Somehow, Halloween is suddenly right around the corner. Some stores already have Halloween candy out on the shelves. If you’re a parent, you’re preparing for kids to start throwing out dozens of ideas for costumes and planning their route around the neighborhood to find all the best candy.
There’s more to Halloween than trick-or-treating, of course, and maybe you’d like to try your hand at hosting a party this year. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to planning a Halloween party to help you throw the best Monster Mash yet.
First things first, you’ll need to set a budget. Based on how much money you’ve decided to spend on food, figure out how many people you can afford to invite. If you want to stretch your budget a bit more, ask people to bring a side dish to help you out.
Next you’ll need to decide on a theme. Just Halloween in general, a particular decade, spooky or tame…the possibilities are endless. Do you care if guests wear a costume? Are you planning on a costume contest? You’ll need to specify all of these things on the invitations. Here’s a list of information you should include:
- Date and time
- Costume instructions
- Whether or not there will be a costume contest, and if so, what categories you will be judging
- If you want guests to bring a dish
- RSVP deadline
- A reminder for guests with food restrictions to let you know ASAP so you can plan the menu
Send your invitations out a minimum of two weeks in advance. Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season, and people’s schedules start to fill up early.
Food and drinks
Appetizers like charcuterie trays are perfect for Halloween parties because it’s easy to put together and even easier for guests to eat while they mingle, whether sitting or standing. The colors also work well with Halloween: the red and purple grapes, red meats, orange and yellow cheeses, and golden crackers will look great mixed in with any standard Halloween décor.
If you’re serving a main course, stick to dishes that are easy to eat standing up or with one hand. Typically, a full dinner isn’t expected at a Halloween party, so don’t feel obligated to provide one. Snack food is more than fine. Make sure you include proteins like nuts to help keep guests feeling full and lessen the effects of the inevitable sugar crash.
Keep your desserts dark and decadent, just like Halloween itself. For a stunning, more elegant look, top chocolate cakes with deep red flowers – or stick to the holiday and top it with candy skulls, pumpkins, etc. Alternatively, a white cake can be easily covered in lines of extra frosting to make it look like a dense spider web. Strategically position a couple of plastic spiders on it and you’ll have some guests nervous about eating it. And you can never go wrong with some good, old-fashioned dirt pudding.
You can easily mix things up with food dye, too. For example: rather than serving caramel apples, serve “poison” toffee apples by dying the toffee black.
Outside of the standard water, lemonade, and coffee non-alcoholic drinks, you can get really creative with Halloween-themed punch. You can also serve shots in pre-made vials with a tag that says “drink me” or “poison” or simply has a skull icon. For both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, try to stick with dark red, green, orange, or black-colored cocktails to maintain the theme. Make ice cubes in hand or spider-shaped cubes and leave them in the punch bowl for a creepy effect!
Add some humor to your table with personalized napkins that say things like “Many have eaten here (few have died)” or with cups that say something like “Here for the BOOS” or “Drink Up Witches”.
And last but not least, you can’t forget the candy! Halloween is maybe the one time a year it seems no one holds back from how much they eat. It’s best to serve individually-wrapped candies, but if you want to serve others, just make sure there’s a serving spoon in the bowl.
Jack-o-lanterns, candles, monsters, spiders and webs, ghosts, skeletons, witches, gravestones, bats. . . Halloween may have more decorating options than any other holiday. Not to mention all the figurines, large and small, that move and make noise, skeleton pieces that stick out of your yard, and fog machines. But don’t get overwhelmed! Stick to your theme — so, if you went with “monsters”, you can probably skip the witches, ghosts, and skeletons and focus on vampires, Frankenstein, goblins, and werewolves. If you want less scare and more laughs, consider a carnival theme. Remember, your decorations can be as simple or as elaborate as you want them to be.
One of the easiest ways to decorate for a Halloween party is to simply turn down the lights. In fact, you could skip light bulbs all together, and just provide candlesticks and jack-o-lanterns.
Streamers, window clings, balloons, pumpkins, leaves, candy, and dark colored flowers can all be incorporated into your decorations. These fun stickers look great on candles, cups, favor bags, the bathroom mirror, or pretty much any other place you can think to put them.
Food can also be a decoration! Stack sliders in the shape of a skull or a pumpkin. Combine fruits like musk melon, green grapes, and blackberries to create a Halloween-colored fruit salad. Arrange sugar cookies or cupcakes with vanilla frosting in the shape of a ghost. A beautiful food table will be the focal point of any room – guests may not even notice the rest of your decorations!
If decorating isn’t your strong suit, check out this fun kit that makes decorating scary easy for you.
Don’t forget to use music to support your decorations! Check back in a few days to read our upcoming blog, Ultimate Guide to Party Planning: Halloween Part 2, for how to do just that, plus more on games and prizes.