You want your 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.
Running out of food or drinks is THE cardinal sin for Chowhounds. 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. 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. Use an ice bucket for your punch, which is so much nicer than a cooler with a Solo cup for scooping cubes.
The Cambridge Collection Ice Bucket and Tong Set is a classy and hygienic way for party guests to cool their drinks. Buy it here. Stash your backup bags of ice in the freezer and refill the bucket as necessary.
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.
Hook up your TV to Bose's 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. Buy it here.
This HMDX-JAM Party Wireless Stereo Speaker is another idea for an even more affordable (less than $50) party-type speaker that's also Bluetooth enabled. It's portable, operates on a lithium-ion rechargeable battery that's supposed to last eight hours, and has an AC power cord. This one's got bass worth boasting about. Besides canary yellow, it comes in blue, pink, and gray. Buy it here.
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 with your notice.
Use these irresistible brownies as your neighbors' hush money. Get our so-scrumptious-you-can-be-as-loud-as-you-want Nutella Brownies recipe.
Horror #4: Not telling guests what to expect
On 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, like this Classic Banana Costume. Buy it here. Also, guests will appreciate knowing the amount of food to expect at the party. Will you be serving appetizers, dinner, or just desserts/candy? They'll come prepared with the proper appetite.
Keep it simple by serving your appetizers or sweets on this three-tiered tray. The Chefland 3-Tier Rectangular Serving Platter has three porcelain plates with a metal rack, each about 12-inches-by-six-inches. The plates are dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe. Buy it here.
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. 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.
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. 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. Include one interesting nonalcoholic drink, 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, this book, Mocktails: A Complete Bartender's Guide, provides great recipes above and beyond the virgin daiquiri and Shirley Temple. Making a mocktail taste great is more than just leaving out the liquor. Buy it here.
If you know some guests are vegetarian, gluten-free, or Paleo, provide some options they can enjoy. Place a note on your dishes that contain nuts or shellfish, both common allergies. 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. Buy it here. (Or just try not to hassle them too much about it.) ... OK then. Let the planning and cooking begin. Party on, dudes.
— Head photo: Tim Barber/X Desktop Wallpapers.
Amy Sowder is a New York City-based food and fitness writer who's also on Chowhound's editorial staff. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Ice cream is a strong motivation for her running habit. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.