You know about the masked part of the whole masquerade ball concept. The rest can be as casual or extravagant as time and budget allows. Some folks forgo the costumes entirely in favor of elaborate masks. This is most common when people are wearing evening attire, though (not jammies). Masquerade parties and balls are becoming popular options for birthday parties, anniversaries, proms and sweet 16 parties. Take a look at these popular themes. They're old and new classics:
Color Themes -- Black and white balls are among the most popular color themed events. They can be dress down or dress up affairs, which gives them the advantage of being easy to dress for -- and decorate for, too. Coming up with costume ideas can also be pretty easy: Think "Phantom of the Opera" meets "Black Swan." Look to Truman Capote's infamous Black and White ball for inspiration, too. If a classic black and white masked ball doesn't appeal to you, try a red masquerade ball around the holidays, a sweet 16 pretty in pink ball or an all green ball for St. Patrick's Day.
Venetian Ball -- When most people think of masked balls, they probably flash on the opulent period balls depicted in movies. Wearing velvet and brocade and flirting behind bejeweled and feathered masks looks like sultry fun. If you have a respectable budget to work with, this is certainly doable. There are specialty shops that sell period costumes that will turn the average stock analyst into a serviceable courtier. Stick a powdered wig on his head, and he's good to go. Costumes are available in an impressive range of styles and sizes.
Mardi Gras (or Carnival) -- If you like the idea of an all-inclusive event with loads of character, Mardi Gras balls are great fun. Decorate with the traditional colors of green, purple and gold, and be sure to encourage guests to wear beads and add extra glitz to their masks. Play cool jazz in the background and serve up some appropriate menu items like king cake and shrimp creole.
Vampire Variation -- The undead sure do get around. You can pay homage to your favorite crypt dwellers with a ball designed to celebrate your fanged friends. Whether you go Goth or play it for laughs, this one is a modern take on the masquerade idea. It's a winner around Halloween -- or when the latest Twilight venture looms on the entertainment horizon.
Pick a Theme -- You can mount a masked ball around just about any theme from "Alice in Wonderland" to "Star Wars Revisited." It all depends on how enthusiastic your guests are for the concept. If you're Civil War reenactment club needs a party idea...