By Faith Aeriel
As a proud member of the Harry Potter Generation, I’ve done my fair share of Potter partying, including a themed movie marathon and two full-fledged, over-the-top parties. One of the great things about Harry Potter is the fact that it’s not age restrictive, meaning this party we’re planning together can be aimed at adults or kids. Or both. After co-organizing a few of these wizarding shin-digs myself, I have a few ideas to help you throw your own Harry Potter party to celebrate Harry’s (and author J. K. Rowling’s) birthday on July 31. Or save these ideas to throw the ultimate Halloween party.
If you’re looking for party planning shortcuts, Etsy might just be your new best friend, but try to give yourself enough time to put some of these ideas to use. They’re all pretty simple and make for a great party.
Please note that while I have used most of these ideas in my own parties, not all photographs are my own.
This was my favorite invitation, whether you’re actually mailing invitations or just handing them out. You’re going to need enough envelopes for your entire guest list, plus another two dozen or so (we’ll get back to these when we talk about decorations). Try to find off-white or egg shell colored envelopes if you can. This will make them look more like parchment. Type up your guests’ addresses – using emerald green ink and a cursive font, of course! If you’re not mailing these, you can stick more closely to the address on Harry’s letter (Mr H. Potter, The Cupboard under the Stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey). If you are mailing them obviously you need to use a real mailing address, but you can make easier to believe an owl dropped it in the mailbox by putting the return address on the back. Either way, be sure to change the word document dimensions to match the dimensions of the envelopes when printing the addresses. You’re also going to want to adjust your printer to fit the dimensions of the envelopes you’ll be using. Every printer is different, but mine had a specific setting where I was able to adjust this. You may need to do a few test runs to get the addresses to print in the center of the envelope, but don’t throw these ones away.
Type up the details of your party on a separate document (like something pictured above), add a Hogwarts seal, and, aparecium, you have your Hogwarts Letters. There are lots of templates online if you don’t want to start from scratch – this is the one I used for the mock-up above.
Print Harry’s address on the remaining envelopes and tuck these away in a safe place until you begin decorating.
If you’re planning to hand out your invitations in person, roll up the invitation like a scroll. Cut ribbon into three foot sections, tying one end to the scroll and one end to a helium filled owl balloon. Amazon has a selection of owl shaped balloons to choose from, or if you want to save a few dollars and aren’t afraid of DIY projects, buy plain white balloons and draw an owl on them.
Invitations Short Cut
Of course there’s always the made to order option for invitations. Here’s a few to take a look at: Invitation 1, Invitation 2, Invitation 3. (I told you Etsy was going to be your best frind, last-minute-planners.)
Remember those envelopes you saved? I hope you made a bunch. You did? Perfect. Now you just need some clear fishing line and tape. Oh, and a fireplace.
Cut the fishing line into pieces that can stretch from the ceiling to the fireplace and then secure them at each end. Attach the envelopes at various points along the fishing line with the tape. If you happen to have a TV mounted above your fireplace, pause Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on the scene with the flying envelopes.
This one does take a little ingenuity, if not artistic ability to execute, but the idea is simple enough. A lot of instructions I’ve seen have suggested starting with a basic poster board, but I recommend using a tri-fold poster board so that you can set your up photo booth on a table and no one needs to hold it during pictures. Cut a square out of the middle section with an exacto knife and then decorate what would be the back if you were using the board for it’s intended purpose – say, a school project. If you decorate the back, you’re able to open the other two folds in order to hold the board open without them being seen in the picture. (Look, Mom! No hands!)
Be sure to set out some props for your photo booth!
Start collecting your empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls and break out your Elmer’s Glue! Paint the empty rolls white (optional) and let the glue drip down the sides so it looks like a melting candle. Put glue around the inside of the rolls at the top. Add fishingline (long enough that you will be able to hang the candles once they’re dry) and then LED tealights. Allow to dry and then hang from the ceiling.
Decoration Short Cuts
You’ve got your birthday party banners – Harry Potterized, of course – and decorative decals. And what party is complete without a little confetti and the a little more confetti?
When I first started planning my party, the food was the most daunting part. Sure, I could have ordered pizza, but that’s muggle food. Then I realized that the trick with food is to come up with a themed name and then you can suddenly serve anything at your Harry Potter party. Most of the recipes you’ll find online are for sweets and other baked goods, but at my party we had Dragon Eggs (deviled eggs), Polyjuice Potion (cheesy bean dip and chips), and wands (fruit skewers) in addition to the overflowing Honeydukes table.
This recipe was a hit and so easy to make. All you need is a 16 oz. can of refried beans, a pound of Velveeta Cheese, and two cups of salsa. Cut the cheese into cube so it will melt more easily and put all the ingredients into a microwavable bowl. Microwave covered for two minutes and stir. Repeat as needed until all the cheese is melted. Serve with tortilla chips and reheat as necessary.
Of course, we ate all the dip before I thought to take a picture, but it wasn’t exactly pretty anyway. The Polyjuice Potion definitely looks the part – chunky, gooey, and like it might just have the hair of you mortal enemy inside – but I assure you, it tastes way better than the potion Harry, Ron, and Hermione had to endure in book two.
Again, you can find these online, but they’re easy to make with a chocolate mold and you get way more bang for you buck. Plus, if you make them yourself you can make a variety of flavors and fillings. I made a peanut butter filled chocolate frog (I have a weakness for Reese’s) and they turned out great. Here are some ideas to get you started with your chocolate frog concoctions: basic chocolate frogs, peanut butter chocolate frogs, cookie dough stuffed chocolate frogs, jello chocolate frogs.
