Harry had never even imagined such a strange and splendid place. It was lit by thousands and thousands of candles that were floating in midair over four long tables, where the rest of the students were sitting.-Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, J.K. Rowling
First written in 2013, this post was most recently updated in March 2021.
Disclaimer: Amazon Affiliate links are through this post as I either bought the item from Amazon or am linking to something incredibly similar to what I used.
The Great Hall of Hogwarts is the backdrop for many Harry Potter parties. Regardless of how far you or your friends got in the books or movie series, the Great Hall is the recognisable starting point of a magical world. It’s in the Great Hall that students are sorted into houses, where conversations between friends happen, and where…
When throwing a party, I’m of the opinion that narrowing down your ‘theme’ to a a specific literary location helps you create a more authentic experience for your guests. So we’re deep diving into how to set up the Great Hall of Hogwarts based on a party I threw for friends many moons ago. If this post is your first stop, I’ll provide links to other Hogwarts locations at the end.
In this post we’ll cover how to create:
- THE HOGWARTS GREAT HALL NIGHT SKY
- THE FLOATING CANDLES
- HOGWARTS BANNER
- THE FIREPLACE
- THE TABLES
- THE SORTING HAT
How to create the HOGWARTS GREAT HALL NIGHT SKY
In Hogwarts, the ceiling of the Great Hall is bewitched to look like the night sky and reflect the weather. At your party, it’ll have the same wow factor when your guests first walk in.
…Harry looked upward and saw a velvety black ceiling dotted with stars. He heard Hermione whisper, “It’s bewitched to look like the sky outside. I read about it in Hogwarts a History” It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, and that the Great Hall didn’t simply open on to the heavens.
To make your own ceiling come to life, you’ll need:
- two people. You’ll be fighting gravity, so this takes teamwork. It will also help if one person has high attention to detail when the time comes to make the plastic sit as flat against the ceiling as possible.
- two rolls of Starry Night plastic roll (depending on your ceiling size). Amscan – 40′ Hollywood Starry Night Roll
- heavy duty double sided foam tape. 3M Scotch Heavy Duty Mounting Tape, 1-Inch by 50-Inch Note: this may damage paint on the ceiling, so do so at your own risk.
- rhinestone stickers in a mix of colours: silver, pink, purple, blue and green to give the sky more depth when guests look up. Self-Adhesive Rhinestones 100/Pkg-Silver
- a tall ladder that will reach the ceiling comfortably.
- A long stick or broom, held by the person on the ground, to help support the weight of the plastic as the plastic is being stuck to the ceiling.
Tips and tricks
- Cut the plastic beforehand and leave extra length. Better too much than too little.
- Attach rhinestone stickers when the plastic is on the ground.
- Use tape generously. It’s better to have too much than try to add more once the plastic is up.
- Overlap the plastic to ensure no ceiling gaps show.
- Get the plastic stuck up to the ceiling first, then readjust to make the sky fit tight.
- Give yourself ample time. We began this ceiling project a week before the party, and in hindsight could have started even earlier.
HOW TO CREATE HOGWARTS FLOATING CANDLES
With the lights off, floating candles seem to bob magically in the air below the night sky.
To make your own ceiling come to life, you’ll need:
- battery operated tapered candles. Darice 6203-04 LED Candle Sticks
- invisible thread or fishing line. Sulky Premium Invisible Thread for Sewing, 2200-Yard, Clear or South Bend Monofilament Line
- invisible hooks. Command Decorating Clips, Clear, 40-Clip
To pull it together:
- Attach invisible hooks to the wall near the ceiling but not actually on the ceiling. This may be too much weight for the night sky. Space the hooks around the edge of the room.
- If you have a chandelier or light in the middle of the ceiling, tie one end of invisible thread to a hook, take it across to the light, tie, then take the invisible thread back to the same invisible hook. This will double the strength of the thread.
- Continue until you have radiated invisible thread out from a central light to each invisible hook. If you don’t have a central light, you may want to stick a larger wall hook to the middle of the ceiling. The idea is to make sure the thread can hold the weight of the candles as well as make sure the thread doesn’t ‘bow’ from the weight. This will depend on the size of your room.
- Tie invisible thread around the neck of the candle. Use the thread to create a loop over one of the main thread lines that are hanging up, and tie the end back to the candle neck.
