I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter, and last year I decided that my next birthday party HAD to be a Harry Potter-themed one. However, parties – and especially themed ones – tend to cost a lot of money, and I’m a student with a limited budget.
Luckily, I discovered that you can throw a pretty nice Harry Potter-party on even a budget as small as mine. Excluding the location, which I rented through my housing association, the party cost me about 800 Dkr ($120/£83/£107,5). This covered both food and drinks, an elaborate dessert table, lots of decorations, materials for party games and activities, materials for party favours, and some yarn for my very own Gryffindor-scarf. I even bought some things for projects that never came to life because of lack of time.
I’ll share a mix of ideas for the party here, but I’ll also make sure to add some seperate recipes and tutorials for some of the elements in the near future. For now, I hope you enjoy it. :3
As I didn’t have a lot of guests, I decided to just do one table with one side for each house. As you can see, I used black and gold colours + some candlesticks and a fancy decanter to create the right mood. I imitated the golden plates from the Hogwarts welcome feast with foil doilies. I also created individual house ties using just carton, hobby glue, some ribbon and some strong tape. This was a pretty easy craft, but also one that took quite some time. Finally, I put a “golden snitch” made out of Ferroro Rochés with paper wings on each plate as a small party favour.
As for other decorations, I created a Platform 9 3/4-sign like the one in the movies and hung it outside the doors to the party room. The doors were swingdoors, which almost gave that magical feeling of running through a brick wall. Sadly, I didn’t get any good pictures of the sign at the venue, but you can see it in the pile of prepared crafts in one of the images.
Finally, I also printed out some things, including the Hogwarts crest, some Daily Prophet-front pages, an Ollivander’s sign and a picture of Moaning Myrtle, which I appropriately taped on the mirror in the girls’ bathroom.
Food and drinks:
My party included both dinner and dessert/treats, since I wanted a full-evening party. For dinner, I decided to recreate as many elements as possible of Hogwarts’ welcome-fest. I served roastbeef, pork chops, bacon, different kinds of sausages, roast chicken, peas and carrots, yorkshire puddings, chips (= homemade fries), roast potatoes and – of course – mint Humbugs. There was also supposed to be ketchup, but of course we forgot to bring it in the hurry.
For dessert I went with a classic and recreated the sweetshop Honeydukes. I had both chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott’s every flavour beans, liqorice wands, fizzy whizzbees (chocolate with pop rocks), jelly slugs and tooth-cleansing peppermints. I also made an attempt at cauldron cakes. They turned out delicious, though not as pretty as I’d hoped. For the chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott’s beans, I printed, cut out and assembled templates for the packaging, which you can find here and here. I also printed out wizard cards for the chocolate frogs, which you can find at this site.
Also, as you may have noticed, there was also a beautiful Harry Potter-themed cake. My mom made this for free, as she enjoys baking and helping out where she can (and is allowed to ;P). She made a chocolate cake with chocolate and raspberry mousses, and she made the base look like the Danish edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She then added Harry’s wand, glasses, a golden snitch and a Gryffindor scarf with my name and age on it – all made out of fondant (though the snitch had a cake core).
Finally, for drinks, I just served sodas with the dinner and gave them labels with names like kissing concoction and gilly water. For dessert, however, I made homemade butterbeer. It’s easy to make, and I’ll definitely upload my version of the recipe on this site.
Games and activities
I had lots of different activities for my party. First of, everyone had to pick up a wand at Olliwander’s in Diagon Alley, before thet could go to Hogwarts. I set up a little shop in the bar area outside the venue. The wands I made myself out of chopsticks, glue gun-glue, paint and acrylic gloss. There are plenty of tutorials for this online, but here is just one example of a wand tutorial.
After everyone got their wand, they had to get through Platform 9 3/4 as mentioned to get to Hogwarts. And then came the sorting ceremony. I’ve seen many different ways to do this, but a lot of them were either too expensive or time-demanding. Although i would have loved to make my own sorting hat out of pap maché, there just simply wasn’t time, since I had exams in January. Instead, I bought a black witch hat for cheap at my local hobby story (the upside of this move is that I can also use it for Halloween :3), and then I made 8 house badges with pins using carton, safety pins, gaffa tape and some metallic gel pens. I put the badges in the hat and then called the guests’ names, one by one (and in alphabetic order, of course), to come up and pull their house out of the sorting hat. I allowed people to swap if they wanted, since some people had favourite houses. And besides – if Harry could choose, then why not my friends? 🙂 The badges of course also made for another nice party favour and cosplay-acessory for the guests.
After dinner, I did a 4-part House Cup-tournament. The competition was a mix of physical ones and nerdy HP-ones, making possible for everyone to participate. The four competitions were:
- Put the lightning-scar on Harry = like put the tail on donkey, just with Harry
- Pensieve = I had written down quotes from the book, which I then drew and read aloud, and then my guests had to guess which book they were from.
- Exam day = Different subjects (categories) relating to the HP-universe. Each house got a turn, until they ran out of answers in the category, and then the last house standing got the point of the round.
- Qudditch (beer pong) tournament = Like regular beer pong, but with hooves. Also, I pitted the houses against each other in 4 matches – G v. S, H v. R, losers of previous matches and winners. (Btw, I made a non-alcoholic option for this game too)
After each competition, I awarded points to the houses on a homemade plance the with hourglasses. Finally, I awarded the winning house with homemade diplomas signed by the head master (I found Albus Dumbledore’s signature as a render online) and a golden medal for both of them.
Finally, I also made a photo booth for the party inspired by the wanted posters from the movies (I got the inspiration for this from several Pinterest posts).
For my final element, I simply played music from the Harry Potter-movies all night via Youtube. There are many great playlists out there that I can recommend that you check out. I recommend this playlist, if you want a big collection.
I hope you enjoyed this insight into how to throw a Harry Potter-party on a limited budget. I wasn’t perfect, but I had so much fun – both at the party and while planning it. Aaaand I still have my beautiful wand. 😄