Almost all these recipes are going to require you to melt chocolate and whether you opt for chocolate chips or baking chocolate, I recommend using a double boiler instead of a microwave whenever possible. It’s much easier to burn your chocolate in the microwave and nearly impossible to salvage burnt chocolate.
Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans
This is a good last minute snack to add to the food table and with some little bags (like these – thanks again, Etsy) can double as a prize or party favor. You can go all out and get genuine Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans Jelly Beans, but they’re pretty expensive for what you get and don’t taste very good anyway. So I just got a few bags of regular jelly beans and put them in a giant bowl as the centerpiece. Although I did splurge a little and buy a few boxes of Bertie Bott’s just for decoration. Much to my dismay, Peeves must have gotten wind of the party, because some of the Bertie Bott’s ended up with all the delightful fruity flavors. I was happily munching away on watermelon and root beer and popcorn beans and BAM! Grass. Yummy.
I have a lot of favorite party ideas, but this one just might be my favorite favorite. You’ll need some mini plastic flower pots, cupcake liners (full sized or mini depending on the size of the flower pots you get), plastic babies (the ones you might find at the center of an ice cube at a baby shower), small plastic leaves, and chocolate cake mix (alright, fine, I guess you can use a different flavor if you really want to) and frosting. Bake your cupcakes and allow them to cool completely before setting them in the plastic pots. If you’re cupcakes slip too far into the flower pots, you can stuff the bottom of the pot with a bit of paper towel. While the cupcakes are cooling, hot glue some of the leaves to the plastic babies’ heads. Frost the cupcakes (you can add Oreo crumbs on top for added dirt-like affect) and then push the plastic babies into the cupcake until all that is showing is their head.
If you want to go the while nine yards, make guests wear earmuffs while they eat their mandrake cupcakes!
Like I said before, you ca really get away with serving anything as long as you make it a cute little nameplate with a themed name. A meatlovers’ pizza isn’t just a muggle pizza, it’s “Fenrir Greyback’s full moon pizza.”
For a faster and much less mandrakey alternative to cupcake decorations, try some cupcake toppers. You can also find cute cookie cutters or even order predecorated cookies.
I’ve seen lots of recipes for Hogwarts pumpkin juice, but I have yet to find a recipe that I’ve actually liked. So we’re going to skip that for now.
Magic Kids’ Drinks
I say “kids’ drink,” but to be honest, I have adult friends I know would be impressed by this. I would be impressed by this… Will someone please surprise me with another Harry Potter party?!
You’re going to want clear plastic cups, liquid food coloring, ice cubes, and water or lemon-lime soda. Set out your cups out and put two or three drops of food coloring in the bottom of each with enough time for the food coloring to dry. Just before everyone is ready for drinks, add ice and let your guests pour themselves water or soda. As they pour, it will change colors, mixing with the hidden food coloring at the bottom.
No Harry Potter party would be complete without butterbeer! Alexander Hanna of Intoxicology has five delicious recipes for you to choose from – three non-alcoholic and two adult beverage options.
Some of these Harry Potter cocktail recipes are pretty fancy, but if you’re more of a cocktail wizard than I am (pun intended), here are a few other recipes that have proven to be very popular with party guests: Hogwarts house cocktails or house shots, The Goblet of Fire cocktails, Death Eater cocktails, and Patronus Punch.
Games & Activities:
This one seems pretty self explanatory. Long gone are the days of trick-or-treating in a homemade Hermione costume because no one sold a Gryffindor robe; there is certainly no shortage to the Harry Potter themed costumes available anymore. But I still give kudos to the people who are resourceful enough to make their own.
There is no end to the creative ways you can sort guests into the four Hogwarts houses (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin). Your sorting can be as simple as drawing a house name from the sorting hat or you can have guests take one of the plethora of online tests to determine which house they should be in. As much as I love the thrill of having my personality put to the test as being sort (as realistically as possible) into the correct house, for the sake of time I usually opt for passing around the hat. But if you’re up for the challenge, here’s a great quiz to use with adults and ones that’s more kid-oriented.
If you’re also planning a costume contest, you can combine these two by awarding house points to everyone who dressed up.
This one is especially good for kids, but like anything else, it can be used for an adults’ party too. Write the names of different Harry Potter characters on all the plastic cups. Whenever someone has a drink of their Polyjuice Potion, they turn into that character and should be called by the character’s name.
Alternatively, make stickers with the characters’ names written on them and give everyone a sticker when they arrive – they’re not allowed to look at it. Everyone has to guess which character they are by asking other people yes or no questions. (Am I a Gryffindor? Yes. Am I on the Quidditch team? No. Am I at the top of all my classes? Yes. Am I Hermione? Yes!)
Kids’ version: Spray paint six hula hoops brown and nail them to the top of six wooden stakes – two of the stakes should be taller than the other four. Set up your goal posts on opposite side of the yard, with a tall goal centered between the two short ones. Provide a sport ball to be used as a quaffle – I would suggest against giving out bludgers, but, hey, that’s your call.
Adult version: Tabletop Quidditch Pong. You can make goal posts out of wire clothes hangers and duct tape. Set up three goals on either end of the table with the typical beer pong cups set up behind them. Your ping-pong ball must make it through a goal post and into a cup in order to score.
Faith Aeriel is a freelance writer and journalist. She has formerly worked as Associate Editor for Manhattan Book Review, San Francisco Book Review, and Kids’ BookBuzz, during which time she was responsible for writing articles, blog posts, and interviewing authors, as well as editing and managing incoming content for the websites. Faith loves books, cinnamon rolls, and cats.