Throwing a Spooktacular Witches Night

In my mind there are five things that truly make a great party. A party where, when you leave, you can't stop talking about it and can't wait for the next one. These five things are what work for me and all the bashes I throw and I'm going to share them with YOU! Because you deserve to throw a great party if you wanna ; D. Because it is the beautifully haunting season, I'm going to share with you how I go about throwing my annual witches night.

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I have always been a huge Halloween person. It started at a very early age where I can remember picking out the most perfect poofy princess gown to wear to my elementary school carnival. It was just beginning to feel crisp in the air in Northern California and the leaves were starting to turn the brilliant colors of orange, yellow and red. I remembering feeling the excitement of a new season with all of it's change and wonder. The sights, the smells, the atmosphere of it all.The carnival was truly a magnificent scene for a little one to behold. I could smell caramel apples, cakes and baked goods wafting over from the cake walk, the tangy smell of cider and orange juice being served from the cafeteria outdoor window. It was almost too much for the senses. I could hear the traditional Halloween songs being played over the loud speaker and dancing the monster mash with my best girlfriends on the blacktop where, on any other day, we'd be playing four square. It was totally transformed and I loved it!!! I still remember Trick-Or-Treating with my brothers and the excitement of going door to door and getting goodies galore poured into our pillow case sacks. Then going home and sorting...did you do that? LOL My brothers and I would trade on the floor as my dad watched Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein or some other old classic Hollywood monster movie. We would eat and eat till all hours of the night (probably 10pm but ya know, to a little kid, that's practically 3am!) and go to bed exhausted and so deliriously happy. As a family we went to Disneyland almost every year and the Haunted Mansion was one of my favorites. Some people don't remember anything from when they were super little, but I remember bits and pieces from my first trip there at the chubby age of 5. I saw a huge house and thought nothing of it really. Surely it couldn't be a ride. My mom told me it was a fun spooky house and that I would like it. I LOVED it and vowed my house would look the same as that house at Halloween time.

I. Love. Halloween!!!

This story illustrates what can happen when you incorporate these elements of throwing a great party. Ready to take your party game to the next level and leave your guests with a sense of wonder and magic?

Element #1:
Begin by inviting your guests with an invite that will set the tone. I typically have a food sign up sheet to go along with what I will be providing. I find that when people have an food assignment of their choosing (of course it is voluntary) they are more prone to come and stay. I googles spooky invites, bought the one I liked and now use the same graphic every year and just change the date and time as needed. Here is what I use:

My son also did a Halloween party (for his birthday in June lol) and we sent out THE cutest/spookiest invites. We cast his fingers, broke them off the mols, rubbed them with ink and tied a silk ribbon around them. We placed them on a bed of moss and told them to not forget to come. It was classic.

Now let's set the scene...

Image: Pinterest
Wherever the location of your party is, transform the look of it to match the theme. Halloween wreaths can be so expensive so I take pictures of different ones I like for ideas then just make my own.

I look over every inch of my home to see how I can transform it into a haunted mansion. Now pause, this will look different for everyone. You may be into more whimsical Halloween decor, gore, scary, cutesy etc. Whatever it is, keep your guests in mind for what they will be comfortable with that evening then go for it. I love to add draperies to nooks and alcoves, I put sheets over the furniture to make it seem as if it's been "turned down" for the season. I add pictures all over of faces that change as you walk by them. We even did a family photo shoot in victorian clothing in a graveyard and blew it up at Costco.

This is what got me started on doing a theme every year for our family photos (you can see more of those here). Throughout the year I look for pieces that look like they could be added to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. So many things can be found year round because I'm not necessarily looking for things that say "Happy Halloween". I'm looking for everyday items that can be hauntified, or add the the scenes in the house. Candelabras, pewter serving dishes, old lamps, ornate frames, vintage telephones, clocks etc. Even though it wouldn't be found in a victorian home, I still can't resist turning my French Country hutch into an apothecary filled to the brim with spell books and potion bottles.

I add bats flying over the grandmother clock and surrounding walls. Adding cut pieces of white gauze can separate sections/rooms in your home and can look eerily like cobwebs hanging down. Cheesecloth can look fantastic hanging from chandeliers and other light fixtures in your home. Never underestimate the power of those cheap bags of cobwebs. Really stretch and string them out and put them everywhere! Do you have an office with doors? Make it into a haunted elevator! Those wall coverings are cheap and just staple on. The doors we made with butcher paper, cardboard, tissue paper and paint.

One of the biggest tips I can give when decorating your home for Halloween is to layer. Layer, layer then layer again!!!!! This time I did use the cheesecloth as a table runner. I used twin sized flat sheets to cover the dinner tables, layered the cheesecloth, then added black and sheer rose petals, porcelain bones, rubber insects, spooky birds and dried moss sprinkled over top. Then I added the chargers (in a deep hue of purple to match my drapes), white paper dinner plates (thing of the dishes not having to be done!), black salad plate, then a bit more of the cut up white gauze and a spider ring as a spooky napkin. 

The lighting in the home can go a loooong way for transporting your guests to a completely different place. Here's an example of a spooky book club meeting we had a few years back. We read the Haunting Of Hill House and different rooms were described using color. Our hostess masterfully achieved mood lighting that changed as we discussed each room. It was a genius touch!

Asking your guests to dress in costume really adds to the look of your party. They become some of the ambiance of the night.

Never too young right? We always seem to rope our kids into helping for bookclub lol.

