Grown up glow party ideas

Glow on, you know you’ve seen enough kids’ and teen’s glow in the dark parties to know you’re desperate to have a grown up version! Whether you’re old enough to be nostalgic for the neon UV parties of the 1980s or 1990s disco, with the strobe and the crazy socks, or you’re up for something more nuanced and sophisticated, glow parties are now all glown up.

great themes and decorating ideas for an adult glow party

Let’s talk themes. Some adults like to dress up, others really hate it. There are a few neutral peeps. So if you go with a theme, make dressing up optional. Or… go ahead and nag everyone because seriously people, it is SO fun!

A theme can be a great way to tie in decor, invites and other items to get everyone a little excited that this party is a bit more than the usual small talk, drinks and chip ‘n’ dip. Cool themes for a grown up glow party are only limited to your imagination, but here are a couple of fabulous ones that Simply Sparkles party hire have helped style or have hired lights out for over the years:

  • Avatar: just watch the movie again and you’ll get why this is a fantastic glow party theme – go with stunning canopies of plants with giant flowers or paint a tree (all using glow paint or neon paint) and get a face paint artist in. Any tribal / boho / festival kind of party decor and outfits also work really well because… glow body paint is awesome! (more on that later on).
  • Naughty Nautical/ Under the sea: you can make this really sophisticated for a glamorous pool party or dance theme. Think mostly blue, violet and white colour schemes, though you can add tropical colours too, of course, make giant jelly fish out of paper lanterns and fabric, make bubbles out of white lanterns and balloons with glow sticks in them, and float glowing balloons in your pool, if you have one. The white and blue of sailor outfits works brilliantly too. If you can hire a wave light in blue or white to add to the sea atmosphere, so much the better (hey there! Simply Sparkles can help with that!)
  • Murder mystery/ Escape room/ Scavenger hunt role play: One of the coolest things you can do is have invisible clues/ writing/ symbols that only show up with a UV spectrum light.
  • 80s or 90s disco: Man you can ham this up and get funky like a cold Medina. So many dodgy fashion choices to make, so little big hair… In the 80s, Neon was just everywhere, even in the day time. Fingerless gloves, braces (for trousers), bowties, ties, hair scrunchies, socks…. Make a glowing punch bowl with tonic water in the mix (tonic water glows because of the quinine) get hula hoops in neon colours and spray paint weird 80s graffiti on some newspaper for the walls. Spotify and iTunes will do the work for you and offer you playlists and suggestions for days if you’re getting so old you can’t remember how to Walk like an Egyptian with the Bangles, do the Final Countdown with Europe, or the Locomotion with Kylie. If you’re too young to even know what the hell all that meant, then just get a whole playlist downloaded and if you’re VERY brave try YouTube videos of those guys to learn the weirdest dance moves of all time. Just wow.

Whatever theme you choose, remember you may need other lighting besides the black light uv for a great party – dance parties will need some dance lights, lasers and smoke to add the best vibe for certain parties or amp up the colour options a little. Some disco lights come with colour patterns that throw in a bit of extra UV as they move to the beat. If your theme is sea or water related then you can hire a wave-light to give a magical water-world effect, adding to your glow party atmosphere.

If you’re on a budget or care about the environmental impact of disposable items used at parties, you don’t need to spend a fortune on neon supplies. Get creative with a cheap pack of neon paper and scratch around thrift stores for white or neon fabric you can cut up and tie around things. Weed whacker wire and white items as well as quite a few items around your house may also glow in the dark, so you just need to experiment a little. Best of all, hire some reusable party supplies with your UV lights – you get so much more out of your budget like this, and it all goes back into their shop afterwards – no storing or throwing away for you!

occasions that glow best with uv black light

Whether you’re thinking adult as in, 21st birthday, 30s night club/ trance vibe, or adult as in 50th birthday bash, Old School 80s high school relive-the-glory-days… it really can work for just about any occasion. Graduations, hen or stag parties – it’s all good to glow!

The great thing about neon glow parties is that the blacklight UV kind of guides your other decor supplies and outfit choices. Basic black, dark blue or white backgrounds work well with with items that will pop in the glow light. Keep it simple and sophisticated or madly fun – it’s up to your mood and style.

Pssst! if you love this whole neon lights look, you can also incorporate it into your home decor as in this great post.

glown up party games

Adults also love to play rather than just stand around and talk, or hover around the edge of the dance floor. ANY party or lawn game you have ever pinned on Pinterest can be adapted to glow in the dark parties with a pop of neon paint, some neon stickers, or a glow stick.

