How to Throw an Authentic Day of the Dead Party

Plan a festive, colorful and authentic Day of the Dead party! We have ideas for decorations, costumes, food and more for your Día de los Muertos celebration.

Authentic Day Of The Dead PartyTMB STUDIO

You probably know that it’s a Latin American holiday that happens around Halloween…but beyond that, what is Día de los Muertos?

During this two-day party, people remember departed loved ones and celebrate their lives—first children on November 1, then adults on November 2. Think of it as a family reunion of sorts.

Here’s everything you’ll need to throw a proper Day of the Dead party, including classic attire, colorful decorations and delicious foods.

Decorations for traditional Mexican holiday Day of the Dead
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Make Invitations with Bright Colors

Use your Day of the Dead party invitations to get guests excited about the celebration! For a theme, think vibrant colors and intricate designs, along with drawings of skulls, flowers, candles and picado (that’s cut paper) banners. These Etsy invitations are a perfect example.

Participants in traditional clothing during Day of the dead
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Set a Ghostly Dress Code

To evoke the drama and intrigue of the Day of the Dead tradition, give your guests suggestions for traditional attire: flowing gowns embellished with lace, long gloves, flowers in the hair, tuxedo jackets, top hats and tail coats. For a less formal party, suggest fun and inexpensive skeleton-printed T-shirts, tops or leggings.

Authentic Day Of The Dead Party decorations and marigold flowers
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Decorate with Skulls, Candles and Cut Paper

Plan ahead to gather gorgeous Day of the Dead decorations for your party. Order from Amazon or head to your local craft and party stores for decorated skulls, banners, colorful paper fans and tissue paper flowers. Take a cue from a traditional Day of the Dead altar or ofrenda. Set tables draped with long tablecloths and decorated with roses, marigolds, lighted candles, paper fans and skulls.

The girl makes the sugar skull makeup on face a man during Day of the dead
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Plan on Face Painting

The face and body makeup at Day of the Dead parades is stunning! Set up a station at your party where guests can have their faces painted like a skull or with the ornate floral patterns and colors of the holiday. Even easier, pick up a pack of these Day of the Dead temporary face tattoos.

Authentic Day Of The Dead Party baked beans and tortillas
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Cook Traditional Latin Food

Make sure your Day of the Dead menu is ready with authentic Mexican foods! Make one of these Latin appetizers. Pair baked beans mole with homemade tortillas for a warming dinner. Try other classics like tamales, enchiladas, dips and chilis for an authentic spread at your celebration.

Authentic Day Of The Dead Party cookies
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Serve Festive Sweets for Dessert

The sweets for your party should be as beautiful as the decorations. Make showstopping Mexican desserts like tres leches cupcakes and creamy caramel flan. (Not to mention the gorgeous Day of the Dead cookies.) A mug of warm Mexican hot chocolate will round out the party nicely. Look for local candy makers who might make traditional sugar skulls, too.×696.jpg

Mariachi Strings
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Play Latin Music

Dancing and music are an integral part to the Day of the Dead celebrations, so set the tone for your party with Mexican and Latin American music. Play CDs or search your music streaming service (like Spotify or Pandora) for traditional folk music, current Latin artists or a mix of both.

Chocolate Mexican Wedding Cakes
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Pick Memorable Party Favors

Send your guests off at the end of the night with their own taste of Día de los Muertos with party favors. Pass out skeleton necklaces, handheld paper masks or homemade Mexican wedding cakes. Pack up the favors in these cute sugar skull favor boxes.

Girl with a skull paint on face participate in a Parade of Day of the dead

Do Something Special for Los Niños

Get kids in on Day of the Dead, too! They’ll love the face painting and costumes, as well as the vivid colors and lively music. Make bite-sized treats like these chicken empanadas, and for dessert, Mexican cinnamon cookies. For a grand finale, hold a screening of the Disney Pixar movie Coco, which takes place on the Day of the Dead!

Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a Taste of Home Community Cook and a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.