Invitations to Hogwarts...they had to be delivered via owl. We bought owl balloons from Oriental Trading, drafted Hogwarts letters on parchment and burned the edges of the paper to look authentic, tied them with twine, attached them to the owls, and delivered them in the doors and mailboxes of our guests.
We got a number of RSVPs via stuffed animal owls and drawn owls, which we loved.
We encouraged everyone to come in costume...which they did. For those who didn't want to come in costume, we encouraged them to come dressed as muggles.
Turning our house into Hogwarts was a lot of fun. Our front door was Platform 9 3/4 (see above pictures), we had some signage for Hogwarts at the entrance, and we recreated the wall at King's Cross Station (thanks to a photo backdrop of a brick wall we got on ebay for $9.99 and cut into two panels, a tension rod for a shower curtain , and clip on shower hooks). The kids enjoyed running through the brick wall and entering Hogwarts.
We placed a CD player with Moaning Myrtle whining (in the bath tub) and had a laminated picture of Myrtle on the toilet lid. The kids got a kick out of this!
When the kids arrived, they were sorted. We placed the sorting hat on their head while someone upstairs watched via nest camera and spoke what house they were to be placed into. We also made wands for all of the kids out of 18 inch chopsticks. Basically, you get the chopsticks, drizzle hot glue from a glue gun around the chopsticks in whatever pattern you like (I always added a drop on the tip of the chopstick so they were slightly less pointy to avoid anyone poking an eye), paint the chopsticks with brownish/redish/gold colors, give them a coating of polyurethane, and we labeled them all: type of wood (elder, apple, birch, etc), core (dragon heartstring, unicorn hair, phoenix feather, etc.), and fact about which character the wand was associated with. The kids loved selecting their wands and learning about which one they chose/chose them.
Since we invited a large number of kids (24), we divided them into their 4 houses and had them rotate into activities: Potions in the kitchen, Divination in the family room, Broom-making outside, Magical Creatures/Scavenger Hunt outside.
Potions- I convinced my brother to be Professor Snape. He is a college professor, so he wore his regalia, which was perfect. All of our ingredients had alternate names (baking soda was Mandrake Root, dish soap was Dragon spit, etc). He cut open a Jack Fruit and had the kids try it. He had them mix Pop Rocks and cream soda. He used dry ice...a nice guide we found online was a great springboard for ideas: Mrs. Nespy's World. Although we had some elaborate potions ready, we found that simple things worked best.
Divination- I "hired" a high school student to be Professor Trelawny (note: if you can pay a few high school students to help out, this is huge!). I had a deck of tarot cards with very simple instructions. I had a deck of spirir animal cards in which the kids randomly selected their patronus. We also did tea leaf readings by making images out of glue on paper that we dipped in cut open tea bags (like glitter or sprinkles). We taped these to the bottom of fancy tea cups. The kids referred to a tea leaf guide as they were given cups filled with tea leaves that they poured out to unveil an image. They then used the guide to read what the images meant.
Broom-making- Obviously we needed to have Quidditch. I bought a bunch of pool noodles for half price at the end of summer, cut brown paper bags into strips and attached the strips to the end of the noodles with twine. The kids then were able to use duct tape of all different colors and designs, string, beads, and buttons to decorate their broom. They then were to use them in Quidditch (see below).
Magical Creatures/Scavenger Hunt- The kids had a station in which they used a make-shift fishing rod and fished for magical creatures (little stuffed dragons and plastic dinosaurs with notes on them). The notes had Harry Potter trivia questions which they needed to answer in order to keep their prize (and they could ask around to get the answer). The scavenger hunt was for the group to do together and we had four sets of the same hidden items for the kids to figure out...they had to find their clues with their house symbol to differentiate which was theirs.
A quidditch pitch is easy to make. We got six hula hoops and pcv piping/joints. I drilled holes into the hula hoops and attached them to the joints to make the Quidditch goals. We used different types of balls to replicate what is used in Quidditch- small nerf like soccer balls as bludgers, a slightly larger ball as a quaffle, and lots of pingpong balls as the snitch (one of them had a golden dot on it, so the kids had to figure out which one was the snitch).
Quidditch was a hit! The kids loved playing and since we made the brooms out of noodles, no one got hurt.
We had pizza, butter beer (cream soda with a dollup of vanilla ice cream), and cake. I made the cake to look like the Hogwarts crest.
We had a pinata (for some reason, we always seem to have one of these at my daughter's parties).
We also had Honeydukes, which we recreated with an old Ikea lemonade stand and stocked with candy and treats for the kids to "buy" when they were leaving. Some of the candy we featured: jelly belly jelly beans in little bags that we labeled "Bertie's Every Flavor Beans," Lemonheads, Zotz fizzing candy, and chocolate frogs (we got the mold for these online).
We finished the party with a screening of Harry Potter in our yard. Since it started out a little too light to see it well on the screen, we had the kids begin the movie inside and then moved them outside as it got dark. The kids loved sitting on blankets with hot cocoa and popcorn as they watched the movie outside.
My daughter was really into American girl dolls, so we decided to have an American Girl Party for her, where guests could come with their favorite doll or stuffed animal. We made party hats for the dolls out of snow cone cups and attached elastic string for the straps).
I made the invitation in the style of the American girl magazine and had them printed at FedEx Kinkos on shiny colored paper. My daughter thought this was the greatest thing...seeing herself as the covergirl. At the bottom, where the UPC is located, we put the address, phone, and RSVP contact.
For the party, we had a photo booth that we created with a three-panel photo booth. I uploaded the pictures of an American girl box and sent them to walgreens to be printed in poster size. I then used glue dots to affix it to our three-panel display and the kids loved posing as American girl dolls when they arrived at the party. I texted/emailed the pictures to all of the parents.
My daughter had certain ideas in mind with regard to what she wanted to have at the party: pony rides for the dolls (we used toy horses and did photos with the dols on the ponies), tee-shirt decorating for the dolls (we used onesies and cut the bottoms and sewed a seam to make a shirt), a pinata (just because), some party games (we made a simple American Girl plinko with skewers and foam board, a ring toss game, American girl bingo, and a charades game), pizza, Shirley Temples, and cake.
The party ended with a screening of Grace, one of the American Girl Doll movies.
My daughter loved the book The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett and wanted to do her 7th birthday theme on this book/Edwardian time period. We decided an Edwardian garden party might be fun and encouraged all of the guests to come dressed as little princes and princesses or in Edwardian/Victorian outfits.
We played music from the 1910's as the guests arrived. For those who came without a costume, we had a bin for them to select boas, dresses, hats, etc. if they wanted.
In garden party fashion, we had numerous stations where guests could play old fashioned fair games. We had the kids decorate goody bags where they could stash their prizes (each table had little take away prizes) and the rotated through the games throughout the yard.
We had ring tosses, bean bag throws, potato sack races, relay games, a pinata (of course), a make-shift photo booth with silly props, crafts, and other activities.
My daughter hates parties where the guest of honor doesn't open the presents. She wanted a party where she actually could open the gifts and tell her friends how much she liked what they got her.
We made wands from dows with fabric flowers, fairy wings from the dollar store with added glitter and gems, foam crowns that we decorated with flowers and gems...this way everyone could feel like they were in costume.
We opted to have this party at a local nature center. They had a nature educator coordinate a craft (making fairy boats), take the kids on a nature hike, and talk about some of the magic in nature. We did face painting (always a hit).
I made life easy by getting a store bought TinkerBell cake. One of my daughter's great pleasures was looking through the cake book and the supermarket and I promised her she could pick out her cake for her birthday. We also had pizza, apple slices, and chocolate milk.