If we haven’t made it clear yet, the WritersDomain team is full of major Harry Potter fans. For context, whenever we get a new team member, we make sure to ask about their Hogwarts house. Always. And to honor the Harry Potter series—especially its 20th anniversary—we held a Harry Potter Christmas party (think Christmas in July) for our whole department. That means we planned a fun event for 60 people with various levels of Harry Potter obsession.
If you want to celebrate Harry Potter with a party, take some inspiration from how we pulled it off.
Plan Your Party
You could break down the planning process into five steps: brainstorm, check your limitations, delegate party tasks, order things in a timely manner, and give yourself enough time to set up.
We really want to stress the importance of narrowing down your ideas and sticking to a budget. It’s possible to do too many things for a party—even just a brief search on Pinterest can show you so many ways to make your party extra like Gilderoy Lockhart.
Take your ideas and see if they will work with your space, time, and budget. To help keep your budget down, ask around for already-owned items. Christmas decorations should be especially easy to come by. Also, you can find fun free media extras to throw in, like this video of Dumbledore sitting in front of a fire, or an appropriate playlist.
Create Helpful Invitations
Whether you’ll be mailing traditional invites or inviting people via social media, creating a clear and clean graphic will get people in the Potter mood. Our invite was a simple flier that was posted around the office and emailed to the department.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel suited to design an invitation all on your own. Our favorite resource is Canva because of the great graphic templates.
Provide your guests with any instructions about costumes, food, and related prizes for any contests. For example, our invite provided information on the food and costume contests so guests would have a better idea of how to prepare—two weeks is ideal.
Here is an examples of a basic invite made with free Canva templates.
Use Magical Decor
The great thing about throwing a Harry Potter Christmas party is that you probably already have decorations that fit the theme. Scour your house for any festive and magic stuff you can put up.
The WritersDomain office has thrown a Harry Potter party every July for years, and we also decorate for winter holidays. We already had:
- Hogwarts house crests
- 3 pre-lit Christmas trees
- Pine garlands
- Battery-powered tealight candles
People from the office also supplied additional decorations from their personal stashes. Create a list of ideal decorations and ask your friends if they have them already before buying everything.
Our office has a big conference room that served as our party location. We hung the tealight candles from the ceiling with string, created four house tables, put the undecorated trees against the wall with wrapped board games underneath, and placed garlands around the rest of the space to extend the Christmas look to every corner of the room.
To really blend the Harry Potter and Christmas themes together, we drew inspiration from the text itself. In Order of the Phoenix, Dobby takes it upon himself to decorate the Room of Requirement. He creates big sign that reads “Have a Very Harry Christmas.” You can draw from the books to make very specific decor, too. It might test your guests’ knowledge of the series!
Create Photo Ops
If you want to encourage your party-goers to make memories and participate in your activities, you’ll need at least one photo op. When you mention that there will be photo opportunities, your guests will likely think more about their costumes or geek gear as well.
An amazing Harry Potter photo op can be accomplished with just a witch’s broom. Encourage guests to take jumping photos–they’ll look like they’re actually flying on a broom. Other options include photo frames that look like the “Have You Seen This Wizard?” wanted posters or a DIY Mirror of Erised. Do you have a favorite item from the books or movies? Make your own version so guests can take pictures with it.
When considering where to put your photo ops, pay attention to the lighting. Try to create as much natural lighting as possible so the photographers don’t need a harsh flash to get sharp images. This can be tricky because most Harry Potter parties thrive on the warm, crackling fire lighting that the movies use so much.
We had a backdrop of Platform 9 ¾ and a mobile of Hogwarts acceptance letters. It turned out to be really fun and added a special touch to the party. If you would rather keep the lights dimmed, consider using extra lamps or light sources to brighten the photo op area.
Provide On-Theme Refreshments
To encourage attendants to bring creative wizarding treats, you could also hold a food contest with or without categories. Either way, there are so many types of refreshments you can offer based on your budget and time restraints. You could go for an authentic UK spread or you could make treats that resemble food from the books and movies.
