Help me plan the most awesome party ever!
April 7, 2013 11:37 PM   Subscribe

Looking for unique, fun, cost effective ideas for Harry Potter themed 31st Birthday Party.

Due to unforseen circumstances I was unable to have a party for my 30th last year. After a lot of thought and encouragement from my pals I have decided to have a 31st instead.

I'm a big fan of Harry Potter and have read all the books and seen all the movies quite recently so I want to have an adult HP theme party (kid friendly too).

I'm looking for ideas that are faithful to the stories and also not too expensive. I've done lots Googling and have come up with a few things but I want this to be the most awesome party ever. It will not be a dress up party and it will be held at my parents house who have a large outdoor entertaining area (Oct - spring in Australia)

Some ideas so far are:
A sorting hat filled with house badges (buttons) for each guest to choose on arrival
A potions display
Honeydukes Candy Bar (this is top of my wish list and would be greatful for ideas on how to pull it off)
Helium balloons decorated like owls

Activities for kids also welcome.

posted by Youremyworld to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Can you or somebody you know make animated gifs? The enchanted photos from HP are basically craftily looped animated gifs of people posing. I think it would be really cool and appropriately themed to film yourself, dressed wizardy and smiling cheesily for the camera holding your own "HAPPY 31st BIRTHDAY YOUREMYWORLD" banner or sign, and have it looped into an animated gif that you would set to play repeatedly on a tv or electronic picture frame at the party. It would be great if you occasionally scratched your nose or adjusted an accessory and blinked and such. I'm sure that if you can't do this yourself, you can post it as a job on Mefi.

You could make Hermione's bluebell flames in a jar by getting sheets of blue theater gels (the transparent colored sheets that go over lighting devices to change their color) and cutting them into big petaled star shapes. Set a small tap-light in the center and crinkle a couple layers of the gel around the light, and place that into an empty jam jar. I think it would be nice to use a few different colors of blue, and lots of different shapes of jars. You can even find electric tea lights that flicker.

Harry Potter has so many different aspects to it that pique people's interest, just saying you're a fan of the series as a whole isn't so helpful in guiding askme readers to coming up with ideas you'll really enjoy. Could you leave a followup with some further detail about what parts of HP you like so much? Do you have a favorite character or theme in the books? Is there a place that you like particularly? (Maybe you love the homey feeling of the Burrow and would like ideas to evoke that - this would be totally different if you loved the Leaky Cauldron and wanted to go with a magical pub feel, or if you love the emphasis on books and want to go all Restricted Section, for instance.)

As for the Honeydukes Candy Bar, what are you envisioning in a perfect budget-free world that this would be?
posted by Mizu at 12:06 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Great hall floating candles DIY. A lot of good, cheap ideas here. I really like the idea of using a TV screen for the moving wizard portraits, but I'd like to see the TV covered up more than they do here.

I just saw this Tumblr post the other day, and thought it was so awesome. Maybe you can find some inspiration for the invites there.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:15 AM on April 8, 2013

Two birthdays ago, my party was Monopoly themed. But we did it as a potluck. In this specific case, this meant assigning each guest a color group to go with their food—so my friend with the reds had Kentucky Derby brownies, and Chicago style pizza, for example. My brother brought hummus for the dark purples—Mediterranean.

It was a lot of fun and everybody really bought into the concept, so that was exciting.

My point is that a potluck birthday can be a lot of fun if there's a theme for people to build around, and Harry Potter is definitely a good theme. Just make sure only one of them commit to bring Butter Beer!
posted by disillusioned at 1:39 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

a large outdoor entertaining area

Get the kids running around pretending they're flying on brooms and so on. Wear them out. The best kid-friendly parties get kids outside and wear them the hell out so that they're ready to sleep when it's all done. Even if you're indoors, get them sprawling, crawling, stretching. And if you can get the adults to join in, that's great fun as long as you make sure the kids are winning and no one gets hurt. Here and here are a couple of suggestions from elsewhere.
posted by pracowity at 2:11 AM on April 8, 2013

Secret stick on Death Eater tattoos for random adult guests. At some point in the evening they are told to reveal the tattoos and the lights go down dramatically. The kids 'fight off' the DEs with candy wands. Good times are had by all in true playground gunfight style.
posted by jaduncan at 2:24 AM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Honeydukes is the easy bit. Anything transferred to a cellophane bag and slapped with a Honeydukes label is suddenly Honeydukes (looks like that's all they do at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, anyway!) Most generic lollies will do, though of course there's plenty from the books (eg lemon sherberts, crystallised pineapple). Here's a list! Toffee apples are great this way, too.

