For kids, Halloween is an excuse to stock up on candy and stay out past dark. For adults, it's an opportunity to spend a night as whomever you want to be, indulge in a few festive cocktails, and enjoy a bit of make-believe. While you've long traded in trick-or-treating for costume parties, if you're playing host this year, you'll want to take note of a few Halloween party themes to take your spooky soirée up a notch.
Not everyone likes a theme party, but planning your evening around one idea challenges you and your guests to get creative and have some fun in the process. A theme can guide the costumes, the décor, the food and drinks, or all of the above. Go for a classic murder mystery bash, plan your party around scary movies, or host an intergalactic evening that's truly out of this world.
You might be surprised by just how committed to the theme you and your friends may become, but at the end of the day, it's up to the host to set the tone for your event. Extend invites that clearly explain the theme and encourage guests to come dressed to impress. Get inspired by these 15 Halloween party themes and start planning your festive event.
Plan a Murder Mystery
Nothing says Halloween quite like a classic whodunit murder mystery party. Keep it simple and allow a murder mystery game to guide your evening or go big and commit to decorating your home according to the time period and circumstances of the crime. Take things up a notch and provide fun costume accessories for guests to wear once they learn what characters they'll be playing. The more invested in the theme, the more fun you'll have.
Play Wild West
Not all Halloween theme parties have to be scary. For an evening of fun attire, plan a Wild West–themed event. Guests can sport their best Western-inspired outfits, and you can set the mood with whiskey cocktails, saloon décor, and small bites that offer a big southwestern kick of flavors. Good thing Western boots aren't going out of style anytime fast.
Watch Scary Movies
For the ultimate scare-fest, host a scary movie themed party. Guests can dress up as characters from their favorite bone-chilling films and you can deck out your home in decorations that hint at scenes from the flicks. Think Camp Crystal Lake signs a la Friday the 13th and scary, writing scrawled on the bathroom mirror.
For extra points, have a classic horror film playing in the living room. Even with the sound off, it will create the creepy vibe you're looking for!
Time Travel Through the Decades
With the continuous reprisal of trends from decades past, a Halloween bash that celebrates retro fashion, décor, and music will be much appreciated by your guests. Pick from the roaring '20s, the groovy '70s, the radical '80s, or the trendy '90s; then craft the perfect playlist to take your guests back in time. Take it one step further and seek out old-school snacks, quirky drinks, and vintage décor to really transform your home.
The early aughts can also be a theme; anyone still have some neon colored aviators, a branded tracksuit, low-rise jeans, and hoop earrings collecting dust in their closet?
Create a Crime Scene
Be inspired by your favorite guilty pleasure crime scene investigation shows and plan a crime scene themed Halloween party. All you'll need is caution tape and fake blood to set the mood. Having an off-limits crime scene in your home will create the tone for an eerie evening, leaving you with plenty of time to get creative with red food coloring, and to serve up food and drinks to fit the theme.
People can arrive dressed as detectives or CSI personnel, while others can arrive as the victim or culprit.
Host a Zombie Apocolypse
Whether you're a fan of The Walking Dead or not, zombies have been having a bit of a moment in pop culture for quite some time now. What better way to celebrate Halloween than with a spooky zombie theme party? Think finger foods (pun intended) meant to look like severed body parts, creepy cocktails, and scary costumes. Have guests choose between dressing as survivalists or the zombies themselves.
As far as décor goes, consider a zombie art wall featuring portraits of the famous undead; use cardboard and an X-Acto knife to carve up zombie arms and have them protrude from room corners, windows, and stair railings; and create an Instagram photo corner—a sheet splattered with "blood" and moody lighting should do the trick.
Bring In the Fall Harvest
For something festive that won't give you such a fright, host a fall harvest Halloween party. Turn your home into a pumpkin patch full of photo ops, pumpkin-spiced foods, and seasonal décor. Think haystacks, pumpkins, candles, flowers, and anything that screams fall. Serve up a spiced cocktail and a few pumpkin-infused treats to create the perfect seasonal setting.
