Hosting Tips

A Sugar Skull Decorating Party

Feliz día de muertos!

By Chanel Dror
decorating sugar skulls for dia de los muertos

I’ve always maintained that Halloween was my favorite holiday, but after this party we hosted last week for Dia de Los Muertos, I may be rethinking that. Between the customary crafts, colors and foods, and combined with meaningful tradition , this holiday just might have it all. Not too familiar with Mexico’s Day of the Dead? We partnered with Veuve Clicquot to give you the low down, and bring you some ideas and tips for hosting your own craft party for the big day. It’s crazy — we know — but we dare you to click through and not consider forfeiting your annual Halloween bash for this gorgeous gathering…

*photography by Buff Strickland

Dia de los Muertos is traditionally centered around a beautifully decorated altar that honors a lost loved one. Flowers, candles, skulls, family photos, and alcohol are all piled high to commemorate the deceased, so with that in mind, we set a lavish champagne bar where our Veuve Clicquot bottles could chill and guests could help themselves to bubbly. An antique armoire was the perfect surface, while a crocheted white lace table runner draped on the back of the piece helped brighten things up a bit.

For a gorgeous garnish, we dropped a slice of blood orange into empty glasses before setting them out on the bar, then offered both Veuve Cliquot Rosé and Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label to satisfy everyone’s palette.

Maybe it’s because the weather in Texas was still feeling a bit balmy last week, but our group was in a decidedly Rosé mood on the day of this party. Clicquot’s version is elegant and balanced, and its berry and dried fruit notes made it a perfect complement to our menu.

Camille served up a perfectly sweet and savory snack buffet…

  • Chile-Roasted Pumpkin & Black Bean Tostadas
  • Pomegranate & Avocado Guacamole with Sweet Potato Chips
  • Cheese Board with Fruits and Nuts
  • Dulce de Leche Layer Cake

Since Dia de Los Muertos already includes so many decorative customs, like abundant food and big bouquets of flowers, we didn’t need to do much to make the place feel festive. A piece of Mexican artwork provided a punch of color that tied everything together, while a dozen roses in water made for an easy-breasy floral arrangement. And of course, the marigold and dusty pink labels on our Veuve Clicquot bottles fit seamlessly into our color palette.

Click here to get the recipe for Camille’s Chile-Roasted Pumpkin & Black Bean Tostadas!

After a bit of mingling and snacking, our party migrated to the main attraction: sugar skull decorating.

We got the space craft-ready by lining my dining table with a layer of Mexican newspaper. Not only did it protect the surface from the mess, but also made for a fun way to practice our Spanish!

I referenced this tutorial to make a carnation garland the night before the party, then refrigerated it overnight and set on the table just before guests arrived. Doesn’t it add just the right pop of color and texture?

For those of you wondering, “What on earth is a sugar skull?”, a quick lesson:

Sugar skulls are a traditional Mexican folk art used to observe Day of the Dead. During the week leading up to the holiday (i.e. right now!), the colorful little skulls are made and sold all around Mexico, then used as decoration in homes to commemorate deceased loved ones. Then on November 2nd, the sugar skulls (along with flowers, candles and special foods) are taken to the graves of those loved ones to honor and celebrate them.

While you can buy pre-made, pre-decorated sugar skulls at Mexican grocery stores and markets, we loved the idea of creating them from scratch. Want to do the same? Check the blog this coming Wednesday to find our instructions and tips for making those cute little skulls using this mold.

Once the skulls are fully formed and hardened, it’s all about having fun bringing their little faces to life. Here, Morgan uses colorful icing to add create teeth.

Half the fun was seeing how everybody had their own interpretation of the same project. Jenn was the only one in our group who thought to pull rose petals off our arrangement and use them to make a little head of rose petal hair for her sugar skull!

We kept the Veuve Clicquot within arm’s reach for easy pouring at the table.  Armed with bottomless bubbly and the most addictive craft ever, we felt like we could have sat at that table all. day. long.

When it comes to decorating and embellishing the sugar skulls, the possibilities are truly limitless. Here are the materials we used…

  • Royal Icing in an assortment of colors
  • Chiclets chewing gum
  • chocolate covered sunflower seeds
  • sugar pearls in white and gold
  • colorful Tic Tacs

Royal Icing is an absolute must for decorating sugar skulls. Not only can you mix them into endless colors, but because it hardens within minutes, it’s super easy to create intricate, details designs.

For dessert, Camille brought out this gorgeous Dulce de Leche layer cake. We garnished the top with tons of edible flowers, figs and berries — a simple way to dress up even a store-bought cake!

How cute are our little sugar skulls? We were each obsessed with how our respective little guys turned out… can you guess who crafted which one?

Happy Dia de los Muertos, folks!