Our main courses and desserts were part of a potluck food competition. We invited our guests to bring something savory or something sweet that might be found in the Harry Potter realm. We also asked ahead of time about any dietary needs to ensure there were a couple of treats that everyone could enjoy.
Some examples of our menu items included:
- Vegetable pasties
- Herbology bites (veggies and hummus)
- Golden snitch bundt cake
- Howler cookies
- Chocolate frogs
- Peppermint chocolate mousse
And of course, no Harry Potter get-together is complete without butterbeer! Although our party was Christmas-themed and warm butterbeer might seem more appropriate, we held it in July so we opted for the frozen variety.
You can find butterbeer recipes online, but for simplicity we used cream soda, vanilla ice cream, and butterscotch syrup. With this recipe, you also don’t have to do any butterbeer preparation before the party. You can simply let guests make their own butterbeer floats throughout the event.
Host Harry Potter Trivia
You have so many options for including trivia in the festivities. There are already lots of resources online if you need to save time on creating a quiz or list of trivia questions. We chose to create our own quizzes and asked some very clever Hogwarts alumni to host the activity.
If you aren’t sure how your guests feel about trivia, create different levels of trivia based on difficulty like we did. We called them First-Year exams, OWL exams, and NEWT exams. To keep things simple, we based our questions just on the seven Harry Potter books, rather than trying to pull from the films and books.
We offered a prize for each exam, and test-takers were grouped and graded based on the highest exam they completed. You can join in on the fun by taking our quizzes and then checking your work with our key.
If this sounds like a lot of work or if you’re unsure whether your friends are up for trivia, you can always prepare a quiz to help each of your guests know which Hogwarts House they belong to. You could even have a computer or iPad set up so guests can take the official quizzes on Pottermore.
Hold a Costume Contest
If you asked your friends to dress up for your party, are you confident that they’d be excited for it? We already knew that everyone in our department either has geek gear or a costume to wear, so we held a costume contest to encourage our coworkers to dress up. You can expect anything from a detailed Quidditch costume to someone showing up with a fake scar on their forehead. Attendees to any great party have a wide variety of creativity and ambition.
We told our guests in advance about our contest categories: Crowd Favorite and Most Detailed. Pick costume judges in advance and make sure those judges fully understand the parameters of the contest categories. Hence, the Most Detailed award—we wanted to favor those who put in lots of effort (and maybe extra money) to closely resemble a character.
We also had prizes for each winner. Hot Topic, BoxLunch, and Amazon have great Harry Potter prizes, so we bought prizes based on our budget and let the winners pick what they could take home. Everyone was pretty happy with what they got.
Provide a Craft Activity
Along with food, costumes, and trivia, why not provide a craft for creative party goers? In the past, we’ve decorated wands, but this year we wanted to do something more practical. Not everyone wants a third wand around their house, but everyone can use another mug. It also went with our Christmas theme. So, we provided mugs and sharpies so our guests could get a bit creative.
We popped into various dollar stores to find mugs in the Hogwarts house colors: blue, green, red, and yellow. We also chose a few mugs in neutral colors for those who wanted to create something more out of the box, like a werewolf or Hedwig mug. Lastly, we provided a large array of permanent markers so that they could decorate their mugs. Let your party-goers express their creativity on their mugs and provide them with instructions so that they can set whatever they decorate them with.
The mug decorating station served as a place for our guests to channel their creativity and nerdy knowledge. They also enjoyed seeing how their coworkers expressed their own Harry Potter love. We hope to see Harry Potter-themed mugs around the office for a long time, whether they hold coffee, tea, butterbeer, or just the owners’ favorite pens.
Even if you don’t want a mug-decorating activity, it’s always ideal to have some kind of calmer activity. Not everyone will want to play Muggle Quidditch or participate in drinking games. However, a simple wizarding craft lets anyone sit down and create something they can take home.
We enjoyed celebrating the Harry Potter book series and all the nostalgia that comes with it. You might not implement all of these activities, but we hope you’re inspired to host your own party for The Boy Who Lived!
If you have additional wizard-friendly party ideas, we’d love to hear them! Just share them in the comments below or on social media.