Or for something more substantial, try this fall dinner party menu, which features a porchetta spiced pork shoulder, kabocha squash salad with pomegranate, figs, and chèvre; roasted Brussels sprouts with dates, pistachio, and lemon; and for dessert, almond-cardamom apple cake.
Start a Speakeasy
Give your Halloween soirée a touch of secrecy with a speakeasy theme. Have guests enter your home through a back door or give them a special password to recite when they arrive in order to gain entry. For the decorations, go for dim lighting and vintage-looking glassware to serve up some illicit cocktails. Guests can don their best 1920s-inspired attire while they sip something strong and dance the Charleston.
For decade-appropriate cocktails, try the Boulevardier (bourbon, sweet vermouth, Campari, orange peel); a minty rum Mojito; the sweet and tropical Mary Pickford; or a Sidecar (brandy, orange liqueur, lemon juice.)
Get Out of This World
Transport your guests through space and time with an out of this world themed Halloween party. Encourage attendees to dress as intergalactic aliens (we vote for E.T., or Stitch from Lilo & Stitch) decked out in neon and glitter, or as space-traveling astronauts. You can whip up otherworldly cocktails inspired by mixologists at The Drawing Room in Knoxville, Tennessee and Accomplice in Los Angeles; serve space-inspired bites like rice crispy "asteroids" or solar system cupcakes, and decorate your home with glowing lights to mimic the star-speckled night sky.
Create Your Own Haunted House
Perhaps the original or most traditional Halloween party theme, a haunted house–themed event will always delight. Adorn your home with sticky cobwebs, candelabras fitted with melting wax candles, eerie potion bottles, and glass domes filled with whatever your imagination can drum up. For the refreshments, display a bewitching cauldron filled with a batch cocktail perfect for self-serving and encourage guests to come dressed as their favorite classic Halloween characters, from witches and ghosts to monsters and mad scientists.
Let the extravagant, colorful, costumed celebrations of Rio de Janeiro or Trinidad and Tobago inspire your next Halloween party. Choose samba music for Brazilian flair, or steel drum beats for a Caribbean edge. In the U.S., Mardi Gras in New Orleans is chockfull of masquerade parties, jazz, and... beads, lots of beads.
Not looking to bare all in a bikini? Try a monokini or high-wasted option instead; or just make sure whatever you wear is a bright, juicy color. And don't forget to accessorize with just-as-colorful feathers, sequins, and sparkles.
Host a Black Tie Affair
For one evening, shed those jeans and athleisure and don your fanciest, most formal attire. We're talking long gowns, a suit and tie, pearls and gold, heels and shiny loafers—the works.
The party menu might look like a classic wedge salad with blue cheese and bacon bits; hamburger sliders; a gorgeous charcuterie platter, and sparkling wine and Old Fashioneds (plus non-alcoholic options for those not imbibing.)
Go Back to Summer Camp
Throw your next Halloween party back to your summer camp days, complete with vintage lanterns, plaid or flannel, khaki shorts, and campfire fare, like grilled hot dogs and s'mores. We also like the idea of setting up a few tents if you're celebrating outdoors, or creating a fort-like atmosphere indoors to really set the mood.
Become a Superhero
Between Marvel and DC Comics's roster of superheroes, party guests have lots of leeway to show up as their favorite hero. From Superwoman to Aquaman, don a famous cape or create your own. Use comic book page cones to hold party snacks; pass out masks; and make sure there's ample pop-art colors everywhere.
Guests can also take a looser approach to the theme and come dressed as any public figure (or not) they consider a superhero.
Host a Music Fest
Popular music festivals like Coachella have a distinct "look," which usually means a mix of bohemian, carefree outfits. Fringe, feathers, sequins, and body paint are not uncommon here, as are denim shorts, crop tops, and sheer materials. Pump up the electronic and dance music, and you've brought the desert party vibes to you.