Would you be able to guess your guests in these getups?

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You can add mystery and lots of other fun potential to a get-together when you make it a masquerade party or ball. You remember what it was like to play dress up as a kid, right? You drape a scarf over your head and suddenly you're a new bride, the flying nun or a shrouded ghoul fresh from the graveyard. The human imagination has a lot of power to delight and surprise. Inject a masked puzzle into the mix and you have the makings of an interesting evening. When your guests are asking questions like, "Who is that masked woman?" or "Is that a sword in his scabbard...?" you know your party is a success.

Masquerade balls have a long history that probably began during the Renaissance. If you were an untitled nobody (with money, of course) who had a secret crush on a noble lady, introducing yourself while in disguise made good sense. You could garner a little face time without being rebuffed within the first five seconds. (Dating has never been easy.) If your broad shoulders and manly chin were appealing, the object of your affection might have ended the evening kissing you behind the hanging tapestries. Fast-forward a few centuries and that strategy can still work. Disguise yourself as Jack Sparrow and you may be able to swashbuckle your way to a naughty but memorable night.

Hey, even if nothing romantic happens, you can always savor the possibility for a few hours while sipping punch and trying to keep your mask on straight. Costume parties are really pretty entertaining. When people aren't being themselves they can sometimes say and do the most revealing things. This is a conundrum of human nature that masquerade party planners understand well and love to exploit.

On the next few pages, let's explore some practical ways to hold a masquerade ball worthy of a mention in your diary. (Just withhold the names to protect the innocent.)