The Difference Between Theme and Style
Style and theme are often confused with one another. People think they have a theme when what they have is a style, or they think they have a style when what they have is a theme. Or they think they have both, and what they really have is neither. So I’d like to spend a little time discussing the difference between the two.
A theme is a motif — a story, item, or color that will pervade the event. It will make your event seem unified and purposeful. An event can be winter wonderland-themed, Star Wars-themed, or even pink-themed. These are the things guests will notice. They’ll look at your decor and say, “That’s Star Wars,” or “That’s winter,” or “That’s pink.”
Sometimes people say they don’t want a theme, they only want a style. To that, our question is always, “What element will make your event cohesive?” The purpose of a theme is to unify the event, to tie the pieces together and make it uniquely yours.
Often people associate theme with kitsch, but a theme doesn’t have to be a story or an event. It doesn’t even have to be obvious. A season, a color scheme, or the lyrics of a favorite song could be a theme.
As long as it unites your design choices and makes everything look like it belongs together, that’s all that matters.
Style is a bit different from theme. Style guides your design choices. While theme unifies the appearance of elements, style dictates the actual elements that will be used for your event.
The style of a six-year old’s birthday party will be obviously different from the style of a fundraising gala (typically, unless you have a rather sophisticated six year old or a rather eclectic fundraiser).
While almost anything can be a theme, styles are consistent throughout design fields.
There are elegant, modern, vintage, rustic, elegant, and eclectic styles, among others. You can find these in architecture, home decor, and fashion.
Most themes can be done in any style. For example, a winter wonderland event could be modern, vintage, or rustic. Some themes demand one specific style — a Great Gatsby themed party can really only be Art Deco — but typically any style can be applied to a theme. Curious what this looks like? Check out our post on it here!
So what’s your theme, and what style are you using for it? Try putting together a few different combinations and see what you like. And if you end up planning a rustic Star Wars party, send us pictures!