Halloween for grown-ups: decorating tips for a spooky dinner party
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Halloween is on a great day this year: Saturday. This means if you’re hosting a party you’ve got the whole day to prepare. If it’s a kids’ party this will most likely entail hollowing out grinning pumpkins, entwining sticky fake cobwebs around the fireplace and filling buckets full of mini Mars bars. But who says Halloween is just for kids?
While dressing-up and dancing to The Monster Mash is certainly a jolly part of this holiday, Halloween can be enjoyed by grown-ups as well. No matter how old we are, we all love a good scare every now and then. While children everywhere will be Trick-or-Treating, adults will be settling down with a nice bottle of malbec and tuning into a horror movie.
Ever thought about throwing a Halloween dinner party? Why not? No need for an elaborate costume (although an all black dress code wouldn’t go amiss) just a tasty seasonal menu and an eerie-yet-relaxing atmosphere.
This time of the year - and indeed this date on the calendar - throws up all sorts of ideas for interior decor. It’s not all about paper skeletons and silly string - a low-key dinner party setting calls for flowers and candles and subtlety. And in actual fact, doesn’t understatement make for a spookier ambience?
A good dinner party needs flowers. For Halloween, there’s no need to go all Morticia Addams and start arranging vases of headless roses. Fresh flowers will give a classy but eerie touch to a dinner table or sideboard, if you choose wisely. Selecting flowers with dark hues is the way to do this. Deep mauves and purples, stems with dark greenery, thorny roses, striking red berries - these make for the perfect seasonal array. Arrange them in an appropriate vase (nothing too bright) and top off with dark leaves from the garden or a few jagged looking twigs for that spiky, serrated effect. Waitrose currently sell a Halloween bouquet, for under £20.
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Pumpkin carving is a dicey business. It requires adult supervision. Perhaps it doesn’t even require children at all! This is a fun and seasonal task, and can be taken to fantastic extremes if you’ve got the time. A Halloween party of any kind requires a jack-o’-lantern to shoo away the spirits while you enjoy some sustenance. Get yourself a nice plump one and check out some of the designs you can find online - often with instructions on how to carve intricate patterns that will spook the spooks and delight your guests.
Candles set the mood at any dinner party; but even more so in the darker months, when we celebrate festivals such as Christmas and Halloween. At Christmas-time the use of candles originate back to the Middle Ages to represent the star of Bethlehem. At Halloween they are less symbolic, used mostly just for an atmospheric flourish. No-one wants the lights on full power on All Hallow’s Eve. Choose dark coloured candles such as purples and greys, and let them drip down the stands to create that Gothic castle effect.
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Leaves are everywhere at this time of year. They’re great to use in seasonal decor, and you won’t need to start ripping them from the boughs as they are readily available on the ground by now. Why not use them in their dying days to produce some creative interior designs. Use them to line the inside of a clear glass vase to create a unique pattern for your floral arrangement to stand in. Or line a bowl with them and dot with gourds, squashes and mini-pumpkins.
Wreaths crop up all year round. Traditionally hung on doors at Christmas to symbolise health and life throughout the winter, there are seasonal variations to be had at other times too. Summertime wreaths of corn and lavender, fresh green wreaths in spring, and autumnal wreaths for the harvest season and at Halloween. There are places you can order real wreaths from which display rusty fading leaves - or there are artificial variations that look great. The wreath pictured is from T K Maxx and cost £19.99.
Fairy lights aren’t just for Christmas! Get them down from the attic early. The best ones for Halloween are simple white lights, but all the better if you have any in orange, red or purple shades. String them around the banisters, line them across the mantle-piece, drape them over the sideboards, run them along the length of your dinner table, dotted with mini pumpkins, tea-lights, red apples or other festive ornaments. For £5, Waitrose offer these cute pumpkin themed battery operated lights, giving extra flair to proceedings.
Forget broomsticks, it’s all about willow sticks. This very natural decorating tool has been ‘in’ for a long time, and remains a great home accent at any time of year. But the naturally twisted shape of these branches are especially effective in creating a sophisticated creepy feel around the home. Willow twigs are perfect on their own, perhaps in a tall vase; but other options include hanging paper ghosts or spiders off them, draping them with fairy lights, or spraying them a ghostly shade of white.
Happy (grown-up) Halloween!