October 11, 2010

Vintage Halloween countdown part two: party planning and entertaining

Another week has flown by, like a cackling witch on a gnarled broomstick, in the countdown to All Hallows Eve. While last week we peered (through the soccer’s crystal ball) at Halloween home decor and decorating ideas, today’s post is devoted to the subject of Halloween party planning and entertaining.

Though many people clamour to hold to parties on the weekend of – or before, depending on when the big day falls – Halloween, there is much to be said in favour of throwing your fete a little earlier in the month as well. In fact, I clearly remember that some of the fun Halloween parties we had as children were held two or three weekends ahead of the 31st, thus helping to ensure that more of our invited neighbourhood chums and schoolmates would have a clear party schedule and be able to attend our festive shindigs (to this day, I like to implement this model when planning holiday get-togethers that can logically occur in advance of a given special day – holding your New Year’s celebration on December 7th, for example, may however not make a lot of sense!).

However, I’ve found that perhaps more important than the actual date of your party or other social gathering, is how much advance notice you provide your guests with. Generally speaking, for all but the most informal of holiday bashes, I like to send out my invites two to four weeks beforehand (with an RSVP date included on the invite). This way I get to find out in advance who’s going to show up and can plan everything from my menu to my guest seating in accordance (though, it never hurts to set an extra seat or two available, you never know when your best friend is going to bring her new beau or your neighbour’s babysitter cancels at the last moment and you’ve suddenly got three darling kids added to the guest list).

Halloween celebrations have the wonderful benefit of naturally lending themselves to being very fun and easy-going. Though I adore formal get-togethers to absolutely no end (fine china, black tie affairs set my heart aflutter!), Halloween is not the time to worry yourself sick over planning a party!

In order to help everything run smoothly, decide in advance of sending out your invitations what sort of party you’d like to have. Is it going to be, for example, an adult-only affair with a dark and spooky gothic feel, a breezy afternoon kid-friendly pumpkin carving get-together for friends and relatives alike, or a masquerade ball for your coworkers?

Set your budget and take inventory of what sorts of party items you already have and which you’ll need to make, borrow, rent or purchase. Handcraft or buy – and then send out (or email, if opting for e-vites) – your invites with all of the pertinent party details (who, what, when, where and why, plus any other relevant details), then (if you’ve not already done so) start planning your Halloween party menu (if you’re holding a potluck or BYOD [bring your own dish] meal, be sure to let guests know about this in your invites).

Despite (or perhaps because of) the inherent spookiness factor of Halloween, parties that celebrate this delightfully eerie day are usually wonderfully light-hearted events. Your menu could be anything from a five course meal to a sideboard dotted with scrumptious canapés and festively themed beverages (few holidays lend themselves better to setting out a punch bowl than Halloween), to a tray of candy apples and generous sized bowls of popcorn to nibbled during a scary movie marathon. Halloween is a time for whimsical, creative foods that really do not take themselves very seriously (for example, tomato bisque transforms into “vampire’s delight”, whereas spiced and toasted almonds make perfect “werewolf claws”). Even if you opt for a more formal menu (think roasted root vegetables, rustic breads, smoked meats and cheeses; rich, oaky wines, and a dessert featuring pumpkin), there should still be a sense of fun (and vintage nostalgia) to your Halloween meal and the table it’s set upon.

As with any party, good planning is the key to helping your fete succeed. Decide on the theme (and location, if you’d like to throw your party someplace other than your own home), the guest list, the menu, the entertainment (such as music, movies, games, interactive events like face painting, crafts, or cupcake decorating), your costume (and, if applicable, those of your children), and the decorations, then have a ball gathering up and creating all of the elements that will help make your get-together an highly enjoyable and memorable one (and don’t forget to have at least one camera ready to capture all those fabulous Halloween party memories!).

To get you started on the right (skeleton) foot, I’ve rounded up a selection of marvellously old school themed Halloween party items and ideas for everything from invitations to festive games, gift bags to hauntingly excellent table decor that all share a wonderfully appealing vintage theme in common (stay tuned for next week’s instalment of this series, as it’s going to be devoted to the topic of costumes and vintage Halloween themed clothing and accessories).

