Think of a Halloween-themed wedding, and bone-chilling images of candy corn, plastic pumpkins, and Addams Family clones instantly come to mind. But we're saying, "Boo!" to all that, because even if your wedding is on or near October 31, you can certainly embrace the holiday—as long as you omit any obvious references to it. To show you how to pull it off, we consulted former New York City event planner and designer Amanda Diamondstein-Cieplinska of now-closed Stellina Events. Here, she shares the details of a Halloween reception done right.
Meet the Expert
Amanda Diamondstein-Cieplinska was a Brooklyn-based wedding planner and designer and the owner of Stellina Events until 2018.
"I'd do a formal wedding inspired by the autumn season and famous European masquerade balls, for a touch of mystery," says Diamondstein-Cieplinska. "The ambiance would be elegant, sophisticated, and glamorous, with just a touch of spookiness. The 'Halloween' feeling would not be overt, but rather more of a suggestion." Instead of fighting the sudden appearance of Jack-o-lanterns, masks, and bite-sized candy bars, embrace the season and host a Halloween wedding that no one would ever mistake for a kitschy costume party, and don't sacrifice sophistication.
"A historic yet glamorous rumored-to-be-haunted space would be ideal for this wedding," she says. "The venue should exude a feeling of mystery. I would recommend an old cathedral-like space like the Angel Orensanz Foundation in downtown Manhattan, a historic building with lofty ceilings and pre-war architecture, or a stone castle. A Halloween wedding would be ideal for a destination wedding at a castle in Europe—I love the idea of a space with drafty stone corridors but lavish banquet rooms." We suggest the Markree Castle in Ireland.
Historic buildings can provide the perfect backdrop for a Halloween wedding, especially when they're rumored to be haunted. The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, is where Stephen King was inspired to start writing The Shining—the original owner's ghost plays piano in the hotel's music room, and his wife is often spotted in the lobby (and one reservation special comes with a K2 meter so you can seek out your own ghostly forcefields). The ghost of the first manager of the Omni Parker House in Boston (only one of the Omni's many haunted properties) is often seen in guests' rooms, making sure they're enjoying their stay.
The Color Palette
The use of black, white, and silver will create a glamorous vibe. To achieve a more rustic, autumnal feel, use various shades of burnt orange paired with matte antique brushed gold vases and flatware.
"As guests arrive, they'd be greeted by waiters clad in all black with white gloves holding trays of Venetian masquerade masks—the kind attached to a stick that you can hold up to your face—and glasses of champagne," says Diamondstein-Cieplinska. The bar would be serving Black Cherry Martinis (black vodka mixed with cherry juice, raspberries, and blueberries) and Pumpkin Divine Martinis (vodka and pear puree mixed with pumpkin butter, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg).
"To create a dramatic, slightly gothic atmosphere, hang rented antique crystal chandeliers from the ceiling," says Diamondstein-Cieplinska. "Place large arrangements of natural branches—no leaves—in mercury glass vessels on the floor throughout the space. Use an eclectic mix of crystal goblets, white china, black chargers, and black napkins with silver napkin holders. I'd also fill mercury glass or brushed gold candelabras and candlesticks with white candles dripping wax. Arrangements of white blossoms—like hydrangeas and garden roses—of different heights and sizes would be interspersed throughout the tablescape." If the space has a fireplace, light it to cast a magical—as in, Victorian séance—glow, or fill it with pillar candles of various heights.
At the ceremony, surround the altar with clusters of pillar candles and overflowing arrangements of blood-red blooms, or hang a black crystal chandelier at the end of the aisle. For the reception, set each guest's place with matte gold flatware and black wine glasses, and use feathers calligraphed in gold ink as place cards. Top an ornate black lace runner with vintage vessels full of black forest calla lilies, dahlias, and garden roses, surrounded by white pumpkins, persimmons, and figs, and light as many candles as you can. For a slightly spooky twist, take inspiration from Dia de los Muertos: Add elegant and ornate skull designs and adopt "Until Death Do Us Part" as your style mantra—it's equally romantic and macabre.
Even if the decor is leaning toward the macabre, it doesn't mean the food has to (so just table that idea of serving punch from a bubbling cauldron). It's okay to keep the fare seasonal and festive—fall's rich, spicy flavors automatically lend themselves to a sumptuous Halloween-time wedding. During the cocktail hour, serve passed butternut squash soup shooters. "For dinner, serve foods that incorporate the warm, hearty flavors of autumn, like pumpkin, apples, pecans, walnuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg," says Diamondstein-Cieplinska. Dessert would be apple cinnamon flambé with Calvados and butter pecan ice cream, as well as slices of wedding cake—a four-tiered confection covered with dark chocolate fondant and decorated with black magic roses.
Fill a dessert table with dressed-up versions of seasonal sweets, like chocolate-peanut butter cupcakes, caramel apple tarts, and gourmet popcorn balls, then send everyone home with bags of your favorite candies.
Your wedding dress isn't a costume, so skip the Bride of Frankenstein look in favor of something dramatic, but still true to your bridal vision. Vintage lace and long sleeves harken back to brides of the past, while an ethereal tulle design has a ghostly feel that's still modern and romantic. If you're in the market for a gown that's dark and edgy, opt for an avant-garde black wedding dress. When it comes to bridesmaids' dresses, deep jewel tones—or all-black—will have your friends looking spookily chic.