What are the key elements necessary for throwing an authentic masquerade party?

Your theme is the most important part ... ie: 1950's, 1960's, etc., or black/white clothing (no other color.) It can be anything you want from any country of the world. I find the best one is to look up on "Google" .... Mardi Gras and see what their costumes are. There is absolutely no rule as to what you can wear, but it's a blast and "anything" goes. Send invitations out (you don't want to go to all this work and then have people bail out if you just phone them.) Be sure you have put the "theme" in your invitation, the place, what time, etc. Also request they call you to let you know if they are coming. Decorate your home or hall that you may rent in the theme you have chosen (go to party rentals) and concentrate on Music first, then the decorations. Food is easy. If it's Mardi Gras then you can do creole dishes, etc. If it's the 50's hamburgers, chips, coke, etc., (alcohol of course ... people should bring their own liquor, but you should supply the soft drinks and ice.) If it's Mexican, do bean dips, wraps, etc. If you go under Google and put in "Mexican recipes" for example you will get a whole slew of them. Before you decide on the theme, think of the personalities of most of your friends, their ages and what you think they would all relate too and have fun with. Remember, you are the brain child of this party, you did all the work and it's up to your guests to have the fun. PLEASE NOTE: If this is a high end party then you should supply the alcohol and everything else. Good Luck Have fun! Marcy