Party Invitations

{Sweeter than a bowl of candy corn, this darling Halloween party invitation features an adorable vintage illustration of trick-or-treaters receiving yummy goodies, and would make a perfect invite for parties for, or involving, young guests. Set of ten printed invitations with coordinating envelopes, $17.00, from etsy seller Loralee Lewis.}

{More friendly than frightening, these immensely fun jack-o-lantern party invitations are vintage reproductions that look as though they could have just been unearthed from your great-grandma’s attic. Six card set of fold-out, die-cut pumpkin shaped invitations, $4.00, from The Vintage Halloween Shop.} 

{A charmingly lovely party scene graces the front of these vintage reproduction cards, which features fill-in-the-blank lines for you to add your own party details to. These pretty cards would be just the thing to send off to school with your kids so they could invite their classmates to celebrate Halloween together. Set of 15 invitations with white envelopes, $9.95, from D. Blümchen & Company.}

{Eerily enthralling Victorian style oozes from this marvellously macabre party invite, that is sure to rattle your guests’ bones with excitement over your upcoming Halloween bash. Set of ten printed cards with coordinating envelopes, $17.00, from etsy seller Loralee Lewis.}

{Like something unearthed from the dusty corners of a crypt, these spooky invitation cards from the Martha Stewart Halloween line are sure to elicit intrigue from anybody who receives one. Set of twelve “Vampire” invitations with matching envelopes, $19.00, from Grandin Road.} 

{Beauty and marvellously fun vintage Halloween art collide on this preciously lovely invitation set, complete with a wise old owl and trio of cute little sparrows. Set of ten printed cards with coordinating envelopes, $17.00, from etsy seller Loralee Lewis.}


{Lure unsuspecting guests to your door or through the entry way and on to your Halloween shindig, with this fun little black bat sign covered in midnight hued sparkles. 16 w x 9.5 h inch black glistening bat “Enter” sign, $7.95, from Curious Sofa.}

{Once glance at these cheeky, playful jack-o-lantern hanging lanterns and it’s impossible not to crack a grin yourself. Looking wonderfully old fashioned, these darling orange pumpkin lights come in a set of three (measuring 8, 10, and 12 inches each, respectively) and are available for $19.00 (for the set), from Pottery Barn Kids.} 

{No need to reserve wreaths for Yule-time celebrations alone, especially when there are ones as bright, sparkly and festive as this terrific ring of shimmery plastic balls just waiting to adorn any door or wall in your home. “Hallowtide Wreath” (measuring 14” in diameter), $24.99, from Victorian Trading Company.}

{Adorable or menacing, you decide, but either way this charming garland bedecked with vintage looking black kitty faces is bound to be the cat’s meow at your next Halloween fete! “Creepy Cat Garland Set” (which includes seven feet of black satin ribbon and eight cat cut-outs), $9.99, from Vintage Halloween (The Vintage Party).}

{Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes trio of black crow’s feet candles which look as though they could have very easily materialized from an Edgar Allan Poe tale, and you suddenly find yourself pining for one of the coolest flame-less candles ever to have been created. Three piece set of battery operated Crow’s Feet candles (tallest candle is 11”), $12.99, from Victorian Trading Company.}

{Take your pick from this smiling lot of Halloween characters, amongst which you’ll find a black cat, skeleton head, grinning jack-o-lantern, and cute owl all transformed into festively fantastic papier-mâché luminaries (measuring 12 inches tall, save for the pumpkin which is 14”). A special water-resistant coating helps these lovely figures hold up well when placed outdoors, but of course you could just as easily enliven your indoor decor with them as well. Each luminary sells for $24.99, and is available from Pottery Barn Kids.}

{Whether you’re serving a full bar or a simple (yet intensely delicious!) jug of warm apple cider, this enchantingly old fashioned looking sign is sure to entertain each thirsty guest at your party. Pumpkin shaped “Witching Hour Pub” sign (measuring 14 x 18 inches), $49.99, from Victorian Trading Company.}

