A few weeks ago, an owl delivered a letter to our house. Not just any letter – because then why would an owl have delivered it? – this was a letter I had been waiting for since I was 12. The letter that proclaimed I had finally been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
That may be a slight exaggeration…but isn’t the above party invitation incredible? My friend Sheena printed the official letter, book list and party invitation on three sheets of parchment, as well as a train ticket from London to Hogwarts via Platform 9 3/4. She sealed everything up in an envelope embellished with wax and the Hogwarts seal. If you think that’s creative, you’re really in for a treat.
The idea of a Harry Potter party was dreamed up about a month ago by Sheena, Shanley and me. As huge fans of the books and movies, it was something we had always wanted to do but had never fully wrapped our heads around how to do it. We got together for a brainstorm and the rest is Hogwarts history. It was decided that the party would be hosted at Shanley’s house and that her and Sheena would be handling the bulk of the decor and design elements. I thought this was best considering that my art skills are most competitive with those of a small child with fingerpaints.
My focus was on the food, drinks and Honeydukes candy bar (twist my arm). I enlisted the help of Nicole, who I knew was not only an amazing cook but also an expert party planner. Between the four of us, we felt confident in our ability to make the party something special.
Although the initial idea for the party happened back in early October, the actual components really only came together in the two weeks leading up to the big day – especially where the food was concerned. Nicole and I spent most of Saturday morning and afternoon in the kitchen. Procrastination isn’t my most redeeming quality, but I do enjoy working under pressure and was pleased with how everything ultimately turned out against the ticking clock.
Harry Potter Party Menu
Veritaserum (cocktail recipe below)
Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey (root beer)
Elf-made wine (any red-tinted soft drink)
Pumpkin juice (orange soda)
Pumpkin beers (assorted brands)
Herbology Veggie Plate
Treacle Tarts with Ice Cream
Assorted Honeydukes Candy
I would say that by far the most fun recipe to work on was the Sorting Hat pita bread.
It was my first time ever making bread with yeast. I was terrified that I would knead wrong and it wouldn’t rise, which made it all the more exciting when I looked into the bowl two hours later and saw the dough had doubled in size!
Nicole and I had a blast trying to shape this thing on the aluminum foil cone. As you can see above, it looked pretty close to the real deal before it went into the oven! If we had to do it over again, we would try baking the whole thing standing up. The eyes and mouth lost a bit of their shape in the oven and because the hat was on its side, it expanded and became a bit more like Jabba the Hut. Still, we were quite fond of our Sorting Hat when all was said and done.
I also really enjoyed creating the labels and signs for the drinks and food. Sheena found these amazing (and free) candy and drink printables that I made at home and cut out. I then ran their edges along an ink pad to give them an even more vintage look.
I also decided to whip up some DIY candy bags. I found these awesome pink-and-white-striped favor bags at Party City (along with some adorable pink candy scoops!) and affixed the Honeydukes logo to them with glue. Yes, gluing I can definitely handle.
That was the extent of my decor contribution, but I was pretty proud of how everything turned out! With the party starting at 7:00 pm, Nicole and I wrapped up our cooking by 5:00 and began bringing everything over to Shanley’s house.
When we got there, I…squealed like a 12-year-old going to Hogwarts for the first time.
Simply walk through the wall between platforms 9 and 10…
…and, once you arrive at Hogwarts, make your way into the Great Hall.
Sheena’s Platform 9 3/4 sign and tapestry were absolutely brilliant, while Shanley’s take on the floating candles and owl podium in the Great Hall was positively dreamy. I couldn’t get over either of them – and I have the multitude of pictures to prove it.
Shanley’s mom made the candles by painting paper towel and toilet paper rolls white and drippy with “wax.” She then strung them from the ceiling with LED lights. It was really impressive, and as it got progressively darker outside the hallway became more and more magical.
Sheena also painted a tapestry to hang from the ceiling that looked like the night sky. She added in the stars the day of the party, painting them as if she were Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel.
Edited to add: Many people have asked for more specifics about the night sky and floating candles. They were inspired by a post on a Harry Potter party website. Sheena and Shanley followed the instructions in the link exactly except for one thing: instead of cutting out foam to look like candle wax, they just used a hot glue gun to put the wax design on each candle!
We walked a bit further in and found the Potions table (with perfect bottle decor from Shanley)…
…as well as The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 1.
And at the table beyond was seated none other than a real Sorting Hat, handmade by Sheena!
There were signs posted all over the house, including headlines from the Daily Prophet, proclamations from Dolores Umbridge and advertisements for the Quidditch World Cup.
And of course, an entrance to the Ministry of Magic via the toilet network!
Last but not least in terms of decor unrelated to food, we had the wand and house badge table.
