Entertain with ease
Welcome to Decorating Diva, where every week we share fresh, fun ways to update your home and spice up your living space! This week we're sharing all the latest tips and trends for how to decorate and what to serve at your next fall soiree.
We asked Mark Addison, designer, event planner and Celebrations.com expert, for his tips on how to wow guests this fall. He shares his take on food, drinks and decor, along with some dos and don'ts for hosting a memorable event.
Party planning 101: Getting started
Insider tip: If you are going to throw the party, then actually throw the party, advises Addison. "Don't expect your guests to cook or work. Make sure that you can handle the responsibility of giving the party and give yourself enough time to properly prepare beforehand."
When entertaining at home, developing the theme for your event (be it a small gathering or a full-scale blowout) is the first step, but it's also the fun part of the planning, says Addison. "Use the theme as your guide for all the decisions regarding the event from the invitations to the party favors," he says. "The theme can be as simple as selecting a color palette that's used throughout, or it can be quite extensive. It is extremely important to thread the theme throughout the entirety of the event."
Choosing a theme
If you're stumped on which direction to go in terms of fall party themes, look to the season for inspiration. Addison's current go-to fall theme is something he refers to as "golden harvest." Look to the golden hue of the falling leaves, sheaves of wheat and even the glint of the sun as it starts to set. "This theme is easy to execute and it can be used throughout the year, minus the fall and Thanksgiving elements that can easily be stripped from the spread," he notes. "It's a great way to add the 'Midas Touch' to the tabletop!"
While golden harvest is definitely a fall theme, Addison says you can repurpose it for a 'golden birthday,' St. Patrick's Day by adding elements of green, and even Christmas.
Quick tip: Addison suggets personalizing white dinnerware by painting designs with edible paint (gold luster dust, confectionary sugar, and vodka).
You don't have to go over the top to create a gorgeous event (or spend a fortune doing it). Start with a basic, solid color tablecloth in ivory or white and build up from there, advises Addison. "Add pops of color with your napkins and napkin rings, and you can even mix and match them with alternating colors and patterns," he says. "Use basic white dinnerware with stainless steel flatware to keep the tabletop cost effective."
When designing the centerpieces, again look to the season. "Purchase fall florals that match your color palette and add a few natural elements like feathers, dried wheat and pressed, dried fall leaves," Addison says. "Candles and hurricane lanterns are also great. They add light and ambiance without breaking the bank."
Focus on food
Insider tip: When hosting a memorable event at home, make sure you don't spend the whole time running around. "Keep decor, recipes and cocktails simple so you're out of the kitchen and out from behind the bar and enjoying the party with your guests," advises Addison.
When planning the menu for your event, individual portion sizes for hors d'oeuvres will make everything easy for your guests while they mingle. "There are so many fun ways to display foods with towers and trays, on sticks or small serving forks or spoons," says Addison. "You can really get inventive with your display pieces." Just remember, food should be one or two bites maximum per hors d'oeuvres at a cocktail party so no one ends up with food in their lap.
Serve a hearty meal for your main course like beef tenderloin, which can be served at room temperature. Add some hearty sides such as scalloped or mashed potatoes, spinach and yams. The perfect ending to a meal: mini pumpkin cheesecakes and gold gilded chocolate truffles, of course.
Rather than serving a signature beverage or simply sticking with the basics (wine, beer, a few spirits), why not try a "Make Your Own Cocktail bar," which makes for a fun, interactive aspect to the party. "Pick your favorite spirit as the base (Champagne, vodka, tequila, etc.) and then add some elements of surprise like fresh fruits and herbs for muddling, homemade cordials, fruit juices and sodas, and fresh garnishes," suggests Addison. "This allows guests to concoct their own special signature cocktail. Mixing your own cocktails is a great conversation starter for everyone at the party and allows guests to be a bit daring with their mixology."
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