How to Plan a Perfect Fall Party

Tuesday September 23, 2008


Summer's gone and the crisp autumn air turns your thoughts from late summer barbecues to holiday entertaining. This year, you promised yourself, you will throw that big bash you've always said you would but never got around to.

It needs to be memorable, affordable, and as much fun to plan as to attend. Where do you start?

1. The Venue
The unpredictable weather requires you to host indoors, and if the guest list is extensive you need to consider space requirements. If your home is too small, ask a friend or family member to host with the trade-off that you will take care of all the work. It will also give you access to a second set of tableware and decor if your supplies are skimpy.

2. The Mood
Go with a theme to help plan your menu and decor. Try a seasonal scheme like Harvest, Halloween, or Thanksgiving. Have fun with an ethnic soiree - classic Italian or escapist Hong Kong. It's even better when you ask your guests to dress up to the occasion.

3. The Music
Spend a few hours loading up your Ipod so all you have to do when the party starts is hit play. If you don't have an Ipod, enlist a friend to be DJ for the night. The vibe contributes as much to your evening as the food and conversation, and you'll be too busy with your canapes and conversation to worry about switching the CDs in your disc changer. If dancing is on the agenda, a professional deejay will bring a good selection to allow for requests.

4. The Decor
Decorate with taste and convenience in mind. Floral arrangements are too bulky for the dining table and a problem for your guests with allergies. Instead of investing in seasonal dishes, dress up your table with quality linen napkins and metallic charger plates under your simple white plates. Bronze is perfect for autumn, silver for winter, and gold for spring/summer. Cleverly placed pillar candles and mini white lights can lend a fantastical feel to your evening.


Set of 12 charger plates: $19.99 from Linens 'n Things

5. The Menu

If you have a specific theme in mind, menu planning is a breeze. While authenticity is important, consider your guests' allergy and dietary needs. Make sure you are prepared in case your brother's new girlfriend turns out to be a vegetarian.

Tips:
* your friends will undoubtedly ask if they should bring something. Be specific with food donations to make sure there are no doubles. Even easier - ask some friends to come over the day before and prep together. You can save time and grocery costs, too.

* colorful dishes look more appetizing. Garnish with fruit or herbs to add an unexpected splash of color.

Pumpkin or Pear Martini photo credits: Larry Crowe, Lara Ferroni

Budget Saver: if you want to serve alcohol, choose a signature hostess cocktail instead of offering a full bar, or ask friends to bring their favorite bottle.

Time Saver: rent dishes if the guest list is large. It saves you clean-up time and the money you'd invest in a second set of tableware you won't soon use again.

6. The Guest List

You hate to exclude anyone from your party, but there are important factors you need to consider when choosing your invitees:

* Basis of acquaintance - Will your work friends mix well with your old high school pals? Is the list introvert- or extrovert-heavy? You don't need to leave anyone out, but make sure that everyone attending will have someone to talk to.

* Group behavior - Your buddy Simon has an unfortunate tendency to take his shirt off when he's had a few too many Heineken and neighbor Hillary overshares about her sex life. While the two of them could have a lot of fun together, consider your other guests' comfort levels. Maybe it's a great idea to include them, or perhaps a conveniently scheduled blind date is in order.

* Conversation starters - As goofy as it seems, be prepped with some conversation starters if the need arises. With the right crowd, a group game or karaoke can also be fun... or painful. Know your crowd.

How do you entertain with style? Leave your tips in the comments.

For tips on how to be a great host, check out our episode on Stylish Entertaining from ChickChat TV

by Claire Rahn

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