Theme Dates: Going Beyond Dinner and A Movie

man and woman dancing at home

I have nothing against dinner and a movie. It’s a solid plan for a night out and has earned its reputation as the go-to classic date with good reason. However, I think many of us have spent a lot less time in movie theaters over the past two years. Actually, many of us have probably spent a lot less time out in general. And yet, as we weather another surge in this miserable pandemic, I find myself hoping (once again) that it might be the last one. Hoping that this spring might see more opportunities for dates again.

Pandemic or not, those of us in the throes of parenting likely find ourselves on dates with our significant others far less than we imagined. When we do get the rare and needed opportunity, dinner and a movie is an easy staple to fall back on. However, it’s fun to shake things up, and my husband and I are excited to get back to our dating tradition: Theme Dates.

Our Theme Dates have three simple rules:

  1. We take turns planning them.
  2. The date invitation must come in written form.
  3. The date has to have a theme!

We aren’t on any set timetable for our dates; we know that there are busy seasons, and it’s hard to get away during those times. And we know that budget plays a factor, too. There might be less theme dates in the months following Christmas or vacations. So, we stick to the rule of alternating whose turn it is to plan, but how soon that next turn is taken changes with the circumstances.

Our normal nights out usually start with one of us wandering into the living room and saying, “Do you want to go get food?” Effective, but a little lackluster. Announcing our theme date plans through a written invitation adds a bit of romance, intrigue, and creativity. This might happen with a store-bought greeting card, a homemade handwritten card, or even an email. (We don’t go as informal as texting for this.) Bonus points if the invitation is made with items from the craft room, fits the theme, or rhymes!

As for the actual themes themselves, the sky is the limit! Here are some of our favorites so far:

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

This was the first theme date I ever planned for my husband. We were dating and talking seriously about marriage plans for the future. I decided to have a little fun with that theme while I awaited a proposal. Our something old was a visit to the first place we had dinner together. Our something new was a brand new experience together: Playing darts at a bar. A Redbox movie was an easy something borrowed. And a bottle of Relax wine served as our something blue.

A Night of Chance

This was the first theme date he ever planned for me, and it blew mine out of the water! Everything, I mean everything, was decided by dice or games of chance. He asked me to pick out two outfits, and I flipped a coin to see which one I was going to wear. Then he took me to the Hollywood Casino, gave me a $50 bill, and told me to place it all on ONE hand of blackjack. If I won, he had prepared a list of six nice restaurants that would be in the running for dinner. If I lost, he had a list of fast food restaurants on standby! Well, I lost. I was presented with a die and the six options for fast food restaurants. The roll of the die landed us at Chick-Fil-A, where I had to roll again to choose my dinner off the menu. We had an absolute blast with this theme. And yes, there were more dice games waiting at home.

Act Like a Kid

It was my turn again, and I created a very kid friendly invitation out of markers, stickers, and construction paper. We started the night at Main Event, where I insisted that we order off the kids’ menu. (He wasn’t so crazy about this part.) After our chicken nuggets, we headed over to the arcade, and we laughed and played like kids for a couple of hours. (I think this made up for dinner.) On our way home, we stopped at the mall, where I gave him a $10 bill to spend at the Disney Store before grabbing a quick ride on the carousel. We also picked up a bag of candy to enjoy at home while watching the animated movie of his choice. No adult beverages allowed, obviously.

John Williams

This might be the best one yet. (He is seriously good at this.)  I was invited to a theme date the week before Halloween and was told that a costume would be involved. Sure enough, a few nights before the big date, a cosplay level Rey outfit arrived for me. It is by far the coolest costume I’ve ever owned, and I’m not even a huge Star Wars fan. I noticed a few new pieces were arriving in the mail for him as well, and I realized that he would be dressing as Indiana Jones for our night out. HUGE. FAN. OF. THAT. CHOICE. Then the destination was revealed to me: We had front row tickets to the Kauffman Center to see the Kansas City Symphony play the music of John Williams. Star Wars. Indiana Jones. Jurassic Park. Harry Potter. ET. It was an incredible line up of some of the most famous movie scores. And yes, we went in full costume. And yes, we were the only ones in costume. It was an extrovert’s dream though. People complimented and commented all night; many of the guests asked to take our picture and even posed in pictures with us.

I have a lot to live up to now that it’s my turn to plan again. I’m tossing around a few ideas:

  • Pick a Number: I present him with four numbers to choose from: 95, 119, 135, and 151. These numbers all correspond to main streets in Olathe and Overland Park. I’m hoping he won’t pick up on that right away, because the number he picks is the street we’ll head to for the night. Our entire date will have to take place on that street, from dinner to drinks to activities.
  • Dollar Night: Everything revolves around the almighty dollar. This one will be great for a time we might be on a tighter budget. I think we’ll order off the dollar menu at a fast-food restaurant to start with. Then, we’ll grab a couple of lottery scratcher tickets on our way to the Dollar Store, where we can pick up a puzzle or a board game to play at home. We’ll end the night by renting an Amazon Prime movie – but it’ll have to be one of the 99 cent ones!
  • Red Kingdom Night: This one will be a bit more involved, but it’s definitely happening at some point. The written invitation (made of a construction paper football of course) will specify that Chiefs gear must be worn for this date. We’ll actually start with the main event: an afternoon tour of Arrowhead Stadium. Then, we’ll eat dinner at our favorite game day bar, The Other Place. And finally, we’ll end our night by rewatching the wild ending of the Chiefs vs. Bills legendary 13 second game.
Amber Dawkins
Amber loves jellybeans, morning snuggles, and new adventures. Personality tests peg her as 93% extroverted. She loves to write, but most of the time, you’ll find her behind her camera lens. Amber left her teaching position in 2016 to turn her passion into a full time photography career. She now spends time photographing homes for real estate agents, updating headshots, freelancing for local magazines, and creating branding imagery for businesses by capturing their spaces, products, people, and processes. She also does portrait sessions for families, children, and high school seniors. Amber recently got married in a small pandemic friendly wedding. As mama to one and stepmama to four, she thrives on the happy chaos of a large, blended family. Amber lives with both Cystic Fibrosis and CF Related Diabetes and thanks God daily for His blessings and the medical advances that continue to keep her as healthy as possible.