Some glow party game ideas to try:

  • glow beer pong (just adapt with black light/ neon supplies like neon cups, ping pong balls and glowing tape and stickers to mark the table.
  • glow ring toss or bowling: put glow sticks in glass bottles (for ring toss) or plastic bottles with water in (for bowling), or else paint with neon paint/ decorate with glow stickers and tape. Spray paint an inexpensive soccer ball with neon paint for bowling (f you can’t find a neon one in the shops), or use neon plastic or painted wood for ring toss. VoilĂ !
  • glow sport, go! Volleyball, soccer, pingpong, swing ball – any summer beach or yard party game can be made to work with black light UV lighting – just get the UV flood lights (as opposed to bar lights) and make sure it will be dark enough at party time (not too much street or other ambient lighting to get in the way). Put glow tape around your nets/ goal posts etc. (or spray paint them neon) and buy or paint a neon sports ball and away you go!
  • glow twister: repaint or DIY your own glow in the dark twister game and spinner. SO much fun. We’ve just adapted an old one using simple neon highlighter markers drawn over the dots. Test colours to make sure they contrast enough with each other- so the green must not be too close to yellow when it glows in the dark, or you will have to use patterns or symbols to make the game work (instead of circles, some could have a triangle inside the circle outline, for instance).
  • Glow 3 legged races – people race in twos and you tie their middle legs together at the ankles with neon ribbon. Mark the finish line with neon fabric or paper flags on string and make sure there are no obstacles for anyone to trip over in the dark (best played on a beach or nice lawn).

Top tip: If you’ve hired lawn game equipment like our giant jenga (toppling tower) set and can’t paint it, you can try using glow stickers or placing the game on a glowing paper backdrop, or even putting scores on a glowing board. Cool fact: white chalk glows on a black chalkboard sign in the dark – true story. You can also buy awesome neon liquid chalk markers which wipe off with a damp cloth when you are done, like these ones.

Photo booths for glowing memories

Having a Photo Booth and some props is super awesome. Party peeps often put trouble into their glow outfits, and perhaps you’ve got some body and face paint magic going on, so capture those memories! While they’re having fun, why not throw in some silly props to really get them playing the model? The memories of your party will live on in the legends of social media.

backdrops that work: A black or white, simple background works best because anything too busy and it all gets to be a blur in the photos. You can do some pretty cool backdrops with dots, stars, streamers etc. but consider how a busier backdrop might be better for your drinks and eats tables or as a dance floor backdrop or room divider. Something simple for your guests to shine in front of is better for your photo booth. You can hire a Photo Booth stand and matt black backdrop cloth from Simply Sparkles when you hire your black lighting UV lights. Simply Sparkles also has a range of custom reusable wooden photo booth props specially painted in neon paint for hire.

Frames: You can use a fun frame – neon paper or card stock and foam board glow fantastically, as do cheap office supply stickers. Make a frame from stiff card stock and decorate it to suit your theme. People can either hold this up themselves for the photos or you can hang it from a ceiling beam or tree branch – check the height will work for various heights of guests, or hang more than one frame if they are smaller.

You can make fantastic optical illusions really easily and inexpensively with frames and neon/ glow tape or stickers – squares within squares works really well.

Important props tip: ordinary photo booth props on the market generally don’t glow under UV light. They can’t just be bright colours, they must be neon or fluorescent. So… if you are using real dress up items, like flower crowns, hats, gloves etc. make sure they are a good neon colour. Lots of dollar stores (Crazy Stores in South Africa) sell these items. If they are photo props on sticks, consider hiring or buying wood or cardboard that is painted with proper neon paint (also called lumo, fluo or fluorescent colours), which is available at most arts and craft shops and online stationary retailers. PNA have particularly good options in South Africa.

As a last resort, buy a tasteful black and white set of props, and stick neon office supply dot stickers all over them. Those office supplies sure do glow like crazy under UV light! You can also use those glow in the dark stars and other kids’ bedroom decor – they look amazing. Any of those glow stick glasses, headbands, bracelets, etc. also look doubly fantastic in neon black light party outfits and photo booths.

A word on photo lighting: If you want to see everyone clearly, but still see the popping black light neon UV glow accessories etc. you need a balance of a little bit of ambient light, or early evening light, with a strong UV flood light that gives good coverage.

If you want the super dramatic black light UV effect for spooky Halloween photos or all-over outfits and body art (for that cool, floating in the dark look), you need a very dark environment (as little ambient light as possible) and the strong UV blacklight floodlight.

You also need a phone or camera that can handle strong light-dark contrast, with the flash turned off. Quite a few phone cameras do a fantastic job of black light photography, others don’t. If your photos are important to you, hire or purchase your light ahead of time and do some experimenting, or ask your friends.

glow/ neon party outfits

You can go so crazy with blacklight UV party outfits it’s difficult to know where to start. White and dark black or navy can make a good base, but you can also go with rainbow florescent tulle or gauze skirts, cool dollar-store neon jewellery (or make your own by painting some cheap vintage finds to keep your party outfits eco-friendly).

You can buy tons of 80s classics in neon, like fishnet fingerless gloves (hello Madonna), socks, scrunchies, fedoras, braces, neck ties, bowties, etc. There are lots of glow stick jewellery and headband options out there, and you can buy battery operated neon rope lights in all kinds of colours (my favourite is the light blue in our photo below) to wrap around a black outfit for a super-cool futuristic look. You can also wear a sexy barely-there outfit in black or white and just go for an amazing big glow temporary tattoo or body art, like the models in the photos in this blog did.

