According to our 7 Musts for a Damn Good Shindig, rule #1 is that a DGS must be immersive. So we knew if we were going to throw a Hogwarts Alumni Dinner party, then by George, it better feel like we are actually at Hogwarts. Take a look at the transformation of Ellie’s apartment living room into the Great Hall. Impressive? We think so. Stay tuned to learn how we did it!
Great Hall Walls
First thing’s first: it just isn’t Hogwarts without some solid stone walls. We love that shitty plastic backdrop sheeting you can get at every Party City. It’s cheap as dirt so you can cover evvverrrryyything. The more you do, the better it sells. We bought ours in bulk from Amazon but there are plenty of options out there. Find one that screams Hogwarts to you! Beware, a room encased in plastic sheeting requires good ventilation! (We almost learned that the hard way.)
Helpful hint: keep the room dark to keep the reflection to a minimum – and to hide flaws. Another way to minimize especially shiny areas is to spray brown Streaks N Tips on those spots. If you have any dark wood panelling or moulding, we recommend leaving that exposed, as the Great Hall features some pretty amazing panelling.
To put up the sheeting, start in the corner, unroll a good length, and tack the top with tape or thumb tacks. Pull the sheeting smoothly down to the floor, and cut the bottom where it meets your floor or moulding. Attach at the bottom once your sheet is as smooth as possible. Repeat all the way around the room. Taking the time to cut out existing room features, like a wall vent or window frame will help the look of the sheeting. Its a pain in the butt, but its worth it.
Once you’re all done with the stone layer its time to add banners and portraits! Check out our DIY tutorial here on how to create your own house banners. For portraits of the Hogwarts Founders, we printed out these beautiful portraits by UnripeHamadryad on bond paper. These guys are sized at 24″w x 36″h and cut to the edge of the borders. We stuck them straight to our sheeting, but one can always mount and frame them if you so choose. If you find yourself with a blank wall or a particularly shiny bit of sheeting, this is a great way to add some Hogwarts personality.
Some Enchanted Ceiling
The Great Hall’s enchanted ceiling is a visual that has inspired every Harry Potter fan. We knew we had to do it justice (or at least an honorable mention).
We got three rolls of Star-speckled plastic sheeting – the same material as the stone walls – to cover our ceiling with a night sky. After putting up the walls, we thought this wouldn’t be too tough – but boy, were we wrong! Gravity is a thing. With lots of cursing Merlin’s pants, experimenting with different tape types, and pulling and smoothing, we were able to get a rhythm going. Tape winner: Gaffers’ Tape! Believe us, if we weren’t renters we would hard core just have painted an everlasting enchanted ceiling right up there, but alas, this was a great temporary solution.
You need at least two people to accomplish this feat. To put up the ceiling, start in the corner and work your way down and over. The first person should align the corners of sheet to ceiling and tape into place. The second person adds rolled pieces of tape to the length of the ceiling as the first person smooths the sheeting, making sure she hits all of the taped pieces. Switch when your arms get tired! Once you’ve exhausted the rolls of sheeting (and your arms), go back in and make sure to smooth out any bubbles and reinforce seams where it needs it.
Next up, Floating Candles!
There are dozens of tutorials out there on how to create great Floating Candles, so we won’t bore you with another. But we made it easy on ourselves and ended up buying 24 cheap flickering taper candles, and hanging them with invisible thread and push pins. (The push pins also aided keeping the ceiling sheeting in place.) Pro tip: vary the length of your strings so the candles don’t clump all together visually, it makes your ceiling look higher!
The overall effect was stunning, and we caught guests glancing up constantly with grins on their faces. Well worth the tired arms!
Arranging the Great Hall Tables
We opted to go with picnic tables and benches for our party, so we could achieve the iconic look of the Great Hall. We spent weeks tracking down the perfect rental options, and finally found the perfect fit. It was a frustrating search since we are not as wealthy as some Gringotts customers but we discovered along the way that you can build your own benches for cheap to pair with your own tables! 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 (Inter-house unity, guys). Each of these tables was laid with royal blue and sparkly gold tablecloths, and set exquisitely in Hogwarts fashion. A centerpiece representing the various Hogwarts houses was placed on each table. However we did not seat our guests by house, instead we asked our alumni to mingle with other houses – after all, we had an overwhelming Gryffindor presence.
Now it’s your turn. What part of Harry Potter’s world would you like to recreate in your home?