Whether fall inspires special event designers to go spooky with Halloween ghouls or gorgeous with autumn's hues, the season is rich with design opportunities.
Susan Keels, director of catering at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester, Mich., lets the rich color of pumpkins inspire her buffet and tabletop decor. "Color trends are very similar to the [fashion] runway in New York,” she says. She turns to popular colors including burnt orange, copper, moss green and shades of plum for her autumn tablescapes. "When planning an event, it's important to select an inspiration piece, identify your color story and select elements that share a common thread during the entire dining experience," she says.
Keels lets pumpkins stand in for candles on candlesticks, and recommends giving the gourds a quick spray of Armor All—"It gives them a wax coat and makes them shine," she says.
HALLOWEEN IN A HURRY
Beverly Hills, Calif.-based event planner Andrea Wyn Schall, head of A Wynning Event, has done plenty of high-event events, but shows off plenty of creativity on a small budget, too.
For a Halloween tabletop, she shops at sales for traditional items on Nov. 1, then mixes in some contrasting elements and tops it all with lights. The result is a quick and long-lasting centerpiece.
Schall offers more budget-friendly advice in her downloadable book "Budget Bash: Simply Fabulous Events on a Budget."
DEAD MAN PARTYING
For a true blow-out Halloween bash, few have topped the corporate murder-mystery dinner created some years ago by Beverly Hills-based Special Occasions.
Special Occasions transformed the stately 72-year-old Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles into a sinister haunted house. Different rooms featured spooky vignettes, including a "dead men's party" of ghouls sitting at a decaying dinner. The designers replaced all the Ebell's lightbulbs with flicker candles. "Shroud" swags--deteriorated muslin stained with tea and coffee--decorated the walls and ceilings. In the courtyard, dead trees were draped with Spanish moss and lighted so they seemed to sway.
Buffet tables, draped in blood-red velvet with black gossamer overlays, boasted gold candelabras. A coffin decorated the main buffet table; guests were shocked when its occupant sporadically sat up. On the dining tables, tombstones set in beds of moss with black roses and leaves served as centerpieces. Some included severed "heads" that rolled their eyes and emitted eerie groans.
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