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I’ll put a spell on you: Tips for an easy and wonderful halloween gathering

October 25, 2015

Hello friends, have the leaves been on fire with color around you, too? Each time I step outside I’m met with delight as if it is the first time I’m seeing it. What intrigues me most though is the incredible difference light makes. When the sun is out each leaf seems to be lighting itself from within. When the sun is gone, the leaves and branches fade into themselves, dark and brooding. And that’s exactly how it was yesterday, perfect for our Halloween party.

This is only our second year having one -and I use the term “party” loosely as it’s more of a small gathering of friends dressed up in costumes- but it’s something that I’ve really looked forward to. I had two personal objectives for the party (gathering) planning: a) the atmosphere/decorations had to be simply wonderful and b) to not sign up for more than I could enjoy doing (this was hard to stick to, but worth sticking to). Check, and check. Here are my tips for you (and spam of the party decor) from me (and Lady Falconberry, too! She was in the decorating trenches with me).

1. You Don’t Need More Decorations; You Need Less Distracting From What You Have

Elegant Black Roses as a deliciously dark bathroom touch

Elegant Black Roses as a deliciously dark bathroom touch

Holiday decorations are expensive; stores really take the opportunity for people to splurge on holiday giddiness (and we do) but what I realized this year while looking for Halloween decor inspiration was that my favorite ones had one thing in common: the displays were very simple. There weren’t floral paintings or bright happy family portraits with a huge ghoul statue next to it. So quite simply the best thing I did this year was move everything out of the room (within reason) that stood out or broke the theme. I designated a place in our bedroom for everything to be placed so we wouldn’t lose anything when it came time to clean up. Not only is this free but it’s easier to dress a blank canvas than one that already has a clashing personality. This also helps cut back on what you do need because there’s less competing for attention. Like in the photo above, I put away our helicopter toothbrush holder (not a joke, no we don’t have kids), and covered our bright pop painting with a fringy black cloth. Our mismatched and bleached out hand towels were replaced with hand towels with small bats on them, leaving a blank sink; the perfect place for two black roses.

In our living room I noticed that our framed posters around the room introduced too many fun colors. I didn’t want to just take them down (boo bare walls) or cover them all with different cloths (boring and could be pricy) so we decided to use them to make some easy diy Halloween art: Silhouettes! I picked out Alfred Hitchcock and Ashley picked out Nosferatu. We found some sample images we liked, drew them onto black poster board, cut it out and taped it onto the backs of the posters that were already in the frames. Not only did this cut back on the color but it added our favorite touch to the final display.

Hand made silhouettes

Hand Made Nosferatu Silhouette (Hitchcock not pictured)

2. Work with what you already have

Not only did we use our framed posters for silhouettes, but we dressed up others in the room as a fun twist. Brooks’ orange Rodriguez poster was dressed up with a cat face, while Florence Welch was affixed with a witch nose and hat. I followed a similar approach for my costume (Wednesday Addams). I chose her because besides being an awesomely troubled and dark character, I could pinpoint her look to a few key items: long dark braids, black dress with a white collar, black tights, overall darkness. My hair is already long, I had an old black dress (and tights) and was able to make a simple collar to stitch on. To introduce an element of darkness I made a spider pendant from a spider ring and a metal pendant I found. All I needed to buy for the look was the hair color spray ($2.00), the spider ring ($1.00 for a pack of 12), and the white muslin for the collar ($0.75). Not bad.

Wednesday Addams Before & After Costume

Before & After

This goes for decorations too. In our bedroom were two masks BC and I had bought in New Orleans for Halloween, so I hung one on the wall in between an open curtain of black streamers.

Masquerade mask from New Orleans as centerpiece decoration

Masquerade mask from New Orleans as centerpiece decoration

Ashley had the incredible idea to use my Stephen King books as stands for the main display table. We took the covers off to show the worn hardcovers. I also had a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tails that we put out. This touch is a close second behind the silhouettes. Look around your house for things that can be adapted into the theme, I bet you’d be surprised at what you already have.

Pumpkin light on stack of old books

Old Books as Stands

3. Use lots of what’s affordable

Taking away the streamers from our shindig would be like shaving a poodle, it would look a little naked. There are lots of cheaper things that can be compounded to create a great atmosphere. The short list is: streamers, candles, music, and pizza. However, do it within reason. We didn’t put streamers everywhere, but in the places we did use them we didn’t skimp. It’s all about balance. A few well placed bundles of streamers is better than a whole room covered in them. Don’t set your house on fire because you lit a thousand tea lights; put a few in clusters in safe places that are enhanced by them. You get the point.

the hallway

The hallway

4. Choose Your Battles; Enjoy Yourself

If you’re a means-to-an-end kind of person you may want to reconsider. If you recall earlier in the post my second objective was to only take on what I could do and enjoy doing. This was hard for my inner perfectionist who kept picturing a lavish table with toffee dipped apples and a candle chandelier hanging from the ceiling (v. unrealistic), not to mention guests laughing and actually enjoying themselves. But I’ve been really working on being present and enjoying each moment. Not with a fixed smile on my face, but more so a loving, present, presence (I’m also very good at describing how foods taste). So anyway I wanted to actually be there while I was decorating, not fretting about the millions of other things my mind was adding to the checklist. This meant that I actually had a steady level of happiness throughout the whole process, but it also meant I had to make choices. I spent most of the (smaaallllll) budget on decor, as well as most of the mental and physical energy, so I took it easy on food. Brooks’ mom and one of our guests Robin made killer cookies to put out, we knew we’d be ordering pizza, and there weren’t too many of us, so all I had to take care of were drink fixings, making spinach artichoke dip, and Halloween candy (of course). Will I win an award for most imaginative fall spread? Nope, but I don’t think I’m up for any awards anyway. And who cares. 🙂

I also had to sacrifice the painting of my nails for my costume, but it was in exchange for the ability to leisurely finish preparing for the party. A worthy (and conscious) tradeoff for sure. And don’t forget that the party itself is a ‘battle’ that you can choose to take on or not. Maybe you saw a show or magazine that whetted your appetite to take on being a hostess, but there’s nothing wrong in realizing that it isn’t right for you. Maybe you’re anxious about having so many people in your space, or you realize that although you can have a party for cheap, that it’s still out of your price range. That’s totally fine. Whatever battles you end up facing during your planning try to remember that none of them should actually be battles, the point of a party is to get people together to have a great time. Lavish decorations and losing sleep over doing too much defeats the entire purpose.

Here are some more pictures of how everything came together. Now go look around your house for decorations you already own and invite over your favorite people. Happy Halloween!

Halloween Decorations

Halloween Decorations  - Main table

The main table

The main area

signoff Until next time
(P.S. I welcome (nice, kind, sweet, gentle, funny) punctuation advice)

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