Fall party ideas: get inspired to entertain!

When was the last time you entertained? If it’s been more than a few months since you hosted a gathering, whether a dinner for a few good friends or a bigger party, now is the time to get back on the bandwagon. People are settled back in their regular routines by now and are likely to be around rather than on vacation. In fact, Columbus Day weekend offers an ideal opportunity for you to open your doors to some good friends for some fun fall festivities.
Here are some simple tips for organizing a gathering.

Setting the scene

The good news about a fall gathering is that you can transform your home with a few very simple flourishes that won’t break the bank.

• Add bursts of color with inexpensive zinnias & mums.

Brightly colored zinnias make fabulous table arrangements. We love cutting the stems short and putting a few, say 3, in a glass mason jar along with either some greens or some white mums. Add a little raffia ribbon to the neck of the jar and it will look fantastic in the middle of the table. (Hint: buy raffia in bulk from Uline.com in natural and a color like green or red and you will a perfect combo for holiday gift wrapping too).

The only other flowers you will need: a basket or two of bright yellow mums by the front door. Why? Because nothing says “welcome!” like they do. {image via: HGTV}

• Use small pumpkins & gourds to transform spaces.

Head over to your local farmers market or garden store and dig through the bins of gourds that are usually available for pennies this time of year. Scatter a few around the house, by your front door, and on the dining table. They’re colorful, festive, and just about the easiest way to give you entertaining space a little fall makeover. {image via: Turkey Feathers}

Food & Drinks

The beauty of fall food is that comfort reigns supreme. Think one pot, slow cooked dishes and fuss-free finger foods. Here are some ideas for a menu that would work well.

• Start with cheese.

Almost nothing is easier to do than a simple cheese plate. Invest in a slate one, like this one from Crate & Barrel for $19.95 and you can add flair by naming each cheese using chalk on the slate board. Put it out a half hour before guests arrive. {image via: Cupcakes & Cashmere}

• Pair with a fun fall beer or red wine.

Keep things simple and serve a nice amber lager or festive pumpkin brew. No need for glasses to clean up if you place bottles out in an ice bucket for people to grab. If you’re more inclined to wine, there are lots of great cabernets or syrahs for under $10. Their flavors will go well with heavier fall foods.

• Put on some chili.

This rich, hearty dish is easy to make and always a crowd pleaser. Our (non-vegetarian) favorite chili recipe comes from Mothers Who Think, but there are literally thousands of chili recipes online, from vegan to low-cal and mild to spicy.

• Bake some potatoes.

Whether you bake them, mash them, or whip up some potatoes au gratin, your guests will be happy to see these on the table. If you’re looking for a slightly more elegant, but easy, twist on the basic mashed potato, try sprinkling them with a bit of cheddar cheese and bacon and baking them until they’re golden on top (about 30 minutes).

• Whip up a spinach salad.

You don’t have to go to great lengths to make a great spinach salad. Add a little feta cheese, some raisins or dried cranberries, and a nut – like walnuts or pecans, top with your favorite dressing, and voila, you’ve got a delicious salad that will disappear (we promise).

For Dessert

There are some sweets that are just tailor-made to accompany crisp fall air. These two desserts will ensure you end the evening on a high note as they encourage your guests to have fun with their food. Pick whichever one you think would be more fun for you to do.

• Make a caramel apple buffet.

We found this brilliant idea on the lovely bridal site With This Ring. Just wash as many apples as you have guests, remove the stems and press a craft stick (otherwise known as a popsicle stick) into the top of each one. Put those on a tray for your guests. Behind the apples, put a bowl of caramel with a ladle. Next to that, put out 3-6 glass bowls with fun toppings, like red hots, rainbow sprinkles, or heath bar crunch) so that guests can “customize” their caramel apple.

• Set up a s’mores bar.

Who doesn’t love s’mores? Use a 3-tiered cake platter as the command center for ingredients, like they did so stylishly on Accidental Chic. Place graham cracker squares on the top tier, chocolate squares on the middle tier, and marshmallows on the bottom tier. Put skewers in a tall glass next to the marshmallows. Guests can either eat the s’more cold, or cook their marshmallow over a fire pit (or grill) and then assemble the rest.

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Are you inspired to entertain this fall? What kind of things would you want to do for your gathering? Have you ever attended a fall party that just blew your socks off? What were some of the things that made it so special?