Costumes, spooky decorations, eerie sound effects – Halloween parties are terrific fun. Make your freaky fete an affair to remember with these sure-fire tips for a memorable, deliciously ghoulish gala.
#1 A Bloody Vampire Party
What, vampires again? Sure! There’s a reason people keep coming back to vampire-themed Halloween party ideas: They’re fun!
Let’s look at the colors first. What is it they say in vampire stories? “Pale as the moon, dark as the night, red as blood.” In other words, you’ll want your decorations and table settings to revolve around white, black and red.
Of course you’ll want to incorporate classic vampire-themed objects in your decorations, so make sure you’ve got plenty of fangs, coffins, blood, capes and bats. Use make-up to ensure your own skin is pale as can be. You can add a dash of glitter in homage to “Twilight” if you’d like.
And don’t forget the vampire-fighter’s arsenal: garlic, sunlight, crosses and silver daggers.
Vampires hunt at night, so of course you will want to create a dark, brooding, atmosphere. Shut of the electrical lighting and light up the house with black or red candles. (If you happen to have crystal chandeliers in the house, of course you can use those. Chandeliers are always in fashion for vampires.) Get a couple of coffins and maybe some cobwebs.
It’s surprisingly inexpensive to rent a smoke machine for the night, so take a trip to the local party-supply shop and get one. You can set it up in the corner and hide it with cobwebs. Don’t forget to hang up some bats, either clustered in a corner or spread throughout the party zone. Spread out some vials of “blood” too.
Jack-o-lanterns are optional at vampire parties, and in my opinion diminish the mood. If you absolutely must have them, then give them fangs or carve them up with bat shapes.
Use black and blood red to decorate your food table. Table cloths and runners can really set the mood. If you have access to black china, that would be ideal. Very old, antique-looking china is also a good choice, as vampires are known to be immortal. They could still be using dinnerware from the Victorian era.
Old-fashioned black-and-white portraits are good too. They remind party-goers that vampires are supposed to be live forever.
As for the dress code, you can decide how strict to be. Me, I like to tell people they must come in costume. (I never actually refuse anyone entry to the party, of course, but I try to convey a certain strictness in the invitation. I think it helps.) You could ask people to limit their palettes to red, white and black, or you could request that they wear turn-of-the-century clothing. A vampire party works best if women wear dresses and men dress up a bit. Who ever saw a vampire in jeans? (Again, you can make an exception for a “Twilight” party.)
When it comes to the food, remember: Vampires drink blood. Make sure to have plenty of red wine, cranberry juice and grape juice. It’s a nice touch to serve these drinks in pitchers labeled with blood types: “O negative,” “AB positive” and so on. You can also leave a few blood vials around, filled with cranberry juice. And don’t forget the Bloody Marys! They’re the perfect drink for bloodsuckers.
Horror movies tell us that vampires generally don’t eat food, but your guests are likely to be hungry. You’ll have to serve some snacks to keep them lively. Anything you can decorate with fangs, blood or bats generally works. For example, dip strawberries in white chocolate and add a couple of red fang marks on them. Make sure your make holes in the icing to make the illusion believable.
#2 A Night Circus Party
If you’ve read Erin Morgenstern’s dreamy fantasy novel, The Night Circus, you know it suggests a very distinctive theme: circus performers wearing only black, white and red. This is a wonderful theme for a Halloween bash, as you can take anything and everything used for a normal circus-themed party, only you turn it red, black or white, which makes it a lot more ghostly.
A circus-themed party lets you incorporate performers in your affair. Fire eaters, jugglers, magicians, clowns…it’s all on the table. Your guests have a wide selection of colorful roles to choose from.
The book describes unique tents that can inspire your decorating, and you can incorporate other elements as well, including the Wishing Tree or the pond where you throw stones to get rid of old memories that are bothering you.
Here is a cluster of objects and ideas to inspire your Night Circus theme: black-and-white clothing with a single red ribbon, black-and-white circus tents, old-fashioned pocket watches, turn-of-the-century clothing, umbrellas, circus performers, magic and midnight soirees.
If the weather is good, you could rent a tent and decorate it as a proper circus tent. Don’t forget to include pumpkins – spray-paint them black and white to match the Night Circus palette. Be sure to add black-and-white ribbons, candles and top hats. Hang some umbrellas from the ceiling. If you’re indoors, hang black-and-white paintings on the walls. Or deck the halls with inspiring quotes from The Night Circus.