Sheena made Ollivanders wands using dowels, hot glue, paint – and a variety of different types of wood and magical cores, of course. The wand chooses the witch or wizard, and ultimately I came into possession of a mahogany wand, 12 inches in length with a Phoenix tail feather core.
She also created magnetized foam badges representing the houses, S.P.E.W., prefects, Quidditch captains and more. Only time would tell exactly who might show up to our party!
Nicole and I were blown away by everything, to say the least.
Now it was our turn to set up the food and drinks, and so we made our way over to Three Broomsticks. This gorgeous sign was created by Shanley, and every detail down to the lantern was crazy accurate. Once again I found myself squealing – visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was a real treat, but as unforgettable as that adventure was there is also something to be said about Shanley and Sheena’s ability to bring the world of Harry Potter here to Arizona.
Nicole and I began by setting up the drinks station under the Three Broomsticks sign. First task: butterbeer! We whipped up a giant batch in a punch bowl with a side of delicious whipped cream, and created a sample out of my souvenir mug.
From there, we set out the non-alcoholic drinks (“Gillywater” also included)…
…a cauldron of pumpkin beers (Blue Moon and Shock Top)…
…and my personal favorite, Veritaserum, a cocktail that unlocks the truth. We set out vials of water with food coloring to give the effect of potion making (vials from Party City).
The taste of the actual Veritaserum cocktail can best be described as “liquid candy.” It is extremely sweet and based off of one of my old favorite recipes – the “Stormy Night” cocktail. I thought it’d be appropriate to have a dark and mysterious beverage.
Unfortunately they were out of some of those ingredients when I went to the liquor store, but I improvised and ended up with a version that was even darker and sweeter. There are plenty of ways to make this recipe a bit lighter in sugary calories and sweetness (for example, were I not trying to make this a dark purple color I would have omitted the blue curacao completely). But I think this particular version was a hit and would love to know if you try it out.
Ingredients (makes one cocktail):
- 1 ounce raspberry vodka
- 1 ounce watermelon schnapps
- 1 ounce strawberry schnapps
- 1/2 ounce sweet and sour mix
- 1/2 ounce blue curacao (non-alcoholic)
Combine ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled. Serve and enjoy.
While we’re on the topic of all things sweet, the Honeydukes candy bar was next on our list!
Shanley has a set of gorgeous serving jars from her wedding, which we filled with Jellyslugs (sour gummy worms), Acid Pops (Dum Dums), Pepper Imps (red hots), Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (Jelly Belly), Chocolate Frogs and Fizzing Whizbees (a pop rock-esque candy I found at Party City).
As you can imagine, I was thrilled with how this came together. My favorite food station, for sure!
That said, the appetizer table was not too shabby, either.
The Sorting Hat bread turned out doughy on the inside and tasted great with the accompanying spinach and artichoke dip (unfortunately I didn’t get a close up of that, but it’s behind the hat in the photo above). Can’t wait to make both again.
Our Herbology veggie tray was served with ranch dressing and hummus for dipping.
…while our Hogwarts House salad came with a choice of balsamic vinaigrette, Italian or Caesar.
We altered Snape’s Stuffed Toadstools a bit by serving them with turkey instead of pork. They were still just as tasty and I know I will also be making them again sometime soon.
And Nicole’s Potter Pasties were as tasty as they were pretty. There was a meat, veggie and pumpkin option, which were all perfectly flaky and hearty.
Finally, we had the Treacle Tart dessert station, with pumpkin and vanilla ice creams.
I can’t say enough about how everything came together. Of course, I had big dreams for this party, but what we ultimately created far exceeded any of my expectations.
And the best part about it? We had so much fun.
All that was left to do was eat, drink, chat, be merry…and take a lot of pictures! Remember my red hair? Originally I was planning to be Hermione, but Bobby was just too good as Harry Potter, and so I became Ginny Weasley instead.
I found most of our costume components on Amazon. Turns out it was great to be Ginny because her brothers, Bill and Ron (aka Lance and Ross), showed up, too!
Bill came with Fleur Delacour (aka Nicole), of course.
While Ron shook things up by coming with Professor McGonagall (aka Crystal).
Shanley made a terrifying Bellatrix Lestrange, and her husband Stephen came as kilt-wearing Neville Longbottom, complete with a Mimbulus Mimbletonia that Shanley made.
Sheena came in her Gryffindor finest as Parvati Patil, while her husband Kevin made a great Muggle.
Cho Chang and Cedric Diggory were also in attendance (aka Sarah and Scot).
There were roughly 10-15 more Muggles not pictured, but those in character struck a pose.
We also snagged a few mug shots for Azkaban.
And a photo of the four party planners, for good measure.
I can’t thank Sheena, Shanley and Nicole enough for being brave enough (and crazy enough) to embark on this adventure. I’m such a lucky Harry Potter fangirl to have you all in my life!
It was truly an unforgettable night. For five hours, we became the Order of the Phoenix – AZ.