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How to Throw a Halloween Party Like a Pro

Oct 13, 2014

by Sarah Starpoli

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Sarah Starpoli works on the Culture and Engagement Team at Etsy. Her most impressive Halloween costume was probably the year she dressed up as a creepy broken porcelain doll and terrified all her coworkers.

It may go against convention, but I consider Halloween the most wonderful time of the year. As a member of Etsy’s Culture and Engagement Team, I’ve been lucky enough to throw Halloween parties for Etsy HQ and witness firsthand the creative magic that comes along with dressing up as someone (or something!) different for an evening. Halloween is an opportunity for even the most shy folks to break out of their shells: I’ve seen friends turn into rockstars and my most reserved coworkers transform themselves into adorable animals, scary monsters or fully operational robots.

Believe me when I say that there is nothing more fun than bringing your friends together and having them show off their creative skills at a rocking costume party. Even if you’ve never thrown one before, your shindig is guaranteed to be a success with a few simple tips:

1. Choose a theme. This gives your planning process some structure and sets the tone for food and decor. A theme will also give those without a costume idea something to work with. The best part is that you can make your theme as scary, funny or strange as you want, depending on your guest list. Pay homage to your favorite horror movie or book; pick a creepy setting like a haunted forest, a mad scientist’s laboratory, or a morgue; or make the party one big event, like a vampire disco. It’s also fun to try a theme that isn’t very Halloween-y on its own – like a birthday party or a wedding – and make it surreal or frightening. Creepy doll birthday or ghost wedding, anyone?

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2. Teamwork + DIY Decor. Don’t throw your party alone – definitely enlist the help of some creative friends! A good team of people will help you keep your vision and tasks on track — while also leading you in new and inspiring directions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought folks together to do something simple like create shadow cutouts for the walls and ended up building, say, intricate life-size dioramas, instead. Whatever your approach, don’t forget to make or buy items like bunting, spiderwebs or banners, which can be used to quickly decorate large sections of the space and instantly set the mood.

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3. Rethink snacks. Peeled grape “eyeballs” and cold spaghetti “worms” are fun, but tired. Make a statement with your food choices (while making sure they are edible) by choosing a color theme, like all red foods or all black foods. Include this on the invite and ask folks to bring their best monochromatic dish. Another fun option is to costume the foods you serve; get creative and turn your tater tots, cupcakes, cookies and candies into skeletons or other theme-appropriate picks.

4. Have a costume-making table for those who show up without one. Give your guests without a costume an opportunity to express themselves, too. Be sure to include masks for decorating and interesting fabrics for wrapping up in. You can never go wrong with a selection of wigs or mustaches.

5. Lighting. From scary to fun-house, rethink the lighting in your venue by replacing a few key lights with black light bulbs or dark lampshades.

6. Hold a costume contest. Award prizes for funniest, scariest, most creative, or most on-theme. Reward the winners with a vintage trophy, a selection of knickknacks that fit the party’s motif, or treat bags full of candy.

7. And finally, craft a killer playlist. There’s nothing quite like watching people in elaborate costumes try to dance, so make sure to compile a party-ready playlist ahead of time. You can even ask folks to send you their favorite dance jams as an RSVP to make sure there’s something for everyone.

Happy hosting!

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