This is one that’s really going to put your memory to the test – guess the song or year. The premise is as simple as it sounds: you play a few seconds from a song, and people need to guess which song and/or the year when it was released.
Some of these will be really easy, because who in the hell doesn’t know that Hit Me Baby One More Time is from 1999, or that Wannabe from Spice Girls came out in 1996?
If you were too young to be standing in line to buy your Spice Girls cassette tape, I don’t want to talk to you.
As you can see, throwing a 90s party is not only a roaring good time, but it’s easier than it seems! There’s tons of themed stuff you can do, here, from food to music, to entertainment. You just need to get creative with your ideas and think of all the things you’re nostalgic for or that you enjoyed back then, and then find a way to incorporate them into your party.