{The enthralling essence of Halloween is so perfectly captured in these shadowy black vignettes, which come to life thanks to the fact that they’re votive holders just waiting for you to place a lit candle behind them. Three piece set of “Spooky Votive Vignettes”, $68.25 from A Vintage Holiday.}

{Inky black silhouettes are an instantaneous way to add spooky allure to any room, and this set of old fashioned looking chandeliers is no exception. Chain comprised of six large and six small cardboard cut-outs (measuring five feet long), $13.95, from Curious Sofa.}

{What fate has befallen those who lay beneath these macabre (yet decidedly cute – thanks to the darling black cat figures prowling around in front of them) tombstones, your guests are sure to wonder as they approach your (haunted) yard. Set of three decoupaged wooden tombstones (measuring between 8.5 and 13” inches tall), $23.25, from A Vintage Holiday.}

(And for a myriad of other delightful vintage themed Halloween decorations that are sure to help inspire your own holiday decor, be sure to check out last week’s post on that very subject.)

Fun & Games

{If you’re thinking of holding a masquerade ball, why not forgo the traditional Venetian style masks and instead provide your party-goers with one of these incredibly neat masks styled after characters from the roaring 20s? Unleash your inner Gatsby or flapper girl with one of the eight different paper masks (which come complete with ribbon ties so that you can hid your true identity in a flash) in this great set, which retails for $30.00 from Plasticland.}

{Give the donkey the day off, and in its place let your guests go to work trying to pin the tail on the black cat instead! :-) “Pin The Tail On The Scaredy Cat” game set (which includes one game poster and 12 numbered “tails”), $9.99, from Victorian Trading Company.}

{Proof positive that games needn’t be expensive or complex to be oodles of fun, this classic party pastime is sure to be a hit at your next All Hallows Eve gathering. To play, each person punches open a numbered door and follows the instructions contained on a tiny card hidden behind it, which tells them to such things as “Howl at the moon” or“Ride a broom around the room”. Vintage reproduction Halloween stunt board (measuring 4 x 5.25 inches), $3.50, from D. Blümchen & Company.}

{Long before the era of video games, players clamoured around the pinball machine for hours of jolly fun. Why not keep that spirit alive with this fantastically lovely antique reproduction tabletop pinball game (board is made from decoupaged wood and measures 11 x 17 inches), which is available for $90.75, from A Vintage Holiday.}

{Keep guests of all ages entertained with a traditional game of ring toss, only this time, there’s a frighteningly fun Halloween twist to it care of a spooked black cat! “Sassy Cat” ring toss set (complete with paper board and six chenille rings), $12.00, from Vintage Halloween (The Vintage Party).}

{Soothsayers, gypsies, fortune tellers, mediums, clairvoyants, and mystics, this one is for you! A classic clear crystal ball set atop a gorgeous Victorian looking brass stand is just the ticket to help liven up your party, as you dole out fortunes and predictions to your intrigued guests. 10 inch crystal ball and stand, $119.95, from Victorian Trading Company.} 

{Wake up the dead (or at least anyone within earshot!) with these wonderfully pretty, Halloween noise makers featuring awesome vintage illustrations. Set of eight black or orange (you pick which colour you’d like – or grab one of both) Halloween “Toot Horns” (each measuring 8.5 inches long), $2.50 from D. Blümchen & Company.}

{Almost too beautiful in its old fashioned elegance to use, this artfully constructed Halloween Bingo set looks like a treasured family heirloom – and is sure to become one in your family if you add it to your game collection. “Hallowe’en Bingo Game” set (including wooden number board, pressed paper cards, and wire bingo ball spinner complete with balls), $113.75, from A Vintage Holiday.}

Table Decor & Tableware

{Serve up screams or smiles in these lovely Halloween themed drinking glasses (depending on what type of brew you ladle into them!), which are made from shatter and scratch resistant plastic. Four piece Halloween tumbler set (each cup measures 4 inches high), $18.00, from Pottery Barn Kids.} 

