Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Table Decor

How to Make the Most of your Display

by Jaelyn Penner

You're hosting the big Halloween Bash this year, and want to make it an event to remember.  You have the menu, the party tunes, the costume... now you just need to set the scene for your guests!

I like to start with the table.  Note:  These tips are for parties that have finger foods/appetizers, not a seated meal.  You can (and probably will) have food set up in multiple locations, but you need a main hub - a home base - a focal point that wows!

Find Your Signature Piece

Start with one major element that everything else centers (figuratively speaking) around.  A "signature piece."  For this year's party, I knew just what I wanted:  an authentic, ornate, elegant, slightly gaudy, antique-looking candelabra!  I have collected a lot of decor pieces over the years, but this is something I did not have.  And I did not intend to spend a fortune on one.  Hello, Goodwill!  It's truly amazing what you can find in a thrift store.  I absolutely lucked out - the candelabra was part of a "lot" of silver plated antiques, which I was able to win at auction for under $40 - and many of the pieces ended up being perfect for the party!   I know what you're thinking, "stop bragging - I can't go out and get bunch of silver pieces that easily." Well, you never know.  Go to your local thrift store and see what they have!  If I hadn't found the candelabra, I would have settled for something else.  Your signature piece simply needs to grab attention.  Large is great, and  illuminated is awesome.  A large cylinder vase filled with lights and fake bones;  a stand with a fantastic jack o'lantern displayed on top; a spooky candle tree... you get the idea. 

Go Vertical!

Now you have your signature piece.  It's time to build around it.  You'll need to pull out all the serving dishes and vases you have and see what you have to work with.  The key is to make it interesting.  You can stick with one color theme - I did silver and white - but use dishes of different sizes and especially different heights.   If you don't have a tiered tower like the one in the pic, put a sturdy box or block on the table, cover with some creepy cloth or black fabric, and place one of your servers on that.  Do it in varying heights for different dishes.  A great-looking table needs to go vertical!

Find Some Symmetry

 Your table does not have to be perfectly symmetrical, but it will look most pleasing to the eye if there is at least rough symmetry.  In the picture above, there are varying heights, but the very outside edges start off lower, raising to the tallest points on each side, and then lowers a bit in the middle.  Keep it interesting by not being strictly symmetrical - but keep it in harmony by maintaining the illusion of symmetry.

Light It Up!

Lighting is essential for any occasion, but especially as a contrast to the darkness of Halloween!  Varying sizes of candles work great for this type of setting.  Another great option is to fill vases with battery-operated mini light strings.  I found some LED lights in the craft section of my local grocery store - the lights were meant to go on a poster, but they would be great in a vase with some fake spider webbing, or clear floral rocks, or a bunch of fake bugs!  You'll want to keep the lighting fairly symmetrical as well - make sure there aren't any too-dark spots, make sure the food is lit, and if you have something interesting on the table (like the skull above) make sure it's visible!


Other things to keep in mind for your Halloween table...
  • Dark tables or tablecloths make your decor pop.
  • Layer your tablecloths - in the pic above, I have a dark wood table, so I laid down a piece of light-colored 'creepy cloth' (you can find it at any Halloween store), then laid a black lace table runner on top of that.  The effect was some contrast and "framing" for the rest of the pieces.  On another table, I used a large piece of metallic silver fabric that covered the entire table, and layered on top of that a black lace tablecloth that covered it completely. It made the lace pop and looked fantastic! 
  • Disperse interesting props between your serving dishes.  I used fake bones - a skull on a platter, feet on another platter, and random bones scattered throughout.  Just the right spooky touch!
  • Use all of your resources!  Remember that "Candy Bar" you had at your wedding?  Fortunately I remembered mine - I used several of the same containers from that in this display.  Try to use objects you already have at home to make your display interesting and save lots of $$.
  • Use signage.  You will inevitably have to answer the question "what is that?" when serving your food.  Add some interest to the table and make it easy for guests to choose their food by creating signs to place in front of the more mysterious dishes.  Use Google - do a search for your theme and "printables" and you'll be amazed at what you find for free!  You don't have to label everything, just the harder-to-identify foods.

Now you should be ready to have the most talked-about table of the Halloween season!  Happy Haunting!
Please leave comments or questions, or your suggestions - we'd love to hear from you!

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