I found this article on the real simple blog and thought it was a great action plan to throwing a last minute Halloween party. All the tips are right up my alley!
1. Scrap it.
Search for Halloween themed scrapbook papers in a a few different patterns that you can mix and match. Use these to create quick DIY placemats, napkin rings, drink tags, and party signs, and to decorate things like vases, pillar candles, and party favors.
Most paper collections also come with coordinating embellishments such as chipboard cut outs, ribbon, stickers and more, which you can use to dress up place settings & party décor as well!
2. Try a Ghoulish-Glam Halloween Theme.
This is actually a surprisingly easy (& stylish!) party theme to recreate for Halloween – just pick up some feather boas, glittery foam skulls & skeletons, and candlestick holders from your local craft or costume store. Or use spray paint & craft glitter in black and metallic silver to create your own glittery skulls and skeletons. (Shake the craft glitter on while the paint is still wet).
Have a life-size skeleton at your house? Dress her up with a feather boa and and flapper headband! You can also use the feather boas to dress up centerpieces and table/counter surfaces on the bar, buffet, etc.
3. Go discount shopping.
You might not have time on your side – but one thing you DO have going is the SALES! And big ones at that… since retailers are already trying to clear out their Halloween inventory to make room for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Your best bet is to hit up already-affordable places like Target, Michaels, Marshalls, and HomeGoods.
4. Spray-paint it.
When shopping at discount stores especially, don’t forget the power of a can of spray paint. If you find something that looks like it would be perfect for your party - aside from the fact that it's the completely wrong color... just paint it! (Be sure to always choose a well-ventilated area when spray-painting.)
5. Frame it.
Old-fashioned frames make for fabulous Halloween party décor. Use them to display drink menus, food menus, creepy images, and spooky phrases written in medieval fonts that you've created on your home computer.
6. “Shortcut” the menu.
Attempting an elaborate menu is not a good idea when you’re already pressed for time, so take shortcuts wherever you can. Want to serve a fun signature drink like a Pina Ghoulada? Instead of making the drink from scratch, use a frozen mixer so that all you have to do is add in the spirit and turn on the blender. Less shopping that way too! Or try a ready-made orange or mixer cocktail mixer & just add vodka. Orange rimming sugar is a quick way to dress up glasses. Just wet the edges with a lemon or lime & dip the rim into the sugar.
Go the “semi-homeade” route with the food too. For example, serve Spooky Spider Eggs made with store-bought deviled eggs so that all you have to do is slice up some black olives for the "spider" topper. Or use instant pudding mix to create Tombstone Cookie parfaits. Just add crushed Oreos as the "dirt topper" + a Milano cookie with “RIP” scrawled across the top in decorator icing. Not everything has to be done from scratch…you get the idea!
7. Focus on one showstopper.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by all the different elements that can go into a party, focus on just one “showstopper” that’s sure to be the talk of the evening – whether it’s a really cool centerpiece, a candy bar/buffet, or the dinner table. Then keep things easy everywhere else with mood lighting & a just little bit of coordinating décor to help tie the space together.
String lights & candles are one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to create a cool party ambiance. Turn out the lights and light up table surfaces, stair banisters, and large plants (both in and outdoors) with white or orange string lights. String lights also look great intertwined with black feather boa.
Use small votives and tea lights to light up surfaces like tabletops and fireplace mantles, and to put a “spotlight” on decorative skulls and spiders. Battery-operated LED lights are always a good, safe alternative to traditional candles too.