{When hunting for holiday decor I always like to keep an eye out for pieces that can be used repeatedly from year-to-year, and these immensely lovely chalkboard place-card holders fit that specific quality to a tee. Featuring silhouettes of a frightened black cat and three different birds, this enchanting four piece set from etsy seller Middleburg Folk Art Studio retails for $44.00.}

{Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble! Have your guests cackling over the punch at your next Halloween celebration, when you place this timelessly stylish cauldron set on the table (eye of newt and toe of frog, optional ;-D). Black ceramic punch bowl set with matching ladle, $39.95, from Victorian Trading Company.}

{An adorable little witch and her equally cute black cat peer out from this beautiful mug and plate set featuring artwork by famed Victorian illustrator and commercial artist Ellen Clapsaddle, which would look so darling atop any Halloween table. Two-piece porcelain ceramic mug and (8 inch) plate set, $16.99, from Victorian Trading Company.}

{Merging Kawaii with creepy, these fantastically cute little pink and black salt and pepper shakers would look amazing on just about any Halloween table (why not pick up a few sets and put one at each guest’s place setting for even more girly Halloween charm?). Skull shaped salt and pepper set (each piece measures 2 x 2 inches), $20.00, from Plasticland.}

{These terrifically appealing vintage looking Halloween placemats are so lovely, you’re bound to feel conflicted as to whether or not you should place anything atop them, thus obscuring the pretty illustration they sport, or just use them as marvelous pieces of art. Featuring iconic Halloween symbols such as a haunted house, full moon, black cats, and screech owls, these charming vinyl placemats measure 18 x 13 inches, and are available in sets of four for $20.00, from Pottery Barn Kids.}

{No one will ever capture the zombie-esque spirit of Frankenstein better than Boris Karloff, whose iconic role is immortalized on these paper napkins that are sure to have vintage and movie fans alike fawning over them. Package of twenty 5” cocktail napkins, $5.95, from Z Gallerie.}

{Stir up some fabulously frightening fun with these cuter-than-cute pink and black skull bedecked swizzle sticks. Set of four acrylic and ceramic 8.75 inch tall “Girly Skull Swizzle Sticks”, $17.00, from Plasticland.}

{Dish out your favourite orange (nacho chips, apricots, cheese balls, etc) or black (licorice, jelly beans, blackberries, etc).} snacks in this compartmental serving platter, which features a mischievous pair of jack-o-lanterns and a spirited black cat. Melamine, 13 inch “Sassy Cat” chip and dip platter, $9.75, from A Vintage Holiday.}

{Decorate (or spear, as the case may be) everything from profiteroles to cupcakes, popcorn balls to mini hamburgers with this appealingly fun set of plastic food picks, which feature vintage looking Halloween icons such as a grinning black cat and green skinned wicked witch. Package of 144 plastic food picks, $14.95, from D. Blümchen & Company.}

{Arachnophobics (which would definitely include yours truly!) need not fear these onyx black webs, they’re actually manmade doilies that can easily serve double duty as drink coasters – not the handwork of a menacing spider! Set of four 6” cobweb doilies, $9.95, from Victorian Trading Company.}

{The immortal Halloween pallet of raven black and pumpkin orange come together on this stellar tablecloth in a pattern that’s rich in festive cheer and beauty. Pure cotton canvas, 70 x 90 inch Halloween table cloth, $49.00, from Pottery Barn Kids.}

Loot Containers & Sweet Treats

{Set one of these tremendously lovely miniature tote bags (filled with your own selection of sweets and treats) designed by Halloween decor maven Bethany Lowe atop each of your guest’s place settings and they’re bound to love you more than Dracula loves sucking blood! ;-D Three piece set of “Spooky Mini Totes” (measuring 5.75 x 4 inches), $15.00, from Vintage Halloween (The Vintage Party).}

{When putting together Halloween treat bags or baskets for my guests (and/or as gifts for friends and relatives), I always like to include at least few vintage candies and if those sweets just happen to be in Halloween colours, all the better! As a fan of black licorice (you either love it or hate it, and I adore it), I’ve always enjoyed chewing gum in that flavour and think that Black Cat Gum is amongst the very best brands. A classic treat that’s been around for decades, this uniquely flavoured gum is the perfect colour for Halloween. Black Jack Gum (package of five sticks), $0.89, from O’ Ryan’s Village.}

