You want your Halloween party to be a scream, but not in a truly awful, lame, or man-this-sucks kinda way. Keep these warnings in mind as you make your plans, whether you’re throwing a real badass rager or a Disney-ish gathering with games. It could save you from morphing into a monster on Oct. 31.
Horror #1: You Run Out of Food, Drinks, or Ice
Set the SceneInstagram-Worthy Halloween Party DecorationsRunning out of food or drinks is THE cardinal sin for Chowhounds (whatever the occasion). Plan to have more than enough food (see Horror #5), but don’t force it on people either. Save the guilt trip. Your homemade, tempting food—like our Chopped Fava Bean Crostini with Pecorino recipe and our Chicken Empanadas recipe—can soak up the alcohol a bit too. As this is Halloween and all, make candy and dessert a priority.
Satiate those salivating sugar fiends, please. Try our Chocolate-Dipped Salted Caramels recipe and other homemade Halloween candy (or upgrade the usual fun-size bars with these Halloween candy dessert recipes). You could even offer homemade candy apples.
Never underestimate the quantity of alcohol you’ll need, or God forbid, forget the ice and cups. It seems like people always need more ice. And booze. Whip up a huge batch of booze with smoky special effects by making this Smoking Swamp Halloween Punch recipe.
And use an ice bucket to go along with your punch; it’s so much nicer (and more hygienic) than a cooler with a Solo cup for scooping cubes. Stash your backup bags of ice in the freezer and refill the bucket as necessary.
Swig Life Marble Ice Bucket, $44.50 at Sur la Table
With a silver scoop included, this classy ice bucket looks right at home in any haunted mansion (or apartment).
Horror #2: Playing Bad Music or Having No Music Plan
Music matters. When it’s bad, people notice. It affects the whole mood of the party. Spend time on the playlist. You can just pick your favorite songs in a medium-to-fast tempo or match the list with a theme such as a decade or songs with a few key words (hot, bad, sweet, fire, animal, hero, hell). Is it a Halloween dance party? You better have a great sound system and not just an iPod dock. Live music? Talk with the musicians to see what their needs are.
Related Reading on CNET: The Best Speakers for 2019
Hook up your TV to something like this Bose Solo 5 TV Sound System for great music quality that doesn’t shake the walls. You can sync it with your playlist using Bluetooth. It’s an easy, high-rated, yet comparably affordable way to up your party music game, plus you have the option to integrate your TV into the party. (Perfect if you’re going for themed horror movie food pairings.)
Horror #3: Neighbors Complain and/or Call the Cops
We’re not in high school anymore, so the arrival of the cops isn’t the sign of an awesome party. It’s the sign of a party that’s over. So if you can stand your neighbors, invite them. It creates goodwill, and even if they don’t attend, they’ll know what to expect and can plan to be away from home if they’re sensitive to noise. If you can’t stand your neighbors, it’ll still help. Consider giving them some brownies, noise-canceling headphones, or something else to sweeten the news of your impending monster bash.
Actually, make a double batch of this so-scrumptious-you-can-be-as-loud-as-you-want Nutella Brownie recipe because you’ll want to serve them at your party too.
Horror #4: Not Telling Guests What to Expect
Now You're Cookin'How to Dress Up as Your Favorite Chefs for HalloweenOn your invitation, give a time frame and detailed directions including the gate or building code and parking instructions. Provide a particular Halloween theme to help people plan their costumes better, whether it’s just a color or something easy like food or superheroes and villains. A more specific theme can help you plan too.
People need time to choose, make, or buy their costumes. Also, guests will appreciate knowing the amount of food to expect at the party. Will you be serving appetizers, dinner, or just desserts/candy? Make it clear ahead of time so they’ll come prepared with the proper appetite.
Check out Our Favorite Kitchen Gadgets for Prepping Your Halloween Party for inspiration when it comes to spooky sweets. Our Creepy Yet Classy Halloween Party Guide is also handy (just like Thing from “The Addams Family”), with suggestions for both decor and food.
Horror #5: Sending the Invitation Too Early or Too Late with No RSVP Request
Three to four weeks before the party is a good in-between time to send your invitations (so yes, it’s technically too late this year, but you know which friends are okay with shorter notice via text).
Generally, sending out invites too early means some people will forget about it. But considering this is a holiday, you’ll want to add on another week to make sure people don’t make previous plans and to give them time to think of a costume. Give a contact phone number or email and require an RSVP so you know how many people to plan for. Then you can calculate how much food, drinks, and supplies you need. If you make your party a Facebook event, it shows up and reminds your guests every time they log into social media, but remember that not everyone has Facebook or looks at it regularly (We know, who are these people?), so use a backup method. If you can send out an electronic calendar invite, along with a paper or emailed invitation, you have a better chance of no one forgetting or making other plans.
Have fun with the invitations. On Etsy, you can buy all sorts of Halloween-themed invites and personalize them.
Horror #6: Not Considering Your Guests’ Needs
On the invite, let guests know whether this is a child-friendly event or not. Then parents can arrange for babysitters well in advance. If it is a kid-friendly event, make sure you have kid-friendly food and drinks—see our Healthy Halloween Treats for some ideas.
And you might want to place the candy in higher spots so parents can regulate their sugar intake. That’ll help everyone, trust us.
Consider the diets of your guests and offer at least a few vegan, keto, gluten-free, etc. options. Label them accordingly, and place a note on your dishes that contain nuts or shellfish, both common allergens.
CB Accessories Mini Chalkboard Place Card Signs with Easel Stands and Chalk, 10 for $14.95 on Amazon
One way to identify your offerings on a buffet table.
Include one interesting nonalcoholic drink too, something besides boring water and soda, like a mocktail or virgin punch. For your designated drivers, pregnant women, underage teens, or anyone who doesn’t want to imbibe, check out our Guide to Mocktails (this book, “Mocktails: A Complete Bartender’s Guide,” provides even more great recipes above and beyond the virgin daiquiri and Shirley Temple, because making a mocktail taste great is more than just leaving out the liquor).
Remember to introduce guests to each other to encourage mingling. Don’t freak out about the cleanliness of your place, or whether your planned activities are on schedule. When you’re nervous or irritated, it will make your guests uncomfortable. Go with the flow. Provide transportation ideas for those who are too drunk to drive: Uber and taxi numbers, as well as fresh linens for crashing at your place. And for those who defy your orders and refuse to wear costumes, into the dungeon they go.
Consider it a chance to use your executioner mask. (Or just try not to hassle them too much about it.)
Visit our Halloween Headquarters for even more eerie inspiration.
Related Video: Spooktacular Dishes for Halloween
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