Conjure up a Halloween party that draws on autumn's natural splendor, punctuated with spooky touches
Setting the Scene
Come October, often you can still host a party outdoors. Just let fall's exuberant palette lend a hand with the decorating, suggest Richard Kollath and Ed McCann, who like to layer in atmospheric Halloween accents when entertaining. The designers, authors, and event planners (their most recent book is Faux Flowers; Chronicle Books) advise: "Host a party for adults or families the week before Halloween, then leave the decorations up for trick-or-treaters." You also have a great excuse not to sweep up the leaves, which, scattered across the ground, help set the scene. Autumn foliage, faux crows, candlelight, and plenty of jack-o'-lanterns cast a welcoming spell on an outdoor dessert buffet.
FAUX PUMPKINS called Funkins, made from polyurethane foam, can be carved just like real pumpkins. Bonus: They are already hollow and lightweight, too, making them ideal for projects such as a jack-o'-lantern chandelier.
LEAVES AND GOURDS, such as these pear branches, bittersweet berries, squash, and bottle gourds, with their shapely silhouettes, make for eerie effects.
BRING COLLECTIONS of vintage plates, platters, and mugs in seasonal hues outside. Richard and Ed used a bottle caddy (turned candle holder on the chair), cake stand, and painted table and chairs to lend visual richness to the setting.
ILLUMINATE the scene with candlelight from lanterns, votives, and jack-o'-lanterns (light them safely with battery-operated Christmas lights, electric candles, or flashlights).
Trick: Create different "destinations" or stations at a party — for appetizers, mulled cider, and dessert. Treat: Guests move comfortably from one spot to another — enjoying more opportunities for mingling.
Halloween entertaining is all about scaring up creative ways to celebrate the holiday. Neither children nor grown-ups want to miss out on trick-or-treating. Treat every guest to a surprise right at the door — perhaps with candy-filled cones nestled in a vintage plant stand aflutter with feathered crows.
DELICIOUS FILLINGS: The cones spill over with treats such as all-day suckers, rock-candy swizzle sticks, and chocolate eyeballs. You can find similar candies online atcandyfavorites.com and bulkcandystore.com. For adults, consider more sophisticated fare — chocolate truffles and espresso beans and candy coffee stirrers.
Candy Cone How-to's
1. To create a cone about 10 inches long, first wrap an 8½ by 11 sheet of heavyweight white paper on the diagonal. Trim excess paper. Use this as a template to cut as many cones as desired.
2. Shaping each cone according to the template, use pinking shears to cut a band of glossy orange paper about four inches wide for the middle of the cone, and a band of yellow paper about 3 wide for the top. Affix the orange and yellow bands to the white base, then join the ends of the cone together, using double-sided tape.
Trick: Visit the iTunes music store at apple.com for fun — and scary — Halloween music mixes to download onto CDs. Treat: Stock up the CD changer before the party.
Spell out your greeting in mini pumpkins gathered at a prominent — and stationary — location. First, pencil letters on hollowed pumpkins (carve out the opening from the bottom). Then, using a drill with a half bit, bore holes to form each letter. Here, strings of Christmas-tree lights, gathered in small bunches, illuminate each pumpkin (unscrew bulbs where the string descends to the next row).
Trick: "Use no more lighting than you need," advises Ed McCann. "Rely on candlelight as much as possible." Treat: "Let an outdoor fireplace and torches provide a warming glow."
Nice Night Anchor pillar candles in a bed of candy corn (above) or black and orange jelly beans (below) for seasonal touches. Tuck candles and small pumpkins inside glass cylinders or canning jars. Chocolate- and caramel-covered apples from Stonewall Kitchen make toothsome favors.
It wouldn't be Halloween without them. Some families make it an annual ritual to go to a pumpkin patch and choose the specimens they want to bring home. Bare-limbed trees provide the perfect ghostly perch for jack-o'-lanterns, candle lanterns, and a flock of faux black crows (don't be surprised if a few real ones alight). Make sure the tree limbs are sturdy enough to support the weight of the items you are hanging and take care not to overdecorate, which can lessen the overall effect. Funkins are an especially good choice for this project, since they're lightweight and won't rot. "Skip the fancy pumpkin-carving tools," advises Richard Kollath, who likes an old short-bladed serrated knife for carving both pumpkins and Funkins. Small lanterns from Barreveld International, fitted with orange votives, cast spooky shadows on your setting.