I am not a big fan of Halloween. I get it from my mother. I never thought her detest would rub off on me, as I loved any excuse to put on a costume as a kid (and my sweet mom made them all from hand!). But now, it just seems hardly worth the effort (or the money). Though on a total side note, if I had a wee one, I would certainly be getting one of these…have you ever?! Anyway, my husband on the other hand, LOVES Halloween. So, a few years ago I decided to compromise and threw a “sophisticated” Halloween dinner party. I got to enjoy cooking for our friends and he got to enjoy the debauchery of it all. I still say it was the most fun I have ever had at my own party We’ve talked about having another one and maybe we will one day, but it’s impossible to recreate a perfect memory isn’t it? So, I’m giving you some tips to throw your own dinner party in hopes that you can create a night as memorable as ours.
Number One: Create a theme that is easy for your guests. We did Tart & Vicars. It was important that our guests (and us!) be able to dress up without much effort or cost. The last thing I want is for someone to feel overwhelmed (me included)—the idea is to have fun. Keep it simple!
Number Two: Details, details, details! With a little extra effort, you can make a big impression. Find ways to incorporate your theme throughout. I found great Candy Cross Bracelets that I looped around the wine glasses on the table, which doubled as kitschy favors. I bought toe tags at a party shop and personalized them to each guest for funny place cards. I lit as many candles as I had to set the mood. All of these are cheap, don’t take long to accomplish and make things a little more special.
Number Three: Listen up…this is the most important tip to having fun at your own party. I made the mistake at our holiday cocktail party serving the drinks myself to about 40 guests. I was stuck at the bar all night refilling complicated drinks and there is nothing fun about that. If you are not going to hire a bartender, set up a bar with easy instructions for 1-2 specialty cocktails that require 2-3 ingredients max and let your guests serve themselves. Glow sticks add spookiness to any liquid pleasure—just snap them before guests arrive, arrange them in a glass and voilà. Plastic black spider rings on a glass are classic and cheap. I found Halloween wine bottle covers with phrases like Ghoul’s Grog. Now you can serve cheap wine and none will be the wiser.
Number Four: Invite an interesting mix of personalities. Dinner parties are tricky because many times you can’t invite one person without inviting another. But, it’s super important to invite a few people with big, fun personalities. They will keep the party going. Invite a few people that know each other and a few that don’t. It makes the evening less awkward and hopefully everyone will leave with new friends. Use place cards and be strategic in the placement. You want to encourage conversation, so spread out the extroverts!
Number Five: If you have friends with a special skill, don’t be afraid to ask for help! My friend Alex is a coffee expert, so he brought over his fancy schmancy Siphon Coffee Maker and made us all coffee drinks and Rooibos tea lattes. It was the perfect pairing with my Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Icing, which I made a day ahead. My other friend Blair is a chef (I know! Who invites a chef to their dinner party? I have no shame apparently). He saved my mashed potatoes with a grating of nutmeg (who knew?) and judged me silently.
Number Six: When it comes to the menu, do as much as you can ahead of time and try to make things that you can throw in the oven and forget. That way, you aren’t standing over the stove all night. If you can do all the prep work a day ahead, you will thank yourself when you have more time to enjoy the party. One party trick I love is serving soup (I made corn chowder in advance) in little espresso cups as soon as your guests arrive. That way you don’t have to make a ton of appetizers, but gives everyone a little amuse bouche before the main event. Finally, I could have never pulled this off without help from a good friend who came over hours ahead of time and helped with preparation. Don’t be afraid to recruit a designated sous chef. Thanks, Brianna! And, of course my husband, though he prefers to be a party guest, not a party planner ;).
At some point, realize you’ve done enough and sit down with your own cocktail! Let me know how your party plans turn out! Happy Halloweeeeeen!