Jelly Belly jelly beans + papercraft box = Bertie Bott's

Freddo Frog - wrapping + papercraft box = chocolate frogs

Chuppa Chupp plus ziplock bag filled with sherbert and pop rocks = acid pops

Licorice sticks (or pretzels) dipped in chocolate are Olivander's wands.

A whole wheel of brie wrapped in puff pastry (including a Hogwarts crest) and baked, then served with crackers, bread and relishes is an easy but spectacular nibble.

Gotta have bakingdom's Butterbeer (though we've got away with generic brown creaming soda liberally dosed with butterscotch schnapps).

For party food, pretty much any finger food can be made wizardy with an appropriate label in an appropriate font. They're not chicken wings - they're bat wings. They're not stuffed olives - they're eyes of newt, in a jar. They're not Cheezels - they're Golden Rings of Deus Ex Machina. It's not guacamole - it's Troll Snot. (Don't go too gross - kids won't eat it.)

Get a digital camera and a couple of brooms. Take 'Pottering' shots.

Buy many glow sticks. Save your glass jars. On the night, break said sticks, cut off the ends, and shake the contents vigorously over the walls of the jar. Three are enough for a giant pickle jar. They look awesome and will glow for hours. (We use these for tooth fairy traps - long story.)

Dadcando has plenty of cool HP stuff (eg paper + glue gun = awesome wands), but you'll need to start now. Kids get a kick from waving wands at this Wingardium prop made from a soft drink bottle - add a discrete foot pump under the table with some acrylic tubing from Bunnings, put a large feather inside, let them try to levitate, levio-SA - then poof, up it goes.

Lots and lots and lots of fairy lights. More than you can possibly imagine.

Add a little yellow and red food colouring to cloudy apple juice to make pumpkin juice.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:22 AM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Don't forget that your gigasecond day is coming up. Blows a 30th birthday right out of the water.
posted by alexei at 3:40 AM on April 8, 2013

Even if it's not a costume party, it would be fun to have an area with props and clothes - hats, robes, scarves, etc. and props for people to take pictures with.
posted by bq at 3:45 AM on April 8, 2013

Large outdoor entertaining area? How large? It sounds like you may be able to play Quidditch! Rules found here
posted by astapasta24 at 4:02 AM on April 8, 2013

Many years ago, my homeschooling group did a HP day for our kids. Normally, we would do planning for theme type days *with* the kids, but this time the parents took it all on so that stuff was a surprise for the kids. I made up invitations for each child to come to Hogwarts (found a brass wax seal somewhere in the shape of an owl) and passed them out a week or so before the party. The day of, a couple of parents were in charge of getting the kid to the park where we met. Most of them had little experience with public transit at that point, and there was a bus that stopped right beside our park, so the kids were herded onto the bus (all in robes and hats and w/ wands) a few blocks away and then debarked the bus on the opposite side of the park, where they had to walk past a big lake to get to our staging area (the closest we could manage to them taking boats across the lake to school).

We had used a projector and blown up illustrations from the books and scattered them about for ambiance and also used scrap lumber to make signs for the various areas in the fancy font in the books. There were also signs pointing off in various directions for things we didn't try to depict, but just to set the atmosphere.

We had various areas set up such as Muggle studies, with one parent discussing the various uses for everyday items (wrongly, of course) and Herbology (an old, rooty potato is pretty cool looking and you can go on about such things or just have them set out w/ labels for people to discuss).

One of the coolest things we did was to set up a sorting hat (w/ a remote person reading the decision for the hat) and my husband taking photos. We then made those into Hogwarts ID's which we handed out the next week, lamination and all. We also took a group photo and made copies for everyone. I asked the kids which house they wanted to be in as part of their invitation, because I did not want someone to be sad or mad on the day of, for being randomly sorted into Hufflepuff or Slytherin.

