A Haute Halloween Party for Adults

By Katie Kretschmer

Tricks, treats and the opportunity to dress up make Halloween just as much of a holiday for adults as for kids. And since this year the event falls on a weekend, there's all the more reason to conjure up a wicked good time. Karen Bussen, a New York City-based floral and event designer and author of Simple Stunning Parties at Home (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, May 2009), shares her tips for an elegantly eerie party.

Get tips for throwing a great Halloween bash (even if you're short on time).

Lure 'Em In

Bussen says getting the word out about your party is key, and invitations help set the tone and get guests excited.

• Send invitations early, so guests can save the date.
• Stand out by sending printed invites: Who doesn't love getting real mail? Or use Web-based invites, such as Evite or Paperless Post; economical and efficient, they track replies and automatically send guests a reminder a few days before the party.
• Tell guests what to expect (dinner or just cocktails and snacks?) and what's expected of them ("Costumes to Die For"), as well as when and where.

Scare Tactics

Rather than go all out with Halloween-themed props, Bussen ups the creep factor inexpensively with a few clever but effective details.

• Turn out all the lights and only use candles. Stick to unscented white pillars, votives and tapers that you can use for other events later.
• Replace regular lightbulbs with dark red or orange ones.
• Use old glass vases and jars as substitutes for lanterns and votive holders.
• Take it to the next level with Blair Witch-inspired bare branches in a tall vase, and scatter dried leaves (away from candles).
• Hang a skeleton in the shower and leave the curtain partly open, so guests don't see it right away.
• Have an old scary movie playing on a TV where guests have to pass by to get to the bathroom or the bar. Even with the sound off, it's a nice, creepy effect. Try The Exorcist, Poltergeist, Carrie or The Omen.

Dress to Thrill

Wearing a costume is a big part of what sets Halloween apart from other holidays, but the creatively timid may need a little inspiration.

• Provide a theme, such as "Dead Celebrities," to give guests a starting point.
• Give guests a choice of three costume ideas-they can be as basic as a vampire, a pirate and a bride. Everyone has to choose one of the three costumes, but they'll all interpret them in different ways.
• Award prizes, something simple like a bag of candy or a funny certificate, for the best costumes in different categories, such as scariest, funniest, sexiest or most original.

The Hunger

Bussen loves being scared, but not when it comes to the menu. "I'm just not into eating food made to look like eyeballs," she says.

• Stick to comfort food, served as a buffet.
• Consider a potluck and have guests bring dishes inspired by a scary movie.
• Plan a menu of filling finger foods, like flatbread pizzas with a few different toppings, that are quick to prepare and can easily be cut into bite-size pieces.
• Set up food stations in different areas to encourage your guests to mingle. Place bowls of olives or nuts, cheese platters and crudités in several locations, so people don't just congregate in one room.

Potion Control

Bussen is all in favor of keeping it simple when it comes to the drink menu.

• Skip the full bar and stick to beer, wine and one fun cocktail idea.
• Look for a seasonal brew such as Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale along with the usual beer selections.
• For a pumpkin-infuse d cocktail, try Bussen's Trick-or-tini (see below for recipe).
• Making a bubbly-based punch is another sophisticated way to keep the budget in line. Prosecco or cava is just as elegant as champagne but more economical.
• Order customized cocktail napkins in blood red or classic orange (Bussen likes ForYourParty.com) printed with creepy Halloween facts or clever conversation starters.

Pumpkin Trick-or-tini

Dash of maple syrup
1 graham cracker, crushed to fine crumbs
2 oz vodka
1 oz Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice Liqueur
1 oz Navan Vanilla Liqueur

Rim a small cocktail glass with the maple syrup and graham cracker crumbs. In a cocktail shaker over ice, mix vodka, pumpkin liqueur and vanilla liqueur. Shake, strain into cocktail glass and serve.

Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.

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