Don’t forget to raid the kids’ section of any clothing or thrift store – I’ve seen some big badass guys rocking neon rainbow tutus at glow parties. Who says unicorns don’t exist?

Don’t forget hair… if you wear it long you can braid in neon wire, painted (or just white) feathers and beads for an amazing tribal boho vibe. You can also get neon hairspray temporary colours and neon wigs.

Glow in the dark blacklight body and face paint

The photographs for this blog post were of local models painted by a professional mehndi henna artist in Cape Town, Zubaidah Amod. If you live in the Cape and you love temporary body art, give her a call to book her for a party. She does beautiful henna art for brides and for Eid as well and can paint up an amazing number of people in incredible detail at great speed. You can find her on Instagram @zubaidah.amod. If you aren’t lucky enough to live here, you can have a go yourself and get great effects, but a professional face painter will make everyone look awesome very quickly, so it’s a great touch for a fabulous party.

You can also buy glow in the dark temporary tattoos quite cheaply online – try Etsy or Amazon or you might find some at a dollar store/ crazy store.

There is awesome clear paint that is invisible in the day but surprises everyone by appearing like magic once it gets dark and the glow party fun begins. You need to apply it under UV though or it’s just really hard to see what you’re drawing!

Pro tip on buying neon glow body paint: neon body paint needs to be decent quality and applied quite thickly. You can then paint nicely with it and even blend the edges between colours for super pretty effects. There are lots of very cheap neon body paints available at dollar stores but I don’t recommend them unless you know someone who swears by the particular brand. They are often watery or very waxy and don’t give a decent pop of colour – you want oooh! not meh!

It’s best to get a better quality pot or two from a craft supplies shop (like PNA in South Africa). A little goes a long way, and if you’re going with friends to a party you can each chip in for a colour to get more variety. Nice brushes also help, though you can go a long way with finger painting if its for larger areas and a looser tribal vibe.

glow/ neon party food and drinks

Glow food and drink can be made in a few ways. Mainly, you have:

Food colouring: a bit like with decor, you need colourings specifically marked ‘fluorescent’ or ‘neon’ or ‘glow-in-the-dark’ for them to really work. You need quite a bit of colouring in your buttercream or fondant icing to get a nice intense glow. It doesn’t taste fantastic if you use a lot of colouring, so consider just doing a few show-stopper items and opting instead for:

Decor and accessories to serve food with/on and to decorate your bar area with: Consider neon plates, glasses and cups, little flags on sticks used to make little skewers for cocktail snacks, drink garnishes and wooden laser cut words and pics on sticks (e.g. cake toppers) which you paint with neon paint (make sure it is food safe if painted areas will actually go into the food). You can put glow stickers on cocktail glasses and there are lots of neon tot glasses out there for shooters, as well as neon cocktail mixer sticks. Paint fake flowers (or real ones) with touches of neon glow paint and tie them to wine glass stems, drink bottles or scatter around tables.

Edible garnishes which happen to glow under black light: Some edible flowers like hibiscus glow in the dark under black light! So will any bright white edible flowers like white rose petals, white alyssum, white basil flowers, etc. Experiment with what you have – black light UV spectrum does some pretty cool things with all kinds of natural pigments.

Tonic water cocktails: you can play a lot with glow drinks using tonic water as a mixer. Tonic water that contains quinine happens to glow under UV light. You can make ice cubes and cool stuff like vodka jello with it too. Only mix with clear alcohols, fruit juices and other mixers – if you cloud it up it will glow less. For instance, we found milk or lychee jello (jelly in South Africa) worked really well because they are white / clear. You need a good strong UV light for this to show up, so don’t place your pretty drinks miles from your dance floor lighting and expect them to pop – you have to light the bar area too.

Glow sticks can be put under the ice cubes in your champagne cooler or big ice bucket for storing your drinks. For a super cool effect, you can make giant ice cubes with water balloons and put the glow sticks under these – magic! You don’t need UV light for this bit – the glow effect just comes from the glow sticks.

We hope you have a great time getting your glow on and have a party that simply sparkles with neon fun! Let us know any tups you have in the comments or feel free to ask a question.

PHOTO CREDITS: Most of the photos in this blog post were shared with me, and are used with the permission of, various clients of Simply Sparkles party hire over the years. The photos of models with body paint were from a photoshoot by Steyn Marais Photography (follow @steynmaraisphotography on Instagram) with body paint by mendhi artist Zubaidah Amod (follow @zubaidah.amod on Instagram). The models are Morenike (@mo-aint_yours) and Tanya (her account on Instagram is private).

Read more on this topic:

Glow in the dark party ideas

How to DIY and play real-life, human PacMan (with blacklight UV neon for that arcade game look!)

Brilliant ideas for incorporating neon into your home decor. (Simply Sparkles got a guest feature on this great blog at Redfin. Spot us talking texture and neon/ UV fabric at no. 14!)