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This is my first year hosting a Halloween Party and I'm wondering what you all did/do to bolster numbers?

I sent the initial invite at the end of August to allow for timing and I sent a followup to the "maybe's/not-yet-responded" yesterday.

Including my boyfriend and I, I've got only 9 attendees (including +1s) and I originally invited about 30 + guests. I had hoped for for a group around the 20 mark including any guests that people brought. I'm not sure what I did wrong?

Invite specified it was BYOB but I will provide food and non-alcoholic drink. To dress up, and not bring your kids. Party starts at 8pm with no directly stated end time. Also was extremely clear that you could bring people. Date of the party is Saturday October 28th.

I'm honestly not sure where I went wrong and why the attendance is so low? Any ideas or do I just have a sucky-crowd for Halloween? Any tips to bring the numbers up in future?
 

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You know I have had the same problem every year.
My friends aren't as into the holiday as I am. The ones that show do it because it is also my birthday party...

But I will tell you even if there are only 9 people, you will have fun. The ones that show are usually your truer friends and you know you have fun with them!

One year the rain was bad so we only had 3 people show up. so with my hubby and I total of 5. We ate like kings (as I had made enough for 30) and we played cards against humanities while horror movies played in the back ground. It was actually one of the best years!!!

All that said... if you learn the secret to get more people to attend, let me know. I provide alcohol and food. I even provide masks for those that didn't dress up!
 

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You haven't done anything wrong........

I always plan on about half of whatever I invite. Some people will wait till the last minute to respond and some will show up who never rsvp. I really don't understand why its so hard for people to rsvp!!

Keeping it small for your first party may be ideal. Enjoy the guest who come, play games and have a good time. After you post all the awesome pictures of it people will be so mad they didn't attend :D
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the replies and good to know I'm not the only one/haven't done anything wrong.

I have Cards Against Humanity so I'll keep it in my back pocket in case we get a bunch of no shows even from those who said yes. I guess I"m just a little sad since I had hoped for better and even my siblings declined my invitation :( And I was honestly a little cheesed when people replied with "Sorry prior commitments" yesterday... if they don't want to come I'd appreciate honesty... I invited in August and you didn't have plans then.... (I was still polite and said "thanks for letting me know, have fun anyway!" haha)

I'm thinking I'll still run the "Test the Fates" game that I found on here so there's a little something for people regardless of the party size.
 

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Wickedwench gave great advice and had great points.

I know how you feel - I had a themed bday party last year and went all out with invites, decor, food, etc. invited almost 30 people, and about 12 came. There were some "lulls" throughout the event, but looking
Back on it, it really was a blast and I got to interact much more with everyone there Vs hopping around to different people and spending only a few mins with them, you know ?
I still wish the turn out had been better, but it was still great! I was so grateful for the folks that did show and tried to focus on that

Have some interactive games ready just in case of a small group and have fun!!!!!

You didn't do anything "wrong" - and with alllst 2 weeks until your party, more could RSVP. I also think the weekend prior to Halloween people may have stuff going on , maybe that's partly what's happened ??

HAVE FUN!!!
 

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We had the opposite problem. We throw a Halloween movie night party every year. This was our 3rd year and we invited 72 people. About 65 showed up! We had plenty of food so there wasn't a problem.

Personally, I think your invitation went out too early and your reminder too late. The former they didn't know what they were doing yet and the latter, they may already have other plans because they forgot about your party.
 

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I feel your pain; our attendance has been getting somewhat lower every year. Many of our friends are making babies and adult Halloween parties just aren't their jam anymore it seems.

We seem to be having a good response this year so I will post our process. I might even turn this into a guide if time allows at some point.

Reputation is everything!
First of all, our party is pretty good (if I do say so myself) and has a great reputation amongst friends, family and the neighborhood so we have that going for us. Throw a couple awesome parties in a row and people will look forward to it and put it on their calendars early. This is our 6th year. We also spend quite a bit of money on this party, usually around $800-1200 bucks a year so our budgets likely differ. I will say that it is tough to do a party of any magnitude on a barebones budget.

