I will say one thing for this Harry Potter party - decorating was easy. I suppose we could've had nearly-headless ghosts floating around the room, or levitating candles, or banners in the house colors adorning the walls, but we've always been spartan with our decor at our parties. It's practically a tradition.
We did, however, need to recreate Diagon Alley in our basement, a train station in our driveway and a Hogwarts classroom in our garage. That meant signs, brick walls, charts and posters.
First was the brick wall in the Leaky Cauldron that was the secret way to Diagon Alley.
We used brown builder's paper and sponge-printed bricks on both sides with tempera paint. Emily found this idea on the internet.
For the Hogwarts Express experience, she printed tickets on paper,
and hand-drew the Hogwarts Express sign, connected to the Platform 9 3/4 circle by two paper-fasteners.
She also drew 9 and 10 for the two muggle platforms between which the magical one lurks.
On the day itself, the two brick panels on either side of our garage door were the two muggle platforms, and the Hogwarts Express (two rows of chairs) stood between them on the driveway.
The Diagon Alley shop signs were made from licensed images Emily found on the internet and sized to fit letter-size paper. She printed them out on different colored papers and made additions where needed. Then she stuck them up on the walls of our basement where Diagon Alley was staged.
This Ministry of Magic sign was stuck above the toilet. People who've read the books will find this hilarious. People who haven't will probably not want to use the toilet.
Finally, we drew posters.
Here's the traditional birthday poster:
This was our party schedule, drawn out as a school day time-table.
This was our score-keeper. We marked tally points on the hourglasses. We could've just stuck up a plain sheet of printer paper and marked on that instead, but the younger helpers were getting a little restless so I drew something they could color to vent their creative energy.
And this is the quiz poster. My own energy was flagging by this time, so I kept it utilitarian. To make this, simply draw a grid and fill each box with the name of a spell or a description of the spell's action. These are the prompts. Just to keep things straight, I used blue for actual spells, and red for spell-actions.
For younger (or less competitive players), leave the grid uncovered, so guests can pick a prompt they know the answer to.
For an added challenge (older players who enjoy the element of suspense might like this version), cover the grid squares. Cut out as many squares as there are grid boxes and stick them over the prompts. Number each flap.
During the quiz, guests blindly call out a number on their turn and try to answer the prompt underneath, with the help of their spellbooks.