I have always harbored fantasies of being the house on the block that went all-out for Halloween. I watch “Modern Family” and the delightful Dunphys as they put together an over-the-top scare fest each year and think, “That’s what I’m going to do!”…and then the realities of time and budget and cleaning and the fact that my neighbors might not like letting their small children walk through rooms I’ve designed to recreate the look of Saw set in. It’s then I realize that I might have to scale back my expectations of what makes for the best Halloween parties.

This is particularly true of apartment living. If you’re looking at how to throw the best Halloween party in your apartment, expectation and scale are crucial. A 13-foot inflatable black cat probably won’t earn you much love from the neighbors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a few cauldrons of dry ice.

So, in the spirit of all that is spooky, here are our tips for throwing the best Halloween parties as an apartment dweller:

Turn down the lights, but avoid real candles

Halloween in apartments in Birmingham, AL.A Halloween party needs to be dark. Overhead lighting will kill the mood. That being said, you’ll want glowing Jack-o-Lanterns, strings of Christmas lights, or some nice, battery-powered votives to set the stage. Real candles are bad, and they get knocked over. Also, should you decide to go all-out  “I’m a serial killer in the final scene of a ‘90s movie,” you are asking for a visit from the fire department and big spike in your renter’s insurance rates.

Think “intimate” when it comes to the guest list

Unless you’re living it up in the penthouse, it’s usually best to keep your Halloween party guest list under 30. It’ll create a nice affair where people can talk to one another rather than packing your apartment to the gills with people that cannot move. Also, the more people you invite to your apartment, the more likely you are that the neighbors will show, and you will probably discover at least one neighbor that takes Halloween WAY TOO SERIOUSLY. (This neighbor might call Halloween “a spiritual day,” and that is not a conversation you want to have when all you really wanted to do was hang with your friends).

Food and Drink: to theme or not to theme?

Theme food and cocktails are fun. I love a good mummy wrapped in a blanket. That being said, I also love a good pig wrapped in a blanket without the cutesy name. Your friends are just going to be happy that you fed them. If you love themes, go for it, but you don’t have to be Martha Stewart to have a good time.

Don’t overthink the games

Apartments for Halloween in Birmingham, AL.The best Halloween party games are fun and simple with just a touch of nostalgia. You do not need a schedule to fit all of the games in. You do not need to enforce all of the rules. (If someone is cheating, leave that to them and their conscience. Do not throw a fit after beer #3.)  If someone doesn’t want to bob for apples, don’t make them. You are probably too old to cut up grapes and make people people pretend they think they’re eyeballs. Try some charades with scary movies or horror movie trivia. Have a costume contest. Just remember that the best Halloween party games are enjoyable, not a chore.

Embrace the music of the season

Whether it’s the “Monster Mash” or the entire soundtrack of “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” don’t forget the music. This and the snack tray are the best places for cheese. And if your friends don’t love Tim Curry in drag, that’s on them. However, under no circumstances can you switch to Christmas Carols at midnight because “you’re just that excited for what comes next.” No. And no.

We hope this helps you live it up this Halloween. But be careful, too. The best Halloween parties are also the ones where all of the scares are fake. (In other words, pull out the Ouija board at your own risk). Now, let’s do the Time Warp!

All images courtesy of Shutterstock.