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Posted on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

How to throw a last-minute Halloween party on the cheap

By Judy DiForte


Ruh roh… The gang is headed to your place for some post-trick-or-treating refreshment! But don't run screaming out the back door. You can do this!

Here are some tips for throwing together a spell-binding Halloween scene — on the cheap, no less!

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FOOD: Make a big pot of something they can help themselves to. Chili or Sloppy Joes make good choices. Set up a buffet area with everything your goblins need: bowls/plates, silverware, napkins, and a basket of buns or corn bread. Have several candles on the buffet. A big bowl of popcorn, and you’re done!

DRINK: If you don’t have time to make blood red punch with dry ice “fog,” no worries! Cider is a perfect beverage for this party.

DECOR: Cheap and easy! Gather some colorful leaves, dry them off and flatten them for a couple hours, then scatter them on your buffet table. Have acorns in your yard? All the better!

TABLESCAPE: If you have a tablecloth in a fall color, use it! If not, a clean flat sheet in a shade of red, orange or brown works fine. For your centerpiece, more candles and a group of small pumpkins or gourds look great. Scatter more leaves around, and voila! LIGHTING: What else? Candles, candles, candles! If you have purple or orange mini lights, use them on your buffet table.

MUSIC: Nothing sets a Halloween mood like spooky music. If you don’t have a good CD, find a couple at the library. How about the soundtrack from Halloween? Or play a scary movie on TV during your gathering.

GAMES: They’re not just for kids! Grown up or not, your guests will delight in these activities. “THE HANDS-FREE DOUGHNUT DEVOUR” Having purchased a dozen or so doughnuts, you hang one by a string just above mouth-height for each contestant. Without using their hands, they must eat the entire doughnut. Sound easy? Try it! For more giggles and shrieks, use powdered sugar doughnuts. (Have clean up supplies at the ready!) We recommend you do this in a non-carpeted area, or put down a drop cloth to catch the inevitable doughnut detritus.

Depending on your space, you can have all guests do this at once, or one at a time. For extra fun, time the contestants.

“HALLOWEEN BOCCE BALL” Clear out an area in a room for this one. You play regular bocce ball rules, but in place of bigger bocce balls and a small pallino, use apples (yellow and red) and a pumpkin!

“WHO AM I?” On each guest’s back, place a sticker with the name of a different famous monster or scary villain from a list you’ve prepared ahead of time. The guest must ask ONLY yes-or-no questions to figure out who they are.

PRIZES AND FAVORS: The dollar store is your friend! Not familiar? Check it out. You’ll find candy, decorations, silly prizes, even costume props.

CAMERA AT THE READY! Record the fun on video or snap pix throughout the party, and send them to the guests the next day — possibly with blackmail instructions.

Remember, your goal is FUN, not perfection.


Judy DiForte is marketing manager for The Betty Brigade, a concierge company specializing in relocation, organizing and event planning, based in Ann Arbor. To sign up for The Betty Brigade newsletter, click here.