The night will be one your guests don't want to forget. Make a designated place to take photos so they won't! Mine is always in my makeup studio (behind the elevator doors). It's out of the way and big enough for people to take group shots. I set up a tripod with a phone holder so they can set a timer and not have to wait for someone to snap a pic. I transform the back wall and then they have a great backdrop.

This last year I stapled black dollar store tablecloths to an entire wall then layered framed and spooky Halloween portraits. I LOVED it!!!!

I think I'll add a frame or two every year to keep layering on top.

Element #2

This element if fairly simple and straight forward. I make a playlist on something other than my phone (so I can take pictures) and play it over the speakers in the house. I typically put organ music that you might hear in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. I play it soft enough for people to talk, but loud enough to where it's a presence in the room and fills the nooks and crannies of dead lulls in the conversations lol. There are other places where sound can be heard as well. In one area I have Madame Leota from the Haunted Mansion in a crystal ball. My husband put her narrative on a loop on an old iPod and I put it right inside the crystal ball. Moving books that cackle when someone walks by, old telephones that speak to you when you pick up the receiver. All details of sound that can add to your party. Hopefully the sound of friends conversing and laughing themselves is the cherry on top!

Element #3

This is where you can get crazy creative depending on how much time you have. There are scores of ideas on Pinterest for making the yummiest and spookiest delights for your guests. To make it easier on yourself and let others be creative and feel needed a sign up sheet is a great idea for your party. I typically will choose the menu like so: 


 I get my four soups signed up for first and typically ask for a crockpot full. Then I get about four people to do any salad they want to bring, two people to bring fruit, two people for veggies, six people to bring an appetizer, five people for bread, and eight people for desserts. If more people RSVP, then I just add one or two people to each category. More often than not people ask what they can do or bring. I'll let them know in what area we are lacking and they can choose. Writing it all down helps to know where you might need more. I also do ask people to bring a liter of Sprite as an assignment (see the drink I serve down below).

Like are you kidding me right now? Before we ate these she drizzled caramel over these delectable pastry pears. They were to die for!!! 

Dark berries always look amazing in a Halloween spread.

Adding haunted utensils like these skeleton tongs? Always a good idea!

Adding decor to the food table always makes a nice devilish touch.

Displaying desserts could be one of my favorite things!

Sugared berries were to look like poison berries for this night. Mission accomplished!

The drink part is one of the things I make special for my guests. So many different combinations can be had but Sprite, orange juice and a bit of raspberry syrup is my fave combo. I buy a few liters of sprite and fill these dollar store goblets half way. I then grab my handy syringes ( .10 a piece at Walgreens) and fill them with raspberry syrup and gently place them in the sprite. Ikea drink jugs line the tables filled with orange juice. You fill the rest of the goblet with oj then empty your syringe. It mixes beautifully, looks so cool and tastes amazing!!!

element #4

Has a scent ever brought you back to the past? Like thrust you into a chair and zooooomed you straight back to where you were when you last smelled it? Your sense of smell can be that powerful! Just like sight and sound, it's a necessary element to your party so don't discount it. I've heard it said that it's a faux pas to add a scent to the home when food is cooking, or being served....or present. I don't get that. As long as it's not competing, I saw go for it! Plus, who's ever been to a potluck? Competing smells much? It's totally fine lol. This is also where you can think a little outside the box. My friend's set up their front yard to be Pirates Of the Caribbean every year and it is MAGNIFICENT to behold! They went a thousand steps further than just the sights and sounds and procured an oil that has the SMELL of the ride at Disneyland!!! They drop it into their waterfall and boom....you're there. Next time you're at Disneyland, pay attention to the smells of each ride. I could write a whole post just on that =). For me, I like to have the candles on either side of the haunted elevator lit and glowing to greet guests. The waxy smell is almost eery and dusty....I like it! A caramel apple scent is in the mudroom which spills into the kitchen and guest bathroom area without being too strong and one cinnamon harvest scent is plugged in upstairs so the downstairs gets just a hint of it. Essential oils in a diffuser are never a bad idea either (as long as you think of complimentary smells). The eery smoke that comes out can definitely add to the ambiance.

element #5

I have thrown a lot of gatherings in my day, like hundreds and I've learned a lot from all of them. I've learned how early I need to start to make sure everything gets done. How I need to start at least two months ahead of time for witch's night (a little bit everyday works with my busy schedule). I've learned to write everything out and schedule it all in the calendar. I've learned to accept help! I've learned that it breaks no child labor laws to put my kiddos to work. But the most important thing I've learned is that everyone wants a hostess that isn't stressed, that isn't present or distracted by a million things. That people feel so much more at ease when you can greet them, chat and laugh with them for however long, can EAT with them. And guess what? YOU will be happier too! Have you ever not eaten at your own party? I have, and being a food girl, I was devastated. Being busy busy and hangry is a terrible combo. Basically, be prepared. Have a few back up plans if things don't go quite right and then shrug at anything you can't control. To thank my guests I love having door prizes, a prize for the winner of any games we play and then a best costume prize. Everyone puts their name in a bowl for the door prize, easy peasy. There's usually a jar full of candy corn where if they are the closest guess then they get a prize and I have everyone vote for best costume. I learn from every single event I throw from my mistakes so I'm glad that I make them. It makes me that much more prepared and excited for the next one.

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My name is Jen and I am slightly in love with Halloween...slightly =). I used to play dress up when I was a little girl and now I get to everyday on my IG account too! I love being creative with my hands and pushing my limits and talents.  I have a wonderfully supportive husband and three great kids. We love to travel, see plays, have dance parties in the kitchen, be frugal, be generous and to go to Disneyland! Nice to meet you! Do we have something in common? Feel free to come and visit me:
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