There is nothing that screams Fall in Fandom like owls whizzing through the air delivering Hogwarts letters. Or is it the sound of toads singing of toil and trouble, or perhaps the taste of warm Butterbeer shared amongst friends? Whichever way, we knew that with Halloween arriving, our Fall Shindig just had to be the Harry Potter party we’ve always wanted.
With such a wide array of Wizarding World elements to choose from, narrowing down a specific Harry Potter theme was our first big challenge. We had a million ideas and dreams about the perfect Potter party, and still do. Harry Potter is a fandom that is near and dear to both of our hearts – and that won’t be going away any time soon. There will be endless opportunities to get our wizarding party-hats on in the future, but for this Halloween, we loved the idea of celebrating the fact that we’re grown-ass adults – and with that, sprung the idea of a Hogwarts Alumni Dinner.
An invitation to a Hogwarts function would be incomplete without wax-sealed Hogwarts letters in McGonagall’s handwriting, peppered with green ink. Using much the same technique as we created our Game of Thrones party invitations (here), we were able to give guests an authentic-feeling (if owl-less) Hogwarts letter. We made envelopes from the same parchment paper that we printed the invites on and sent these invites out via muggle mail. It truly is a magical experience for your guests to receive a Hogwarts letter in the mail. These invitations incited a lot of envy from our guests’ co-workers.
We have templates of the invite up here (okay, coming soon), so get printing!
Transforming our Living Room into the Hogwarts Great Hall
With our theme narrowed to just the world of Hogwarts, we could focus in on what makes Hogwarts’ Great Hall so atmospheric in the first place: the stone walls, the enchanted ceiling, floating candles and of course the long tables where the magnificent feasts magically appear.
We spent weeks tracking down an affordable place to rent benches, as this seating arrangement in the Great Hall is so iconic and we wanted to honor that. Luckily we were able to find them for reasonable price, but discovered along the way that you can also build your own for cheap! Here’s how.
We laid out our room with two rows of two 6 foot tables, which we could just squeeze in our party of 26 with acceptable comfort.
With the help of that (admittedly) shitty plastic sheeting you see at every bad Halloween party, we made our walls become stone, and our ceiling to become enchanted. The trick here is to cover everything. The more you do, the better it sells. It’s cheap as dirt, so don’t be stingy! Also, keep the room dark to keep the reflection to a minimum – and to hide flaws. (Beware, a room encased in plastic sheeting requires good ventilation! We almost learned that the hard way.) Another way to minimize especially shiny areas is to spray brown Streaks N Tips on those spots. If you want to up the class or ventilation factor, consider getting stone-printed Butcher paper (like this).
Like every great Great Hall, we topped off the atmosphere by hanging candles on invisible thread throughout.
Stay tuned for a detailed looking into the transformation.
It’s the Details, Darling
All of the above might sell it as is, but we’re not Moderately Good Shindig here, we are Damn good. So enter the details: Dumbledore’s Podium, created with thrift store materials; House Point counters, created with Dollar Store cases and beads; large prints of the Hogwarts Founders (By UnripeHamadryad); House banners (tutorial coming!); and a still life portrait of fruit covering the entrance to the kitchen.
Our guests oogled and awed over all the details at the party; it was worth every dollar store dollar we spent and then some. We’ve got a whole list of DIY tutorials and more detailed explanations coming your way, but for now we have these beautiful photographs our talented friend Caroline Louis took for you to drool over. Thanks Caroline!
Schmancy Hogwarts Table Settings
Hogwarts is already known for its excellent tableware, and as this is a function for esteemed alumni, we took it a notch further. Crystal goblets, gold stemmed champagne glasses, china plates with gold trim and gold silverware. That all sounds obscenely expensive, but we are bargain hunters and true believers in dollar stores, and we made it work.
We ended up renting the China plates because someone (Ellie) fell in love with them and wouldn’t have it any other way. But renting is a very cost effective thing, especially when you have a smaller amount of guests. The clear goblets are straight dollar store gems and the silverware and champagne flutes are plastic. Hard to believe right? When you mix your materials up between fancy and cheap, it often can blend together seamlessly into something that looks expensive.
For under the table settings, we purchased navy blue satin table cloths and a long length of gold star patterned organza that acted as a floaty table runner.
The centerpieces celebrated each house, with house-colored ribbons and fairy lights housed in lanterns, perched on a Hogwarts text book and accompanied by a gold house animal. Tutorial coming!
We’ve struggled to find great inexpensive candelabra options, but were pleased to find you can buy cheap candelabra stems that sit in a wine bottle. Score!
A Feast Worthy of Hogwarts
26 is a lot of people to feed! Especially if you want to keep things hot, fresh and timely. We don’t envy the Hogwarts House Elves their thrice daily task.
Learning from our Feast of Thrones, we bought warming pans this time around and timed things a bit better to keep food coming. We provided the main dishes of Shepherd’s Pie, Tri-tip, and a variety of sausages. We asked guests to bring side dishes and deserts. Along with our invitations, we included a list of options/ideas in theme with what Hogwarts would serve, which was a big help for our guests.
The result was a delicious and entertaining meal with fun dishes being passed around with shouts of “pass the bouillabaisse!” We made sure to provide vegan and gluten free options as well as the wonderful meat dishes. Know your guests’s dietary restrictions, they will love you for it.
Alumni like their Butterbeer with alcohol, please
Cauldrons full of delicious signature drinks “Amortentia” and “H is for Hogwarts” were extremely popular. However, The easy favorite of the evening was the delicious hot Butterbeer. The recipe we found was the perfect balance of sweet and crisp. You could elect to keep it non alcoholic or spike it with a nice bourbon. We provided both hand-whipped cream and vegan whipped cream to top off the concoction. We also did a champagne toast to celebrate our Alumni awesomeness.
Our Hogwarts alumni guests came styled to the 9 and three-quarters. Everyone’s hat game was especially strong. Siriusly awesome Eric (top middle) and Heather (far right), won Best Dressed Wizard and Witch, respectively, in our superlative awards. Check out our Pinterest board for Wizard Fashion for ideas for your own grown-up wizarding get together.
The feasting was peppered with fun activities to celebrate the coming together of our esteemed fellow alumni.
We began the meal with our School song, sung in any which tune pleased each guest. Magical ink (aka temporary) tattoos were extremely popular between courses. Festive English poppers wrapped in Special Edition Daily Prophets were handed out during dinner. And just before dessert, Haley and Ellie awarded Superlatives to 15 of our guests ranging from: Best Dressed Wizard to Most Likely to Have Been Caught Snogging in a Broom Cupboard, to Most Unlikely to Still Be Alive. Our award ceremony was peppered with stories of our guests’ supposed feats in the Wizarding world post-grad, and was met with much laughter and cheering.
We ended the night with a game of Penseive – essentially Celebrity, HP style. The activities served as a great way to engage our guests in the theme and connect guests that didn’t know one another.
Don’t forget the bathroom!
We couldn’t have a Hogwarts bathroom without Moaning Myrtle lamenting from the pipes. We achieved this by placing a laptop with moaning myrtle on loop in the cupboard under the sink. Voila! Another fun element was having spiders crawling across the counter to the window. Follow the Spiders!
Our Hogwarts Alumni Dinner was a right smashing success. Perhaps your chapter of the Hogwarts Alumni Association is next? Let us know!
Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus