Halloween as kids is all fun and games. You dress up, you get free candy. The night ends with you on a sugar high riding into the sunset. But what do you do when the neighbor kicks you off her doorstep shouting, “You’ve got to stop! I’m not giving you free candy! You’re 38!”
That means it’s time to get a different excuse to eat too many sweets: a party.
But planning a party seems complicated and overwhelming, but I’ll break it down step by step so you can plan a bash that will rattle everyone’s bones.
Step One: Figure Out the Deets
Before you can start bragging about how awesome your shindig will be, you’ve got to actually figure out some details first. Answer these questions;
- Where? If it’s going to be at your house, not too big of a deal, but if you’re looking to rent a place or utilize a park, ensure that you’ve looked at cost, policies, and made that reservation, which leads to question two.
- When? It might be your instinct to holler, “DUH! Halloween!” but keep in mind parents might need to be taking their kids out and Halloween is on a weeknight. It might be best to opt for the weekend before, but either way, make that decision.
- Who? Last, once you know where and when it will be before you can start inviting folks, you need an idea of where those invitations should go. Make up a least, ask anyone else who’s planning with you and now you’re ready for step two.
Step Two: Invite People
The worst thing is to plan a party, prepare a party, and then have no one show up because they’ve all got other plans. As soon as you know you’re planning something and you’ve got the above details, start inviting people so you can get on their calendar!
How you invite them is up to you. Consider your budget and the aesthetic you want. If your budget is larger and you want the style and pizazz of an aged, wax-sealed envelope delivered to everyone, go for paper invitations. Otherwise, perhaps opt for emailed e-vites or a Facebook event you can easily invite a huge chunk of your friend list too.
Step Three: Decorations and Decor
You’re still a ways out from your party, but it will make your life easier if more than less is prepared. Obviously, you can’t be decorating the whole house RIGHT NOW with a zillion cobwebs, but step three is to plan, buy, and coordinate decor so you know you won’t be running out for black balloons the night of.
Consider what you already own. Get that “Halloween Stuff” box down from the garage. Maybe even the “Christmas” or “Thanksgiving” box too, if you want a string of lights somewhere, plain white lights from the Christmas-theme will work just fine or icy blue lights for a cold, chilling graveyard scene. Raid your Thanksgiving stuff for leaves, pumpkins, anything that can be fit into your Halloween scene.
Once you’ve got what you do own figured out, look for holes. Start making a list or sketch of where you’re decorating. Ask yourself where guests will spend most of their time, that’s where you should focus your decor energy.
Once you’ve identified a plan and what you need for it, make a list and go shopping for those supplies. Also pick up paper plates, utensils, and napkins (and potentially disposable serving materials too!) if you’re not going to use your own.
Step Four: Prep (Food, Music, Layout)
The day of the party is approaching, we’re optimally maybe a week out right now. Now it’s time for that detailed prep.
Write up a menu, consider the time of day you set for a party around 5:00, people may expect enough food to count as dinner. If it’s later, you can get away with appetizer sizes.
Once you’ve got a menu, make sure your guest list doesn’t include anyone with dietary restrictions, if so, make sure you have some options for them on that menu!
Then, make up a shopping list and a cooking schedule.
What can you cook ahead of time and freeze?
What can be made the night before?
What has to be made the day of?
Whether you’re going to use a pre-made playlist or carefully coordinating your own, plan this now. Think about how long your party will be and make sure nothing is going to play over and over again because you didn’t plan enough music out.
Depending on your number of guests, think about if you’ll need to move furniture around and/or get more tables/chairs. Plan that now so you don’t spend three hours arguing about it the morning of, trust me.
Step Five: The Day Before
You’re planned. People are invited. You’re ready, but you’re not there yet! The day before is a day of timely tasks.
- Clean. Make sure your venue is tip-top and tidy. Real cobwebs do not count as decor.
- Decorate and set your furniture. If you can live overnight with your house in party layout, do it now and ease your mind for tomorrow.
- Cook anything you can before.
- Set things out for tomorrow (your costumes, cooking supplies, whatever).
Step Six: Crunch Time
It’s the day of. Your costume is ready. The fridge is stocked. Now what?
→ Do you have ice? Buy some.
→ All the food cooked?
→ Does everyone know how to get to you? Put directions on the Facebook group or make sure your phone is on for that lost soul.
→ Put on your tunes.
→ Put up those last minute decorations.
→ Lay out the food table.
Finally, the time comes.
Step Seven: Do the Monster Mash.
Once the party is in full swing, take care of your guests but remember to let loose and have some fun, that’s what it was all for.