My bet is, when you were a kid, Halloween involved a costume of whatever trendy character had topped the movie charts and a pillowcase for candy. It was an entire evening of every kid for himself; complete, candy-fueled chaos. Not this year! It is time for All Hallows’ Eve to grow up! Here, you’ll find the Plum Deluxe guide to a chic night of tricks and treats.
Start With a Theme
Part of throwing a successfully chic party is experience design — the art of making sure all the details align to create a specific experience. In short, pick a theme and stick to it. Selecting a single idea you can build upon will give your party preparations focus. To make sure we are all on the same page, “orange and black” and variations of “hustlers and hussies” are not themes; they’re passé. If that statement left you truly stumped, see the list of suggestions below.
A few ideas of varying creepiness:
- It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
- Land of Oz or Wicked
- Carnival, Circus, or Funhouse
- Malice in Wonderland
- Mad Science
- Vampire Slaying
- Witch Hunt
Send Out Invitations
As we’ve discussed before, invitations set the tone for your party. Using an original design and unexpected elements will tell your guests that this is not going to be your run-of-the-mill hoe-down. When you put this much thought into your invitations, your guests will do the same when it comes to preparing for the big night.
Scare Up Some Food
If the idea of preparing goodies for a big (or not-so-big) party scares the pants off you, take a deep breath. Put your pants back on and remember: not all the food has to be themed. Pick one food and one drink as your pieces de resistance.
For the rest, serve your usual party fare punched up with a few special touches. Use labels, bought or made yourself, to give your snacks party-appropriate new names. Sparkling colored sugar atop a few confections will lend a Hogwarts Feast a bit of magic. As for your beverages, food coloring and striped paper straws, along with labels, can do amazing things.
For novices, keep it simple. Even small changes to your living space will make it clear that this is a special occasion. Let your food speak for itself, punch up your party spaces with a few decals that match your theme, and use themed signage at your entrance to set the scene.
Practiced party-throwers may find themselves ready to take their décor to the next level. Extend your decorations to the food table and other surfaces. You can put pretty much anything under a cloche, in a jar, or in a birdcage to create instant décor within the parameters of your theme and creepiness level.
Hosts ready to break into expert status should add touches of the unexpected. Surprise your guests with decorations in the bathroom and on the ceiling. Swap out your usual artwork. A lot of antique stores have what I call “instant ancestors” for a couple bucks each. Pick up a few of these vintage photos and modify them by giving the subjects their own masquerade masks.
Light It Up
Similar to decorations, small changes in lighting can make a big difference. Dim the lights or switch out your usual light bulbs for colored lights or Edison bulbs. Consider placing uplights in corners to create and emphasize shadows; create an eerie glow by placing a lamp under a table draped with a diaphanous cloth.
The star of the show, though, is the candle. The more candles, real flame or LED, the better: tapers in candelabras, giant pillars in hurricane glass, candles atop mirrors, and votives in just about anything.
Commit to a Costume
When transforming your house, don’t forget about yourself. Halloween is the time to come as you aren’t. My advice here is the same as for food and décor: stick with your theme, start simple, and add to it if you have the time and inclination to do so. For example, I enjoy how the ensembles at DisneyBound imply a character without edging too far into costume territory.
Start with the clothing; then, if you desire, add the more costume-y elements such as ears, a tail, or a painted smile.
We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating: Once the first guest arrives, preparations end. A hostess rushing from room to room becomes a ghost at her own party and leaves her guests with a haunting sense of stress. Aside from relighting a candle here and there or replenishing the treat table, your job designing the party is done, so grab a drink and let the festivities begin!
Photo credits: UrbanComfort, A Typical Type A and Jennifer Sando, Martha Stewart, Family Corner, and Disney Bound.