Things to Do

How to Hold a Perfectly Spooky Adult Halloween Party

Ghosts, ghouls, goblins… what’s not to love, right? When October hits, every day is pre-Halloween!

Just because you and your friends are too old to go door to door for candy, there’s no rule that says you can’t indulge your inner child and have a party or two at home — and you don’t even need to be a professional event planner to make it utterly spooktacular.

We’ve got all the tips (and tricks) you need below, so without further ado:

1. Get Your Guest List Together

Yes, the guest list is the first thing you want to put together. Without a guest list, you can’t really decide when to host your party, what food you’re going to have or what kind of theme you want. 

Your “tribe creates your vibe,” so make sure that you invite folks who will cheerfully get into the party’s theme and bring the right spirits (pun intended) to the night. And — since this is an adults-only party and the spiked cider and other drinks will probably be flowing — you want to pick guests whom you trust not to over-indulge and get too wild.

You also need to consider your space. Do you picture a small group of people playing games around a table and eating treats? Do you envision a whole houseful of people in costume spilling out your doors? You’ll need to narrow or expand your guest list accordingly.

2. Set the Date as Early as Possible

While it’s always fun to hold a Halloween party right on October 31st, that happens to fall on a Sunday this year — and that means your party is bound to break up early so everybody can get to work in the morning.

Holding your party earlier that weekend might be an option for you — but some of your “core” guests (the people you just can’t picture having a party without) may not be able to come if that happens to overlap trick-or-treat times with their kids (or grandkids).

There’s nothing wrong with holding your party the weekend before Halloween — or even earlier. Send out a few feelers via email or social media to see what date looks good with most of your guests and get commitments. (You can even set up an “event” page on Facebook to send out invitations and keep track of who is coming.)

3. Find Your Theme and Embrace It

A party isn’t really a party until it has atmosphere, right? Themes help you create dynamic energy and cohesion for an event — and that’s what every great Halloween party needs.

Is this Prospero’s Ball from “The Masque of the Red Death,” where everybody needs to be in elaborate costumes with Venetian masks? Is it “Walking Dead” night, where you want your guests to shamble in wearing their best zombie attire? Do you want everybody to dress up as their favorite character from a spooky movie? You’ve got plenty of options — just make sure that all of your guests know that costumes are required (if that’s part of your plans).

Once you have your theme, you can decide on appropriate decorations and dishes. “Prospero’s Ball,” for example, requires a table resplendent with fine dishes and wine, while the zombie-themed party needs (dare we say it?) finger food (shaped like actual fingers, of course) and other gory snacks. 

4. Line Up a Little Mood Music

Even if you don’t anticipate dancing, background music is absolutely essential for creating the right mood — whether you’re going with iconic soundtracks from your favorite thrillers or you’re playing haunting, wordless tunes from another era.

Pick your playlist with your theme in mind. No zombie party, for example, would be complete without the “Thriller” album playing in the background, and you can’t hold a vampire-themed party without playing the soundtrack from “The Lost Boys.” 

If you’re looking for curated lists or ideas, Spotify, Pandora and YouTube make it easy — and you can keep things going with nothing more than a speaker that hooks up to your phone.

5. Get the Bags of Treats Ready

Okay let’s be real: Aside from the costumes, the best part about Halloween when you were a kid was the bag full of treats you brought home, right? Well, adults are just kids in bigger bodies, and they still love surprises. You’ll make your guests’ night (and make the atmosphere more festive) if you have bags of party favors ready.

Again, your theme can dictate what goes into your treat bags. If your theme is fun and a little wild, fake blood, glow-in-the-dark skeleton necklaces and plastic vampire teeth can help set the mood. If you’re going glamorous, like Prospero’s Ball, you can include mini bottles of flavored liquors, plastic chalices for quaffing the brew and fancy (fake) rings or ropes of pearls.

6. Get the Party Started with Games

Ever been to a party where everybody sat around nibbling at the food and wondering what to do with themselves? Well, you don’t want that. You want your guests engaged and enjoying their night — so get out some Halloween games! 

Not sure what sort of games you can play? Dark humor is always appropriate for Halloween, so consider some contemporary classics like:

There’s also nothing wrong with tried-and-true Halloween games, like scavenger hunts built around your theme or pumpkin decorating contests. The goal is simply to get people active and talking to each other, so let your imagination run wild.

7. End the Night with a Movie (or Two)

When the party starts to wind down, throwing on a movie is a great way to finish the night. 

Pick an iconic thriller like “The Birds,” or go retro with the original “Halloween” for a frightfully fun time. If you want a touch of whimsy, you can even break out the Sanderson sisters and put on “Hocus Pocus.” (Unless you know that all of your guests will appreciate that kind of flick, you should probably skip movies that have a lot of blood and gore.) 

Finally, have fun with this! As long as you have plenty of food and plenty of spirits to go around, your guests will love you for organizing something that makes them feel like kids again.