Food is fairly simple – just keep it red, white and black. You can make (or buy) amazing black-and-red candied apples. Black-and-white lollipops are another classic. Lollipop-inspired items in general go hand in hand with the circus, and so does popcorn. You can put popcorn in black bowls, or the kind of boxes popcorn are served in at the circus, only black-and-white of course! Black macaroons and black-and-white cakes work well. You can use a checkerboard for inspiration as well. Why not shape the food or cake into chess pieces?
Black-and-white striped tablecloths are necessary, of course, and be sure to limit your tableware to black and white. If you’d like, use your best handwriting to create Night Circus-inspired names next to each serving dish.
#3 Samhain – A Touch of Witchcraft
In this age of superhero outfits and slutty secretary costumes, dressing like Frankenstein’s monster counts as traditional. But Halloween’s rich history extends much further into the past than Mary Shelley’s gothic classic. Halloween’s origins date back to a Celtic festival called Samhain, which focused on remembering the deceased and celebrating the fall harvest. Some pagans still celebrate Samhain at Halloween season.
A Samhain party will certainly include witches and witchcraft. Witches celebrate the seasons with a touch of magic. Adding cinnamon and cloves to black tea makes it an enchanting autumn brew. Put it in an old iron pot and you’re halfway there.
Like many pagan holidays, Samhain is ultimately concerned with nature and the turning of the seasons. The full moon, autumn leaves, the tastes of the late harvest…all of these are central to Samhain. Just add a pinch of magic.
When you decorate for your Samhain party, think of a late-October walk through the woods. Use the red, orange and gold colors of autumn leaves. Purple, brown, and dark green add harmony and depth.
Food should be warm and hearty. Stews, pies and soups work well, as do seasonal flavors like mushrooms, rowan berries, corn, pumpkins, squash, apples, pears, plums, chestnuts and nuts. Samhain spices should suggest the alchemical dabblings of witches casting spells. Be sure to use cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and cardamom. Candied apples, pumpkin pie, stuffed pumpkins and baked apples belong on the table as well.
As for drinks, be sure to offer herbal tea, hot chocolate, mulled wine and hot cider. Mulled wine and spiced apple cider will make your home smell divine as guests arrive.
Decorate with leaves, pumpkins, moss, pine cones, dried corn, candles, nuts, figs, apples and pears. Witches’ cauldrons, potions, cats and broomsticks are also in order.
If you’re planning a costume party, make your Samhain soiree a gathering of witches and sorcerers – but suggest that your guests come as white witches, not the more familiar black-clothed variety. Guests can dress as sprites, spirits, wood-nymphs or elves. You might also name a king and queen of the forest spirits. Less-ambitious guests can simply stick to period dress – anything from before 1910 should be fine.
#4 Ghosts, Ghouls and All Things Spooky
For serious fun, turn your home into a haunted house and scare your guests with a dastardly selection of wicked inventions.
The color palette here is black, gray and bone-white. Think of walking skeletons and midnight ghosts.
Decorations could include anything remotely spooky: skeletons, mummies, Victorian-era ceramic dolls, ghosts, black crows, body parts dangling in the air and old fashioned big black books. Cobwebs, mysterious mists and silver trays with severed body parts can add to the fun. Aged portraits of deceased relatives are also appropriate. Using fishing line you can easily make things appear as if they are floating in air, so get creative.
This decor is all about scaring people. If you can arrange a few special effects and smoke machines, it might be worth it. Some jack-in-a-box type things that are timed to jump out would work well also.
As for the food, keep it as black-and-white as possible. Hors d’oeuvres and desserts can be shaped like skulls or black cats or witches’ hats. Light the food table with candles, using trays, old books and cobwebs as presentation elements. Drop a grape into each cold drink on the sly and tell guests that you’ve mislaid a bowl of eyeballs…but don’t be surprised if squeamish guests don’t finish their drinks. A bit of blood (red wine, cranberry or tomato juice) doesn’t hurt either.
Your Most Shivery Shindig Ever
There is no end of great Halloween party ideas. This is one of the few times each year a hostess can indulge her wildest ideas without being over-the-top. So have fun!
Be sure to have a look on Pinterest before you go shopping. You’ll find plenty of great food and decorating ideas to make your party the best yet.
If you have your own wicked ideas for Halloween themes, why not share them in the comments below?