I absolutely love Halloween. All of the colorful costumes — both good and bad — the dark décor, pumpkins in a variety of colors, and of course, the sweets!
Inspired by the treats handed out on the 31st, I created this elegant scene that is sophisticated enough for an adult cocktail party, but is also suitable for a family-friendly get-together. Beginning with a palette of black and natural tones, I added a festive glamour with mass amounts of glitter — this dark and spooky table (above) is the end result. I am not much for gore, but this spread is the perfect balance of chill-inducing creepiness and fun that young guests will enjoy, too — and it features all of my favorites of the season. I like to think of it as “elegantly creepy.”
“Shop” Your Closets
When setting a scene for a party, be it Halloween, or just a family gathering, I always encourage people to shop in their own home. Repurposing items in a new way provides a ton of opportunities for a host to add an unexpected, creative element to the party, without having to buy new stuff, saving you money, time, and precious closet space.
I used lots of plain old glass cake plates (in black, silver, and clear hues, left) to serve cupcakes. Glitter skull stickers transform plain votives (below, left). Traditional dragon-shaped black and silver salt and pepper shakers round out the look, along with timeless mercury candlesticks and cake plates that are typically only pulled out at Christmas time!
I used the mercury cake plates as pedestals for the giant silver glitter skulls (right). One had a giant puffy spider hanging out on its head, and the other hosts a creepy crow that seems to be keeping watch over the spread of sweets.
Use Natural Elements and Turn Down the Lights
When setting the table, add some natural elements to the mix, such as tortoise shells, ostrich eggs, horns, and other “dead” items like coral and abandoned shells, giving the setting a creepy, taxidermist’s office feel.
To catch my guests’ eye and bring their line of sight up, I used ripped, coffee-dyed cheesecloth and spiderwebs and hung them in the corners of the room. Candlelight, rather than incandescent, helps complete the super-creepy feel.
Make It Yourself
Instead of buying elaborately decorated creatures, do it yourself, if you’re feeling crafty. I glittered dozens of plastic insects, as well as skulls and bones (left), for a polished, classy look. All you need to do is apply craft glue with a paint brush, then sprinkle the surface liberally with shades of black and silver glitter. I transformed these cheap plastic spider rings (left) into sparkly works of art for mere pennies.
Add a “Mad Scientist” Feel
You wouldn’t ordinarily eat bones, but for a spooky Halloween party, it’s a must. I filled an apothecary jar with “Goblin Bones,” or homemade white chocolate bones and skulls. I used plastic skull molds from a craft store and melted white chocolate to create the treats. All you do is fill the molds, and then pop them into the freezer for about five minutes, and you’re done. These molds come in a huge variety of styles, and you could always use colored “luster dust” or food coloring to make them even crazier!
Serve Creepy Cocktails
This vintage-feeling bar stocked with decanters and retro cocktail shakers is watched over by a wart-ridden, magical toad. Instead of traditional cocktails, I’m serving test-tube vials filled with a cocktail shot made up of Pop Rocks, vodka, and 7-Up, and then “eyeball” gin martinis (right). For a truly over-the-top addition, use dry ice in the container in which the shots are served. The smoke drifting into the air adds a creepy feel.
And Creature-Inspired Sweets
With a little imagination, transform everyday treats into something scary and gross. After serving a steaming pot of pumpkin soup and a fresh green salad, I set up a spread of cupcakes and candy that appear gross, yet are delightfully good.
The best part of the night is of course the treats. I baked red velvet cakes in mini Mason jars, and then topped them with toasted marshmallow fluff, and transformed them into miniature creatures with creepy skeleton arms crawling out of the sides!
I also served pumpkin cupcakes, topped with caramel buttercream and creepy spiders, and apple cupcakes, with maple frosting, a skull, and crossed bones, to round out the homemade treats.
Offer guests “ringworms,” or black licorice swirls, in a beautiful glass bowl. Other candies can be used in new ways, like white coconut jelly bean “maggots,” and green apple-flavored “witches' boogers.” So gross, yet so fun.