{Adorable wide-eyed characters keep watch over the contents of the tin pails they adorn on these sweetly appealing, old fashioned looking containers. “Nostalgic Treat Buckets” (measuring 8” x 7”), $17.99 (each), from Victorian Trading Company.}

{Save your most attractive (or oddest looking!) treats to place inside these lovely glassine bags, which feature a prettily dressed witch and her rustic broomstick. Six piece set of “Primitive Witch” Halloween treat bags (with beautiful matching sticker seals), $12.60, from etsy seller Crafty Pagan Designs.} 

{Whether you use them to house treats during your party or send guests home with one of these frilly, old school looking crepe paper baskets, they’re such to be as much of a hit as the candy inside them. Set of eight black and orange favour baskets, $5.95, from D. Blümchen & Company.}

{With its appealing combination of salty peanuts, sweet caramel, and crunchy popcorn, Cracker Jack is one of those great foods with timeless staying power that also happens to work excellently for all manner of Halloween spreads and treat bags. Case of 25 one ounce boxes of Cracker Jack Original, $25.00, from Candy Warehouse.}

{Homemade charm drips from this adorable green felt Halloween treat bag, from the front of which a wise old owl peers out from. Measuring 11” tall, this soft, reusable container would be perfect for creating large gift bags for your guests, and can be personalized (with a name or other word) for an additional $6.50 fee. Owl tote bag, $16.00 ($22.50 with personalization), from Pottery Barn Kids.}

{An old-time favourite from the 1920s that achieved television fame at one point thanks to the show “Laugh-In” with Artie Johnson, this scrumptious, creamy caramel with pieces of walnuts in it is a stellar candy to eat along with apples for an instant caramel apple hit! (Or simply enjoy them as is, they're awesome!) One pound package (40 pieces) of Walnetto candy, $7.99, from Hometown Favorites.}

{Stash anything from chocolate bars to jewelry, tiny Halloween candles to handwritten fortunes in this cute little zippered pouch (made from a vintage themed ) and send it home with your guests (or bestow it upon the winner of one your party games). “Retro Halloween Decorations” fabric pouch (which measures 6” wide x 4.5” tall), $7.50, from etsy seller Wolf Bait.}

{While at first these gorgeous autumnal jewel toned leaves almost look as though they could have been scooped up from the front yard, they are in fact delicious little foil wrapped milk chocolates. One pound package of chocolate leaves (approximately 60 candies), $11.99, from Chocolate Fantasies.}

{Known as a Bami Ballen in Germany, this deeply lovely crepe paper pumpkin has the ability to secretly stash very tiny trinkets and treats inside – making it almost like a miniature piñata, and the ideal gift to send home with your guests. “Halloween Surprise Ball”, $12.99, from Victorian Trading Company.}

{Please note that unless otherwise stated, all prices above are in US dollars.}

I love Halloween parties, whether I’m the one hosting them or am a guest, I’ve rarely been to one that wasn’t scores of fun (with costumes, tasty treats, entertaining games, spooky stories, and great decorations, it’s hard not to have a ball!). As with any good bash, at the end of the day (or witching hour), it’s the people that were there and the memories you created together that will haunt (but in the best possible sense of that word) your guests’ – and your own – recollections of your Halloween celebration. Keep this in mind as you map out your celebration and you’re sure to throw a mesmerizingly enjoyable bash that any ghost, goblin, vampire, witch, wizard, or black cat would be delighted to attend! :)


{Thanksgiving, a time for the company of family and friends, mouth-watering food, and the wearing of poufy chef’s hats! :-D Vintage Everywoman’s magazine cover via Charm and Poise’s Flickr stream.}
Sending out the deepest of joyful wishes to each and every one of my fellow Canadians on this our national day of Thanksgiving – and to my wonderful US friends, may you all have a fantastic Columbus Day!


  1. I love it all! you should be a party planner :-)

  2. Fantastic post! I wish I was having a party.

    Best Wishes,

  3. LOVE this post, so much good stuff to look at!