The idea of throwing a black light party for Halloween was a simple one. Common, even. But a lot of the information I found on the internet on the topic was either misleading our flat-out wrong. It took quite a bit of trial and error to get the results I wanted for the Let the Ghoul Times Roll party, especially since I wanted it to look good both under black light and regular light.
Here are some of the more important things I learned.
1) The black light you use matters. Does your bulb look like this?
Yeah, that's not going to work for a party. It might be ok for a tiny dorm room, but it's just not powerful enough for a large room or an event with even a small guest list. You're going to need a fluorescent black light fixture. A big one. I started with the above bulb. Not good enough. Went up to a 12" battery operated fluorescent black light. Not good enough.
But this, a 48" long fluorescent corded black light from blacklight.com--this did the job nicely.
2) Glowing serving dishes make everything fun.
I took advantage of this party to pick up a few pieces of authentic antique Vaseline glass, a particular kind of glass that contains uranium and glows a vivid green under black light. But that's because I've always been enchanted with Vaseline glass and have a bit of a problem with collecting cake stands. There are plenty of budget ways to get the same effect.
--Did you know those super cheap plastic pumpkin baskets glow magnificently under black light?
--Did you know that anything marketed as "glow in the dark" will react to UV light? You can paint just about anything with inexpensive glow in the dark paint to get a great, glowing effect. I used this, in part, to create some faux Vaseline glass (tutorial to come).
--Did you know that most fluorescent and neon things glow under black light? Not just clothes, but I even found things like neon plastic cups and plates that glowed brilliantly with black light. A cup turned upside down and a matching plate makes a great, inexpensive cake stand.
--Did you know that white paper is treated with florescent compounds to make it appear whiter and brighter? That's why it reacts fabulously under black light. Older paper, made before 1950, won't have the same effect. But anything you make out of new, white paper will really pop under black light.
--Similarly, many detergents and fabric softeners have brightening agents that react to black light. That's why your white or fluorescent clothes glow especially well under black light. This can be useful in creating room decor--just remember to pre-wash any fabrics you use to give them that extra boost.
3) Clean your house really well. And then put on the black light and clean it again. I was amazed at the chibbles of paper and bits of hot glue (which glow really well under black light, by the way) and other glowy things were still around after I thought I'd cleaned the floor pretty well. Whoops. Something to do well ahead of the guests' arrival!
4) You can make food glow, too. But it's harder than I thought it would be.
I've already detailed my experiments with glow in the dark cookies and pudding. Basically, every theory I had for how making food glow should work didn't. Like the white cotton candy (edible spider webs) I made.
White, I thought. So it'll glow all by itself, I thought. That was before I learned that it wasn't just being white, but being treated with florescent compounds that makes white things glow. Whoops. I didn't have a flourescent compound I could add to cotton candy, so if you want yours to glow, may I suggest en entirely different technique, like using LED light up cotton candy cones. They shall be mine. Oh yes, all mine.
So cool. I have to get some of those.
The moral of this tip is to try everything ahead of time! Be sure it works in practice as well as in theory, well before the day of the party.
5) Think creatively. I wanted to buy some black light bead necklaces for our glowing, Mardi Gras inspired party. But Blacklight.com was out of stock when I needed them. (By the way, blacklight.com had spectacular customer service, and I'd highly recommend them for your glow-in-the-dark needs.) So I bought an inexpensive bead curtain and made my own bead necklaces.
And I decided to decorate a chandelier.
And I decided they'd make a great table decoration for our theme.
For $14, I not only had favors, but some of my very favorite decor elements from the party. Don't be afraid to cut things up and use them in unintended ways!
If you're planning a glowing extravaganza this Halloween (or any time of the year--who needs to wait for glow-in-the-dark-fun?), I hope these tips, learned through trial and error on my part, help you throw a successful party.