The Dos and Donts of Halloween Hosting

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I promise this isn’t a treatise on etiquette, but rather a few things to consider if you’ve gone all-in for a Halloween party. I’ve found that I already feel a little overwhelmed with all the possibilities, so I thought a list might be in order.

Do ask for help. I decided that, in light of my tendency to over do the things in the food department, our party would be pot luck. I’ve encouraged guests to bring unusual dishes and desserts and then I’ll supplement with a few other ones (bleeding fruits, a spit covered with odd bits of meat, and those heart cupcakes).

Do think out of the box. Having recently visited the local mega retailer it’s definitely tempting to pick up the ready-made motion detecting spooky rock sets and glow in the dark mushrooms and whatnot. Consider that lighting is really your best friend, and that a little goes a long way. Anything triggered by motion or sound is going to get really annoying really fast and turned off early in the night. Don’t go so all out with decorations that people have no place to sit, either!

Do take time to plan ahead. Give yourself a week, a few days, because if you’re planning for something really spooky and splendid you really can’t do it all at the last minute. I mean, sure, there are folks who manage it perfectly fine, but if you’re a disorganized mess like me you’ll need the time for trial and error! (Today: modding my guns for the steampunk outfit and making decorations, tomorrow cooking and prepping, etc.)

Don’t treat your guests like kids. Sure, there’s something to be said for the childlike wonder that comes along with Halloween. But shoving candy and crafts at them will likely not encourage them to stay or, if you plan to do it again, come back. Yes, I’m making slime and odd decorations, but I’m not forcing my guests to bob for apples or paint their own jack o’ lanterns. Themes are fine, if your guests know in advance, but try to move beyond the stock themes. Consider themes like dead scientists or writers, classic horror film monsters, ancient monsters, adventure and steampunk, fantasy creatures, etc. Yeah, and don’t forget the libation.

Don’t forget the balance. Too much planned activities can result, as mentioned above, in a school-aged atmosphere. Too little will make your guests wonder why they got dressed up in the first place. Some good ideas might be to play movies (the sort you can watch in bits and still have other opportunities for socialization). Perfect films (in my humble opinion) include The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, Manos the Hands of Fate (MST3K version), Young Frankenstein, or, the selection for this year at our house: Labyrinth. If you want a true scare-fest, best make that clear to your guests. A good horror flick is fine, but some guests don’t exactly dig going out to parties just to sit and watch an entire film through. We’re also playing the game Werewolf and will have a costume contest, as well as Brazen Head divination.

Don’t underestimate science! Baking soda, vinegar, borax, corn starch: these are what I think of when I approach Halloween. With the commercialization of the holiday we’ve become accustomed to boxed spookiness. But with your kitchen and your scientific know how you can create all sorts of wondrous Halloween tricks and treats. If you have fun, your guests will have fun, too.

Some projects to consider:

[Image by stevechasmarCC]

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