There was a Quidditch game set up by one of the parents, for the kids to play.

There was a HP themed potluck, of course.

People still talk about that day, all these years later.
posted by jvilter at 4:15 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

For Kid BlahLaLa's HP birthday party we collected twigs and sticks -- okay, wands -- from a neighborhood park. We made labels for each one, telling what kind of wood they were made of and what kind of core they had (found a list of wand types on Wikipedia), then laid them out on a table which became our wand shop.

We also printed out a list of spells and curses, which everybody got for free with their wand "purchase." So basically half of the part was kids running around with wands doing spells. Yay!
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:39 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Playing off of jvilter's muggle studies idea, maybe you could play it as if you have the use of a muggle house for a night. You can have labels around the house that explain various muggle things.

Also, Miracle Fruits might be cool. It could be something the twins came up with.

I don't know if you have been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (I haven't), but from the pictures it looks pretty much exactly how I would imagine the world of the books. You can check out Flickr accounts to get ideas.

You could also get maybe a local school, choir, or performing arts group to do a short performance. A choir could do the "Double Double Toil and Trouble" song, a dancer could be a dancer from Beauxbatons, a local improv actor could be a muggle (acting kind of scared) who everyone is allowed to question for 30 minutes before you erase his memory and send him on his way. I think that type of pageantry and performance is definitely a part of the books.

If the large outdoor entertaining area has a fire pit, you could do one of those old camping tricks where you throw flour into a fire to make it jump or buy those chemical packets that change the fire different colors (or make your own).

A lot of butterbeer recipes seem to be cream soda flavored, but when I think of butterbeer I think of something with the flavor of hot buttered rum, but carbonated and cold. Butterscotch schnapps sounds like it would come the closest.

There are lots of ideas on Pinterest.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 10:54 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: FROM OP

Wow, these ideas are just awesome!

In terms of cost effectiveness I am looking for things I can make myself, as opposed to buying and there are tons of ideas here already, thank you.

To Mizu, I was thinking about having the lounge room set up as the Gryffindor common room and the outdoor area as the great hall. The rest of the house won't really be used aside from the toilet and bathroom which I can put some small decorations in.

Love the idea of the gigasecond birthday, although my 31st falls on a long weekend here in Aus, which is good for a party.

Thanks so much, any more ideas are very welcome.
posted by Youremyworld at 4:48 PM on April 8, 2013

I've had a few HP-themed birthday parties and they're always great fun! For the most recent one, I made a Platform 9 3/4 to walk through as the entrance to the party, and it was a big hit.

I used a thrifted white bedsheet and spray-painted it brick red. In retrospect, you could probably buy a red one but I liked the uneven-ness of the spray paint - made it look more like bricks. Then I used a sharpie marker to draw a brick pattern. This was the longest / most tedious part.

Then, I cut the sheet in the center, starting from the bottom and going about 2/3 of the way up, so the top is still connected but there is a slit to walk through.

Finally, I used some small finishing nails to attach it above the exterior of my front door. IT LOOKED GREAT and everybody got a kick out of running through it to get into the party.

The other idea I had (which I didn't end up completing) was to get a big piece of foamcore and use the Rasterbator to print out a giant image of the Sirius Black "Have you seen this wizard?" poster, attach the paper to the foamcore, then cut out his face so people could pose behind it for a photo op.

I used a mirror/glass marker to write the inscription from the Mirror of Erised on my bathroom mirror.

I printed out a small image of Moaning Myrtle and taped it behind the toilet tank so she was peeking over the edge. This still makes me laugh because it was so stupid but it was well-received.

Do you have the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook? I can highly recommend the lemon popsicles! (The name is escaping me at the moment - maybe triple lemon pops?)

I also make really simple Butterbeers by putting a sploosh of butterscotch schnapps in a glass of cream soda. It's cheap and delicious.

Your party will be fantastic - I can't wait to hear how it goes.
posted by meggan at 12:22 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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