We’ve partnered with blogger Jennifer Perkins on how to host an awesome Halloween party! Check out her tips below!
I have been throwing an annual Halloween party for six years. The event started with a few close friends and now involves about 100 people, bartenders and haunted train rides. I prefer my Halloween kitschy, but that does not mean I don’t know how to throw a splash of class in for good measure. With my party size growing each year, it is important for me to watch my budget. Here are some of my favorite party tips to make your event run smoothly, be unique, and most importantly, look like you spent a million bucks when in fact you only spent a few.
Start With a Clean Slate
If you are going to throw a party, you are going to clean your house. Right? How well are you going to clean it? I can’t tell you how many times I have gone into people’s homes only to be surprised at the grimy trashcans, filthy baseboards and spots on the wall. Start a month out and begin a deep clean. Some people spring clean, but I Halloween clean for my annual party. I am not a clean freak by any stretch, but a good party with fabulous décor starts with a clean slate. Make sure there are no burned-out lightbulbs, stock the bathrooms with toiletries, and scoop the yard if you have a dog. It’s the little things.
The Devil Is in the Details
I always say if you are going to throw a party, especially one with a theme, then THROW A PARTY. Don’t even bother if you are only going to do it halfway. Details do not equal dollar bills, by the way. Details are the small touches that take a party from ordinary to extraordinary. A bouquet of fresh flowers in a vase (or pumpkin) makes your event look like a party planner was involved. Guests spend a lot of time in your bathroom, so did you decorate there? Change your framed photos to Halloween pictures or just add googly-eyed stickers and fake mustaches to the ones you already have. Select an elegant, yet spooky, soundtrack. Frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft,” anyone? Use cloth tablecloths instead of plastic, even if it is a kid’s party. Sure your house should look obviously festive, but it is all the subtle things that make your guests think you are the hostess with the mostess.
Black & White
Once your house is spotless, decorating for a party should be a breeze. As I mentioned, I love me the kitschy Halloween, but there is something alluring about the sophistication of an all black and white Halloween. Leave the orange for the kids and instead focus on black, white, gold and silver. This combination can be eerie and at the same time elegant. When you give yourself strict color parameters it can also make decorating easier. If you take a look around your home, you probably already have plenty of black and white things. They may not scream Halloween now, but throw in some glittered black and silver candelabras from Tuesday Morning and a white heirloom pumpkin, and suddenly that coffee-table dish works perfectly. If your event is for kids and adults, consider having a more sophisticated room in the house. Perhaps go black and white in your formal living room and colorful and fun in the game room.
Feed Every Man, Woman, Child & Vegan
The key to most people’s hearts is through their stomachs. After six years of throwing my Halloween party, I know what my regular guests’ favorite dishes are. Dave loves the shortbread witch fingers, Sylvia always goes for the ice cream cone cake balls, and Diane asks me weeks in advance if I will be making my bat ball cheese bites. Cooking for 100 people cannot be done the day before the party. Thank heavens for my deep freezer and all the Tupperware storage I can get from Tuesday Morning. Cookies and candy freeze very easily, so save yourself some stress and start baking early. Fill up your freezer a month or two before and save the more perishable things for last minute. It’s easy to forget the savory when preparing for a Halloween party, but don’t. Be sure to have a variety of things and be considerate of food allergies. My son has a nut allergy, so I make every by hand to ensure it is nut-free. Also think about beverages. Over the last 20 years of party throwing, I have always noticed that water goes first. Make sure to have tons of water and then a variety of adult and kid-friendly beverages available.
Scroll through Pinterest and one of the things you will see time and time again that make a party special and elegant is all the paper. I love to scrapbook, and Tuesday Morning carries tons of different lines. I nabbed a pack of paper that looks like chalkboard for 99 cents and used it as shelf liner in a Halloween display hutch. This same paper could easily be used to make decorative pinwheels, food labels, handwritten invitations and more. Every Pinterest-worthy party has some sort of customized paper accent (like candy wrappers, goodie bag name tags or banners) – save some money and make your own!
Any party, Halloween or not, needs to move smoothly. How many times has it been breakdown-thirty for your kids and you’re wondering when this mother is ever going to light candles and get the birthday show on the road? You don’t need to set an alarm, but be aware that if you are hosting a party, it is your job to make sure things run smoothly. If you have a large guest list, consider having more than one food table to avoid bottlenecks. Add an end time to your party invitation or everyone will arrive at scattered times – and often right when you were hoping things were about to wind down. Don’t get stuck talking to Aunt Bertha about her recent hip-replacement surgery for too long. As the host you need to circulate and mingle. Introduce like-minded strangers and inform them about what they have in common. I often say entertaining kids at parties is like circuit training at the gym. They need to move from station to station. Recruit a few trustworthy friends and ask them to each be in charge of a certain game. Kristin helps the kids at the craft table, Erin mans the sensory bins, Chris gets a game of “pin the nose on the witch” started, and Vickie is in charge of making sure no one gets hit with a piñata stick. Your friends will be happy to help – just ask.
If you are going to have one splurge, might I recommend hiring a photographer. I have done this for several years, and it is worth every penny. My photographer takes pictures of my decorated house, the food I have been baking for months, and most importantly, the guests. Photo booths at parties have become pretty standard. Make your own backdrop to save money (mine last year was a shower curtain). Your guests will love you forever for the free family photos that they can enjoy for years to come. I send a link to the pictures after the event, and within hours, you can see everyone’s Facebook pictures change to their favorite snap from the party. A great photographer might only cost you $200. You won’t have to worry about taking a single picture, and at the same time, all your hard work is completely documented.
Did you realize there are after-Halloween sales just like there are after-Christmas sales? I’m here to tell you I am there bright and early on Nov. 1, elbowing in to get that half-price pumpkin. If you have an annual pumpkin, consider buying for next year at half price. I buy all my goodie bags, their filling and all non-perishable piñata treats on after-Halloween sales. Tuesday Morning has awesome clearance sales, and I’ll be there ready to pounce on any Halloween decor for next year’s festivities.
So what is your pearl of party-throwing wisdom? Anything you live by? I learn something new with every event I throw, and hopefully that makes every year at my annual party that much better. Following these steps has helped me save tons of money over the years and at the same time host a party that people look forward to all year long.