- Once you have all the candles hanging up, step down and look up to see how you want to adjust the candles along each line.
- Try to purchase candles where the battery can be inserted in advance and simply tightened on the night to turn on before the party. This will mean you can put together the candles and hang them up several days beforehand.
- Have patience when tying the invisible thread.
Pulling together a Hogwarts banner can be as simple or as complicated as you like. We’ll settle for super simple!
To make a Hogwarts banner, you’ll need:
- black weed barrier fabric. You can typically purchase large rolls for an affordable price at a garden or hardware store. There are different materials, so try to find the fabric that looks felt-like, rather than the plastic version.
- Print out a Hogwarts crest. Use your printer to enlarge the size and print on numerous sheets of paper. Cut and stick together. In the moody light of the night sky and candles, the edges will be barely noticeable.
- Double side tape to stick the banner above the fireplace.
- Add additional mood lighting by placing tealights on two mirrors on the fireplace mantle to reflect more light and have a mystical feel.
- Beeswax candles can also be placed in glass hurricane vases to replicate flickering flames in the fireplace.
- Don’t forget the floo powder! Find or purchase a little cauldron pot (I found in a garden store) and fill with Floo Powder (flour). Write the name on the cauldron in chalk.
Speak clearly, otherwise you might end up in a dark alley!
- To give the illusion of the length of the room, same at Hogwarts, put together two plastic tables. Best Choice Products® 6′ Multipurpose Utility Center-Fold Folding Table w/ Carrying Handle – White Granite Top Color w/ Gray Frame
- To give the table width and more stability, use double sides foam tape to attach thick (9mm or 12mm) mdf boards on top. 3M Scotch Heavy Duty Mounting Tape, 1-Inch by 50-Inch
- Cover with a roll of the black weed fabric, then drape with heavier fabric. We used cheap curtains from Ikea.
- Run glass hurricane candle vases down the centre with beeswax candles. Northern Lights Candles , Venice Collection , Hurricane Glass, 12″
- Ikea Angso benches help create a more authentic Great Hall feel. ÄNGSÖ Bench (Ikea)
- In the book, the tables are laden with ‘glittering golden plates and goblets’. For our party, weused black dishes from Ikea to blend in with the moody feel of the room and Irish coffee mugs for Butterbeer. FÄRGRIK black 18-piece stoneware plate and bowls set (Ikea) and Libbey Milan 8-1/4-Ounce Irish Coffee Mug in Optic, 4-Piece Set
THE SORTING HAT
At the time of our party, we made our own sorting hat. Today, there is now an official Harry Potter animated talking sorting hat that is easily available. If you’re hosting a Harry Potter party and using the Great Hall as a backdrop, the sorting hat is a must-have activity.
Dobby popped up from a big urn to see how the party was going. Fortunately, Dobby wasn’t trying to help at the party, so no puddings landed on anyone’s head!
To make him, you’ll need:
- A foam head Styrofoam Wig Head (Female)
- skin coloured tights
- child sized Dobby mask Harry Potter Dobby 3/4 vinyl Child’s Mask
- plastic bags or stuffing
- rough beige fabric
- Halloween hand props (optional)
To pull Dobby together:
- Pull the tights over the foam head to create a skin colour base.
- Place the mask on the foam head and use the bags or stuffing to fill in the gaps.
- Pin the fabric around the base of the neck to secure.
- If using the Halloween hands, note that Dobby has four fingers, so tie one down, and pin them in place so it looks like Dobby is peeking over a ledge.
Using the Great Hall as a backdrop for your Harry Potter party can be a magical experience for your guests. I will say though, give yourself ample time (we’re talking weeks to months) to collect or make props and give yourself at least a week to set up this room. If you are deciding to throw a party last minute, don’t be hard on yourself, do the best you can and find shortcuts to get the job done.
While the Great Hall of Hogwarts is usually the focal point of a party, if you have space and time to create additional classrooms, you may want to circle back to my post on Hogwarts party themes for other Hogwarts location ideas.
**This party and set up wouldn’t have been possible without my mom, and Jamie, who (voluntarily) spent one of his Sundays sitting sticking diamontes to the night sky and helped get the night sky up.
Many images in this post were captured by Danika Zuks. This Harry Potter blog series wouldn’t have come together without her help. I’ll always be eternally grateful!