Kid Friendly (for a time)!
Allow time for kids, even if you don't necessarily want them. We start our party at 6pm but advertise "Kid friendly activities from 4-6pm" (pumpkin painting, spooky movies, etc...). That lets families know that they are welcome, but the kids should leave when the lights go down and the drinking really starts. Historically we have only had a few families every year come early and they generally clear out at an appropriate time. A few people at this time also provides a good test run for the party itself “Did you forget anything, are there enough paper products, are the lights/music working, etc…?” Those questions get answered ahead of the main party and it’s a good thing.

Invite and plan early!
My wife and I make a Facebook page around August and send out invites en-masse. We usually invite upwards of 100 people via Facebook. We also make a paper invite to circulate to family and non-Facebook friends. Currently of the ~120 invited we have about 35 confirmed via Facebook. We anticipate about 25 more on top of that that either haven't confirmed on FB yet or are going to be last minute additions. So we are looking at about 40-50% of invited people attending, this seems to be average. Sometimes attendance has gotten as high as 75%. Have it on the same weekend every year. Ours is always the Saturday closest to Halloween, that date range can be from the 27th-November 2nd or thereabouts. Again, people will plan early and it becomes a tradition.

Social Media!
The Facebook page is really key, invite people and allow them to invite guests via the settings. On the page we advertise quite a bit from August-Halloween. We try to post once every two weeks to keep interest high and hopefully to get more RSVPs without inundating people. We post images of costume ideas that go with the theme, short videos of games we plan on playing or progress on the props and decorations. We also post a thematic menu outlining all of the food and drinks we are going to have. That really gets people pumped as a lot of people come for the food and drinks. We also have a Pinterest Page specifically devoted to thematic costume ideas/tutorials. People usually browse that to get ideas. Finally, upload pictures of the event back to the Facebook page after the event is over. Even if people didn’t show up they can browse the pics and see what they missed out on. They are more likely to come next year then!

Spare No Expense!
We provide basic alcohol and most food and try to build it towards the theme. I’ll give some examples of this later on. Strictly BYO events can turn people off. We usually purchase a keg, a few magnums of wine, jello-shots and basic liquor/mixers. We say "We have the basics covered, but if you want to bring a bottle of wine/6pack/side dish that would be great.” My wife and I usually spend a good chunk of November eating leftovers and polishing off random six packs, but it is better than running out of food. Again, it sounds like our budgets differ but in my experience, providing at least the basic beer and booze should be a priority in my opinion. I am personally a control freak so I plan everything from the props to the music to the dipping sauces. You can go with a more Pot-Luck style party and have everyone bring something as well, just make sure you don’t run out of food and beer.

Have a theme!
This really gets people excited and gives the event some consistency. The theme can and should extend to more than just costumes if you can swing it. For our Ghostbusters theme party, we built large paper mache props (terror dogs, altar of Gozer, etc…), painted a large ghostbusters logo sign and hung it from the house, strung green “slime” from the ceiling and had a photo booth that looked like the containment unit. We tied in cleverly named foods and had a Build-Your-Own Ecto Cooler Bar as a drink station. This was a great theme as was by far our most memorable and best party. This year we are doing “Haunted Game Night”. We are setting up a lot of classic board games and will be putting a boozy spin on things like Battleship and Operation. We have painted props of all the Clue weapons sprinkled them through the house among other thematic props. We made a pinterest page for costume ideas and DIY tips. Some sample foods we have lined up are “Oriental Avenue Eggrolls with Professor Plum Sauce”, “Settlers of CataNachos” and a “Parcheesi Plate”. It sounds corny, but people let loose and enjoy the goofyness once a year.

Be our Guest!
Go out of your way to make people feel welcome. If you are going to be hitting the booze really hard, allow people to crash or stay over. DUIs are serious business and might scare some people away if they can’t stay and would have to drive a distance. If there is a pregnant couple that wants to come, make sure they get a semi-private room or at least a comfy air mattress. If it’s not apparent already, we make a whole weekend out of our Halloween party. Some family usually comes on Friday and helps set up, the party is Saturday night and then we serve breakfast (and Bloody Marys) for everyone that stayed over Sunday morning. One other thing that we do that we have some success with is we have a “pre-party” on another weekend in October. We let people come and hang out and see how things are progressing and help them with their costumes. I have a big garage so we usually have at least a few people every year that come and work on costumes or just hang out to get a preview of coming events.

Music!
Have good music going. Not just your spooky soundtracks on loop for 6 hours, people actually hate that crap after 10 minutes. Do some research, make some decent playlists and have some fun with it. Pro Tip: You can sign up for a PandoraOne free trial for a week every year and customize a really good spooky station to play throughout the party, then the trial ends and you do it again next year. An uncle of ours is a DJ so some years he comes with his Karaoke equipment and we set up a dance floor in the basement. We are getting a little older now so Karaoke isn’t as much of a draw anymore. Adjust your expectations based on your audience. Music is key to a fun night, especially if you have a lot of people.

Recognize!
Award and recognize people that go out of their way to participate on social media and at the party itself. We have a costume contest and award small prizes (a small treat bag and single serve bottle of liquor) and ribbons to about 5 people. I won’t lie, if someone works really hard on their costume and isn’t getting recognized, we have been known to stuff the ballot box in their favor. If people bring a favorite dish, talk it up and get everyone to try it. People that go above and beyond will prove essential to future party endeavors and will likely return year after year.

Finally, don’t stress about it. Some years you will have great turnouts, some years you will have crappy ones. People are fickle. It really comes down to setting a good tone, getting a good reputation and then building on it from year to year. This is our 6th year doing a big party. I don’t expect it to be our best attended or craziest. With enough pre-planning and advertising you can ensure your party will be an awesome time whether you have 10 or 100 people.
 

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Did your invites say "Saturday the 28th" on them? Saturday is the 29th and if people think you're having your party on Friday that could be a problem. Might just have been a typo on here but I had to mention it.
 

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PSULarryO has some great advice. We have hosted Halloween Parties for the past 14 years and they always start a little on the smaller side (mostly family and a few friends) but throughout the years it has gotten to the point where people will start texting me in July to confirm that we are having a party and to start getting their costume ideas together. We usually send out official invites at the beginning to mid September and we always have a great turn out. We actually end up with more people than we invited because friends of friends will want to come along as well. So don't get too discouraged, even if only a few people show up the first few years, just enjoy the evening and let it build. Word of mouth usually takes off pretty quickly and each year afterwards will become more popular.

One thing to understand as the parties get more popular and elaborate is cost. We generally end up spending a few hundred dollars each year we host as we always provide everything. We do not require our guest to bring anything but themselves, which is great for them but adds up quickly. I love hosting and making people feel welcome and I absolutely agree with PSULarryO that making your guests feel welcome is a must. All the decor and booze in the world wont mean anything if they don't enjoy the evening. A killer soundtrack for your evening is also a must! I also agree that it needs to extend beyond just sound effects. I generally keep a pretty good variety and have even been asked by guest for a copy of the playlist as they enjoyed it so much. As much as I LOVE Halloween music and sounds, I sprinkle them inbetween some general party jams as well. A few times, when the party started dying down, we will be known to put on Dance Central or the Michael Jackson version (which does include Thriller) and have mini dance competitions after everyone has had a couple drinks and everyone seems to enjoy watching and "competing" with each other. It worked for our group of friends, but may not be ideal for everyone.

I think I am mostly just reiterating what Larry said, but don't get too down on yourself if not everyone shows up every year. I actually have had to put our large parties on hold the past couple years due to a bad back and at first I was extremely bummed out about it, but now I am growing more fond of our smaller intimate parties. I feel I can spend more time with each guest and we can make more of a casual evening out of it. That is not to say I have completely given up on hosting larger parties, but I think I want to go back to how I started in the first place and focus more on a yard haunt with a small after party.

Anyways, I hope that helped a little. I know it probably wasn't anything new, but I think every Haunter has been where you are now at some point and I can tell you from experience, as long as its Halloween, you will have fun, whether you are surrounded by 10 people or 100! Just let the Halloween Spirit take over and you will do great! :)
 

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Friday nights are thick around here with High School football games.
The Chicago Cubs are still progressing toward an appearance in The World Series!?
Over the last 15 years how many people now sit at their own keyboard all night?
Things do change, so do people's habits.
 

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I think some people just have problems relating to invites and parties.
I made a themed birthday party this year, sending invitations two months prior just to be sure that everyone would be free. Of course some people could not tell me if they could come or not (I'm talking about close friends. I chose the date to accomodate everyone!) and I got very mad because we are all friends and we rarely get to met each other alltogether so...

Everyone gave you AWESOME tips. Mine is... don't get too mad.
Some people are JUST RUDE.
Or don't care. Nobody likes themed parties in my circle of friends :(
 

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What is the age range for your crowd? I hate to say it, but if you're in the "everyone is a parent with young children age" (like we are) you are probably in for a few rough years of low RSVPs. People are so reluctant to get a babysitter these days! Once the kids are old enough to stay home by themselves I imagine we'll have a higher attendance rate in the future. I agree with the suggestion that you may want to send out your invites a little later. I usually do a "Save the Date" invite in August followed by a real invite a month out.
 

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Try to not get to discouraged just yet. We had our party last weekend. I always do a face book invite early we already do it early in the month because another one of our friends does a big party right at halloween. We had 14 people rsvp... Including the plus ones. Really I was still kinda happy since these are the people that I really enjoy. The night of the party we had about 35 show. What did I learn? People hate to RSVP.... We had an awesome time, and the people that came were all really happy and impressed by the place. And everyone kept asking about the theme for next year... So now I kinda have to outdo myself next year...
Was it fun? Yes. Would it have been fun with only the 14? Yes.

Enjoy it, and if you are going to do prizes advertise it! Competition seems to be much enjoyed!
 

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Nine is enough for a great party! Dim the lights to make it cozy, and play music to create ambiance. With less people coming, maybe you can offer one specialty cocktail. Take photos of the great costumes, and create excitement for next year's party!
 

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Our party is tomorrow and I'm getting disappointed with the attendance also. I have many friends as hunters and this year hunting season has changed and is limited so, many are still going out moose hunting and won't be coming. I invited 24 people and now we are down to 9 including us. The other years have always been a success. Now I'm wondering what to do.
 

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I get aggravated with people who cannot be bothered to rsvp. I always ask people to email an rsvp so they don't have to tell me no in person if they are uncomfortable doing so. People don't seem to understand that we just want to know one way or the other! This year I had numerous people who usually come to my party not rsvp this year, I don't know why. People who do this to me twice get removed from the guest list. Having said that, remember it is your first year and you will get good word of mouth and will have more interest next year. Also, we have to remember that not everyone takes Halloween as seriously as we do!
 

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We had a low turnout a few years ago too, here are some of the things we've tried/noticed helping get our attendance up:

1.Invite early/remind often
We send a paper invitation at the beginning of September, usually to about 50 people. We then set up a Facebook event about two weeks after that, where we invite around 100 total. On the event page we post occasional updates and some teaser pictures to get people excited.

2. Consistency
This year was our sixth annual party, and we have a solid 15ish that we can count on being here for sure. Where my wife works it's the party that everyone goes to and gets excited about well before hand.

3. Model it after a wedding.
It seems like odd advice, but we started thinking of it like a big wedding reception and it helped a lot. We advertise to invitees that there will be a specific menu (Hawaiian BBQ last year, pulled pork this year) specific themed drinks, dancing, karaoke, a photo booth, games, etc. Stuff we associated with big fun weddings. If people know they will be fed, drunk, and dancing, they know it will be fun.

4. Don't shame or punish those who can't make it.
We used to think it was fun/funny to give the people a hard time who RSVP that they can't make it, or who just never respond. But ultimately it's a party and we're all here to have fun. People who don't come aren't likely to feel inclined to come next year if you made them feel bad.

5. Theme your party.
We just started themes last year. It was simple, a red/black gothic theme, but the consistency in the visual stuff got people excited. The pictures that appear on the invitation are also on the Facebook event, in the decorations, and in the teaser images we post in the days leading up to the party. This year we went more specific with a witches and wizards theme, relying heavily on Harry Potter and Blair Witch, and people got really excited, like this was an event they couldn't replicate anywhere else. (It should be noted that I am a digital artist by trade, so making consistent graphics and decorations are a bit easier for me.)

6. Don't be picky; invite everyone you think will have fun.
We didn't invite family members for several years. We were in our early 20s and maybe didn't want Aunts and Uncles seeing us drunk. When we got over that we found our family appreciated being invited, even if they weren't all able to make it. There is something kind of nice about having a curated guest list, but after a few drinks you will just wish everyone was there.

I hope these are helpful! We focused heavy on #3 after only having about 10 people in 2014. Last year we counted at least 50, this year we were around 35. I don't know how big you're shooting for, but this is what has worked for us.
 

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There's a lot of good advice already given, so I'll just add my two cents.

This was the 3rd year we had a Halloween party and it was the biggest yet, but not by much. The previous two years, I think we had about 60-65 people attend, but this year we had about 80. Half of the people were kids (under 21) and I think this is part of why we had a big turnout. As someone already mentioned, babysitters are expensive and most people seem to enjoy bringing their entire family.

We're not a young couple and our list of friends, family, and acquaintance is long. I think we invited about 125 people, which translates into, at least, 250-300 with the +1's. And yet, we only had 80 or so. Some people went to a concert, some had other parties, some just didn't bother to show - but most of who didn't show never bothered to RSVP. When we would see or talk to people, we'd politely encourage them to RSVP, telling them it helps us know how many people to plan for. We don't expect everyone to show up, and in fact, we couldn't easily handle much over 100 in our house, as it would get pretty crowded (even though most of the seating is in the backyard).

Our HW party is a costume party and we ask people to being a snack to share. We also let them know we will provide some drinks, but feel free to bring their own "spirits" with them. The first year, we had a lot of creative food and our entire kitchen was filled. Last year, it seemed most people elected to either bring alcohol or some pre-made food tray. To counter that this year, we added a new award category of "Spookiest Snack."

Which is another thing we advertise: Awards. Best Adult Costume, Best Child Costume, Most Creative, Scariest, and Spookiest Snack. Adding the snack award worked, and we got a lot of food again that people took time to make. It really makes the difference in the "party appeal." We have custom awards made up at the local trophy shop, they're like $8 or so to get made, but people like getting awards, so it really gets people to work on their costumes.

The first year, no one knew what to expect. We really hyper-decorated the house and people were thrilled. Then we did it again last year and again this year. People are now starting to look forward to our costume party, and the costumes this year were really good. When we announced the winners, every one was excited to hear the results.

So, even though this is only the first party, if it was good, people will talk and word will spread and you might have a better turnout next year. My wife and I figured it would take about 5 years for our costume party to catch on, so we were thrilled when this year turned out so well.
 

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I agree with Kwll2112, it might take a few parties before more guests become interested.

We've been hosting parties for a few years now and we've seen attendance grow every year. First party we had maybe 6 people, the year after around 10-12 people, the year after that 16-18 people, and this year we had a little over 30. Word of mouth seems to be the winner for us. The friends that have been coming to our annual parties hyped up our party so much that their friends wanted to come as well :)

The tricky part for us is trying to top the last party so that nobody gets bored of stuff they saw last year. We just had our party on Saturday and we were very pleased with everybody's reactions which means we'll likely get an even bigger crowd next time around.

We also avoid themed parties. It's hard enough to get some people to wear a costume as it is, there's no need to force it down their throats :p
 
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