How to Throw a Halloween Party
Halloween is more popular than it’s ever been, and not just in America where the holiday (as we think of it) originated. More and more people are getting excited about trick or treating, scary movies, and Halloween parties. For most you Halloween party goers, you’ll be attending a party organised by someone else, and you’ll only have your costume to worry about.
But what if you’re the one organising the party?
There are many things that will need your consideration when throwing a Halloween party (or any party, for that matter), such as music, food, drink, even games. Most of this, however, will (or should) be influenced by the theme of the party.
What? You weren’t going to have a theme?
Don't just throw any old Halloween decoration at the wall.
First of all, why? Well you could just throw some whimsical skulls on the wall and some eyeball ice cubes in the punch and call it a day. And that may well be enough for a good party. But if you really want your party to be a great Halloween party, you need to go that extra mile. Halloween is all about dressing up and going over the top. Other than the time of year, if your party isn't draped in fake spiderweb and ghosts, what makes it a Halloween party?
Choosing a Theme
The first thing to consider is your audience. Are you throwing a party for adults? Children? Teenagers? This can greatly affect your decisions with regards to decoration, entertainment, and certainly food and drink. If you’re throwing a Halloween party for your six year old and their school friends, you should probably shy away from gruesome decoration and fruit punch with a strong vodka content.
Similarly, if your party-goers are likely to be in the teenage years, cartoon skulls and cute black cats probably won’t cut it. And you certainly don’t want to be breaking out a game of Pass the Parcel with a fifteen year old.
Counterintuitively, adults are probably the easiest to plan a party for. Get the food, drink, and music right and the rest is incidental. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!
Stick to Your Theme
Once you’ve picked a theme, stick with it. If you’re decorating your party with zombie parts and other somewhat gruesome items, the aforementioned cartoon skulls will seem out of place. Likewise, if your theme is cartoon in nature, and you’ve got friendly looking skeletons and cute vampire bats hanging all over the place, a grisly zombie hand protruding from underneath the sofa doesn’t really fit.
Also, don’t feel that your theme is limited to decoration. There are many tutorials for making painfully realistic looking eyeball ice cubes, and anybody with an internet connection can learn how to make cute bat and cat cookies… but you probably shouldn’t use them together.
You've got your theme, now the fun bit...
My favourite part! Once you’ve decided on your theme, it’s time to go crazy. The first thing to do is properly consider your party venue. For most of the people reading this, the venue is probably going to be your home, and I'm going to work on that assumption. Look at the areas that the party will be taking place in. Do you have rooms you want off limits? Perhaps your bedroom, or a closet? With grown ups, you generally don’t have to worry about them snooping around your sock drawer, but children will swarm all over that house in minutes. Depending on the layout of your house, one way to prevent this is to shove some furniture in the way. You can also drape something over the entrance (such as a spooky, spider-ridden cloth) and this is my favourite method. Incorporating things off limit areas into your decoration just adds to the fun.
For example, we once threw a Halloween party and, at the time, the front door to our house was out of commission. We wrapped the door in “Police. Do not Cross” tape like you’d find at the house of a murder scene.
The next thing I’d suggest is not to skimp on areas that you don’t think are as significant. It’s easy to get carried away with the kitchen and living/dining room—where your guests will likely be most of the time—and completely forget about entrance hallways and bathrooms and any other space that your guests will almost certainly be in at some point.
Don't be Afraid to be Subtle
When decorating for your Halloween party, it can be tempting to want to splash as many spiders and skulls and ghosts on the walls as possible, but you don’t need to do that to achieve a good atmosphere. Here are two very subtle things I’ve found can make a bigger difference than all light-up skulls and grasping ghouls you can buy.
- Coloured Lighting - Specifically red and green coloured lighting. Coloured light bulbs are generally inexpensive, but they can immediately change a room. A red or green tint instantly makes everything that bit more spooky. Experiment with coloured bulbs in movable lamps. In my experience, red bulbs work best as room lighting (ie, in the main light on the ceiling) and green works best highlighting areas, such as a corner of a room, behind a television, etc. There are also many cheap, battery powered fairy light clusters that come in all-green or red. These are especially good for hiding away behind things to give off an eery glow without worrying about setting fire to anything. On that note, always be sure to make sure your lighting is safe, and not likely to ignite a curtain or creepy cloth, which brings me to…
- Creepy Cloth - Creepy cloth is the home Halloween party thrower’s best friend. It comes in a variety of styles but is essentially a netted sheet that is full of holes and rips. In appearance, it’s somewhere between a spiderweb and a really old, moth-eaten sheet. These can be used all over the house to simultaneously hide non-Halloweenish things, while giving that area an instant Halloween feel. Got a shelf of happy, pastel coloured books? Throw a creepy cloth over them. You can also just pin this stuff up almost at random and it looks great (in the Halloween party sense of the word).
So your parties all set to go... but what do you when the guests arrive?
Entertainment is almost entirely influenced by your party goer’s age range. If you’ve got a load of children, go for regular party games but put a Halloween twist on them. This can be as simple as playing Halloween music in Musical Chairs, or wrapping a load of plastic spiders into each layer of the parcel in Pass the Parcel. Also, with children, you’re probably better off having a set eating time when you serve up a table full of food and call the kids in for their meal. If you have kids, you’ll probably know that a child in a large group of other children will probably never stop to eat until they’re on the verge of passing out, so a buffet-style set up doesn’t really work.
If you’re age group is more teenage in nature, the best thing you can do is make sure they like the music and leave them alone. They’re not likely to be very receptive to party games, and you can’t get them drunk. If I may make one specific suggestion, however, have a room or area (if your house/venue permits it) with a horror movie playing. Obviously you don’t want an 18/R rated movie playing to 15 year olds (not unless you want some angry phone calls from parents), but something with gore and jump scares.
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re an adult yourself. Catering to an adult Halloween party is much simpler because a) you’re an adult so you have direct insight into what your guests might like and b) adults are much easier to please. Get the music and food right and you’re golden. The main factor to consider with adults is, once again, age. If most of your guests are older (say, around middle aged and up), they’re probably not going to be interested in loud music and an array of multicoloured shots. Similarly, adults that are barely adults (basically anyone in their twenties) don’t tend to go in for parties that involve sit down meals and nice wine.
As mentioned, you’re probably an adult, and if you’re throwing a party for adults they’ll probably be your friends and mostly your age. Think about what you’d like.
So that’s my guide to throwing a Halloween party, based on years of experience throwing Halloween parties! If you have questions or, more importantly, hints and tips of your own to add, please feel free to drop them in the comments below. In the meantime, check out this video by Lauren Conrad on throwing a themed Halloween party.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 John Bullock