To start, pick a theme from the Practical Magic book or movie. Maybe you want everyone to dress up as “the Aunts,” who were noted for their agelessness, eccentric beauty, and elegant vintage clothes (not to mention their inimitable powers).
Or have your guests dress up as their favorite characters from the story. The men could don their bad-boy look by showing up as Jimmy or work the good cop angle as Gary Hallet. Some of the girls could come as a “slut” because we all know that being a slut is not a crime in this family!
For food, chocolate cake is always a good choice, and not just for breakfast. Follow Sara Ghedina’s Tipsy Chocolate Cake recipe on page 28, and/or have small cupcakes for each guest with little flowers on them, tipping the hat to the story’s amazing gardens. Consider having a baker make individual petits fours in the shape of spell books or little black cats.
Have different “potions” with a mixed bar. Create signature drinks that reference the story, like Hallet highballs or jelly bean drops (different colored martinis with a jelly bean in it).
Make “midnight margaritas” by following another of Ghedina’s recipes on page 28, and/or by adding blue food coloring to your mix. Or add in pureed blueberries for a fruity taste and a deep blue color.
Refer to the story throughout by placing lilacs, bowls of jelly beans (as a reference to Gillian or “Gilly-Bean”), or vases of Sally Holmes roses (as a reference to Sally) on the table.
Write your favorite quotes from the story on antiqued paper, scroll them, and give as party favors. There are tons to choose from! Consider using old letters or papers with old script and then write the quotes in a marker over them for an old-world feel.
Create a “spell book” for your guests to write in as a lovely keepsake from your party. Have each guest bring a favorite recipe, a prayer, or words of wisdom that they either paste or transcribe into your book. You can add to it as time goes on, or bring it out at your yearly Practical Magic party!
If you have your party at night, make sure your principal lighting is from tons of candles. To create a look reminiscent of the conservatory from the Aunts’ house, take several clear glass bottles and glasses and use them as candleholders. For the bottles, use tall taper candles and pre-burn them, making sure they drip wax down the sides. Adhere each candle to each bottle opening with sticky putty that you can get at a craft store for affixing candles. This will keep them from dropping into the bottle. Try to have all the candles already burned and drippy with wax to convey an ancient feeling. Make sure your bottles and tapers are all on platters so as they drip more wax throughout the night they don’t mess up your tables. You can also use all manner of wooden and antique candlesticks, as well as old platters with clusters of pillar candles on them. This would be more in keeping with the look of the parlor.
The Practical Magic house’s kitchen and conservatory (in the movie) were favorites among fans. To create the feeling of these magical spaces, center your party in the kitchen, with a blender out for the margaritas and lots of potions and spells brewing everywhere. Have a huge pot of stew or gumbo on the stove as your main “potion.”
Turn your dining room or porch into a conservatory by bringing in cut vines and branches and placing them everywhere. Lace vines through the chandeliers or up the walls. Put branches in vases and cluster them in the corners. If you can get potted herbs and roses to tuck in, all the better. Anything to bring the outdoors in. Sprinkle rose and flower petals everywhere. In this case, messy is good. Have stacks of terracotta pots around. Use apothecary bottles and old jars filled with herbs and flowers. If you have glass domes or cloches, use them to cover tiny potted flowers or other “specimens.” To protect your dining-room table, cover it with a couple of old sheets and some burlap, which will keep it safe and help create the feeling of the outdoors. If you have a spinning wheel or loom, bring it out as a reference to the Aunts. Vintage birdcages hung around also reference the story—though no sacrificial birds, please! That is better left to fiction.
Have your guests come in via the back door, as that was where all the “clients” of the Owens women always entered. Create a fun pathway that leads your guests from the front of the house to the back door. If you can get a lilac bush to have at the front, all the better. As your guests walk to the back door, have a set of cowboy boots partly buried in the grass next to where they walk. Have a soundtrack playing loudly of frogs croaking. Place a potted rosemary bush along the way, or even better, by your garden gate if you have one. Have lots of lavender as well, for “luck.” Have a bowl of salt by the door that your guests throw over their shoulder before the come in.
Sally reminds us to “fall in love whenever you can” so have little “love notes” that your guests fill out, naming what they are choosing to fall in love with. Then have them toss their note in the fireplace to cast their wish.
Have a game of a “phone tree list.” Pass out papers with an illustration of a tree with branches and spaces to write the partygoers’ names on the branches. Have on the other side all the names of the people attending so no one is left out. Then have your guests randomly write the names of the guests on the branches. At the end of the night the guest who is named at the top of the “phone tree list” the most wins a prize.
Give away herbal teas or bath concoctions tied in a muslin bag as party favors. Or let your guests create their own favors by having various-size apothecary jars filled with dried herbs clustered on a table. Provide scoops and brown paper or mesh bags for your guests to use. Create labels for each jar of herbs by antiquing stickers and writing in calligraphy the name of the herb and its properties.
More ideas? Get the movie soundtrack and have it playing as your background music. Have a party game where you ask trivia questions based on the story. Make nametags in the shape of a star (a talisman) that your guests wear. Most of all, just have fun and remember that letting your party be normal is not a virtue. It rather denotes a lack of courage.
See more of Tricia Saroya’s design at triciasaroya.com