Throw a Chic Gothic-Themed Halloween Bash, from Party Bites to Decor

Killer punch, classy finger food, and Gothic decor that breaks free of jack-o’s for a sophisticated soiree

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Mini Caramel Apples

These sophisticated Halloween party treats are a modern nod to the holiday tradition of bobbing for apples. You get all the satisfaction of a caramel apple in one bite and without a messy chin.

Recipe: Mini Caramel Apples

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Broccoli Soup Shots with Cheddar Bites

A few tips for making great grilled cheese sandwiches: Grate the cheese (it’ll melt evenly); butter the outsides of the bread, instead of putting butter in the pan; and cover the pan as you cook.

Recipe: Broccoli Soup Shots with Cheddar Bites

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Red Pepper-Potato Dip with Crudites

A play on skordalia, the Greek garlic-potato dip for fried fish. We add peppers for flavor and color, and serve with fresh vegetables.

Recipe: Red Pepper-Potato Dip with Crudites

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Autumn Punch

“Punch” is a good description of this one—a couple of glasses pack a wallop. Add extra cranberry juice if you want it weaker.

Recipe: Autumn Punch

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Spice Lamb Chops with Rosemary Crumbs

These are great for cocktail parties since you can eat them one-handed.

Recipe: Spice Lamb Chops with Rosemary Crumbs

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Set the mood

Gothic vessels: Trade out regular stems and cups for goblets ($68 each; juliska.com; or try thrift stores) and inexpensive glass lab vessels, like cylinders and flasks (from $2.45; pelletlab.com) that are food- and heat-safe. Fill a few with dry ice to turn your house into a mad scientist’s laboratory.

Tabletop creativity: Buy fabric and make it into a tablecloth by hemming the edges, or asking your dry cleaner to do so. Houndstooth plays into the Victorian theme while still feeling modern. (Try fabric.com, hartsfabric.com, or spoonflower.com for inspiration.)

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The decor

DIY lanterns: These take their cue from Edward Gorey illustrations and can be hung indoors or out. Decoupage tissue-paper lanterns (from $2.30; lunabazaar.com) with downloaded clip art. Project by the Curiosity Shoppe’s Lauren Smith and Derek Fagerstrom (curiosityshoppeonline.com).

Halloween greenery: For an easy display, find mossy branches in the yard or at a florist and lash them together. Drop in orchids and, for spook factor, fake blackbirds.

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More chic Halloween party ideas

For another take on a spooky, grown-up fete that friends will love, we got ideas from Yifat Oren, the L.A. event planner behind the weddings of Reese Witherspoon and Natalie Portman. “I’m a bigger fan of haunted—ghosts, cobwebs, ghouls—than I am of gore. The occult is scary to me too. That’s why a good psychic or a Ouija board is always a hit at a Halloween party,” Oren says.

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The palette

Swap orange for white to create a sleek black-and-white color scheme. Scatter pale pumpkins on a buffet table, then add candy apples for a blood red accent.

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Halloween is not the time for flowers. Instead, fill vases with spray-painted black branches or order dark resin branches ($10; jamaligarden.com).

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Candy apples are a classic Halloween dessert. To give them a creepy elegance, put them on a mirrored tray. For extra credit, and spookiness, cover with spun sugar to give them a webby look.

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Use drippy black tapers with these mercury-glass candleholders (from $17; potterybarn.com) or a simple black candelabra.

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Party food

For a Gothic-looking cheese platter, arrange ashy cheeses (like goat) on a tray with dark grapes and quince paste. Also serve Sunset's meatball sliders (omit the basil) with “bloody” ketchup—just add a few drops of dark food coloring to your favorite brand.

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The bar

Garnish a classic Belvedere martini with black olives instead of green ones. If you stuff them with pimentos, they’ll look like eyeballs. Alternatively, serve sangria in a punch bowl (a splash of dry ice will make it smoke) and rim glasses with black sugar, which you can find online.

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Investment piece

If you plan to throw an annual Halloween party, buy one pricier item a year, like this skeleton drink dispenser ($148 for stand and dispenser; potterybarn.com). Tip: Vampire teeth ice cubes (Fred & Friends vampire tray; $8; amazon.com) made with grape juice will look like bleeding fangs when served in a light-colored drink.

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DIY web

Stamp cream-colored cocktail napkins with a spiderweb design ($13 for stamp; paper-source.com).

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Create a spooky vibe

Danger zone: Fake cobwebs “make your house look a little dirty and haunted,” says Oren. A mass of them strung across a staircase or bedroom door is a clever way to let guests know the area’s off-limits.

Haunted mansion: Replace your artwork for the night with these lenticular portraits (Colonel Whiplash; $15; kmart.com), which appear to move as you walk by.

Spooky switch: Swap your regular lightbulbs for red ones, available at most hardware stores.

Refresh your playlist: “If I hear ‘Thriller’ at another Halloween party, I don’t know what I’ll do,” says Oren, who asked L.A. DJ Patrick Belton to put together a playlist that’s “a little groovy, a little indie, with a bit of goth.” Her five favorites:

  • “Voodoo” by Godsmack
  • “Little Ghost” by The White Stripes
  • “Season of the Witch” by Karen Elson
  • “Blood” by Band of Skulls
  • “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins