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Halloween Masked Ball

We’ll never get tired of saying it: any party is better with a theme.  Choosing a specific, appropriate party theme will help your guests know what to expect and will help you create the chic and unique Halloween party you see in your mind’s eye.  And, um, “Halloween” is not a theme.   The trick (or maybe the treat – ha!) to choosing a good Halloween party theme is to think outside the Pottery Barn catalogue box.  Goodbye, happy jack-o-lanterns; hello masked ball at a drafty, gothic mansion.

Gothic Mansion Décor

Recreating a gothic mansion inside your home means taking a trip to your neighborhood thrift store.  Think of it as your personal, affordable party rental company with a conscience: buy what you need, then donate it back knowing you’re doing more than just throwing a show-stopping party.  Look around for a beaded candle chandelier (or two); traditional candelabras; traditionally styled candlesticks in silver, black, or glass; strings of plastic jewels (you can drape them around the house or add them to pieces that are too modern); cheap silk flowers; paper or crocheted doilies; silver tea services (which you may want keep, as you’ll use them over and over); old paintings; ornate dishes; and antique baby items, including dolls and doll clothes.  The more items you can get, the better.  In this case, clutter is good.

Spread these items all over the living room and other party rooms, paper over the windows, and set the a/c to full blast.  Since there’s no way of dealing with a modern kitchen, go ahead and curtain it off using tension rods and curtains from elsewhere in your house.  Though you’re not hosting anyone at your table, fully set it with classic linens, elaborate place settings, and more traditional candles.  When everything is finished, gently spray some silly string into a pile that can easily be untangled, and drape it across tall objects; in the dark, it can stand in for cobwebs.

Over your papered windows, hang some threadbare fabric for curtains (grey will work perfectly), rig a very gentle fan to blow them, and snuggle a black tube light in the window sill.  This effect will give your gothic mansion the eerie look of being outside of time and space.

If needed, take a supplemental trip to Michael’s or Target and pillage for related decorations.  Stores like these are also a good bet for decorations to use outside.  Look for timeless, nature-inspired pieces like birds, mice, and bats to stage around your door in a menacing array.  Gather fallen branches (don’t cut them from live trees) to spraypaint black.  Stake them into the ground on either side of your walkway.

Music to Dance By

Your masked ball melodies should be of the classical variety.  Choose tunes in minor keys, preferably played by a single pianist – as if he’s plunking away madly in the next room.

Guest Attire

For a masked ball, guests should arrive in Victorian-inspired eveningwear.  Hints at the theme are probably enough to set the scene, so encourage details like lace, ruffles, stripes, brocade, and satin top hats.  If you can, provide masks as gifts/favors for your guests, and be sure to select a wide variety that are comfortable and interestingly detailed. Thankfully, party stores have a lot more looks in stock at this time of year than they normally do.  New Orleans-based Mardi Gras providers also have affordable options.  Buy mostly affordable masks and add a few spectacular stand-outs that will impress guests.

Delectables for Your Gothic Masked Ball

Your party should feel somewhere between opulent and eerie, so choose a mix of refreshments, some of which feel fancy (beautiful petit-fours are available at most wholesale groceries) and some that maybe feel just a little bit savage.  Turkey legs do that for us – and they’re inexpensive.  We also suggest a lightly-hued red wine to accompany, perhaps a nice beaujolais, so you can chill it.

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