Host a fabulous fall harvest party

Oct 10, 2011 at 1:48 p.m. ET

The temperature may be dropping (more rapidly than we’d like), Halloween is around the corner and we’re getting busier by the minute, but there’s no better time than now to celebrate fall. From simple but stylish décor ideas to tasty meal ideas and creative cocktails, we have everything you need to plan and execute a fabulous seasonal-inspired soirée.

Fall harvest festival

1Darling decor

When you're decorating for a fall party the possibilities are endless. Look no further than the warm colors of the season to find your inspiration. The bright yellows, rich reds and deep oranges of the changing leaves offer a gorgeous color palette and there are several simple ways to incorporate fall into your décor.

  • Pick up several glass vases in various sizes (scour thrift stores and garage sales) and fill them with pine cones and pine needles.
  • Baskets of apples and pears make for a charming addition to countertops and coffee tables.
  • Large wooden bowls or white serving platters filled with miniature gourds are a great way to add the colors of the season to your home and set the scene for the evening.
  • You can't forget pumpkins! Have a few in different sizes set up on the porch, in the entryway and even on the bathroom or kitchen counters.
  • Fall plants – asters, Russian sage, chrysanthemums – all look lovely when popped into vases. Group several smaller vases together for an eye-catching centerpiece or simply place one or two smaller vases on whichever surface needs some color.

2Fabulous food

One of the best fall foods we can think of is soup. Serving two or even three different types of hearty soup to your guests is a great way to factor in the season. If you think it sounds like a paltry offering, think again. Along with your soup – we suggest one vegetarian option (minestrone or lentil), one fan favorite (chicken noodle or beef barley) and one more robust choice (even chili or a hearty stew) – serve loaves of crusty bread, a selection of cheeses, crackers, olives, and dips or spreads.

Pick up as many small mason jars as you'll have guests. After dinner, fill the jars with all of your leftover soup. Stack them by the door and encourage guests to grab their favorite as they leave for a warming next-day meal. If you're really feeling crafty, print out the recipe for each soup and attach to each jar.

3Delicious drinks

No party is complete without a signature sip or two. We suggest creating some beverages based on what's in season. Dark beers, ciders and rich red wines are a good start. Set up a bar area where guests can serve themselves. Beer, along with cans or bottles of cider can be stacked in large galvanized steel buckets filled with ice for easy access. Once you have the basics ready, it's time to decide on cocktails. One or two options is plenty – you don't want to be playing bartender all night. Flavors to think about include apple, pear, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and star anise. Some tasty ideas include bourbon mulled wine, maple syrup old fashioned or hot and spicy apple berry punch.

Don't forget to have juices, non-alcoholic cider and sparking water on hand for anyone who doesn't wish to imbibe.

4Interesting extras

Add to the cozy fall atmosphere with lightly scented candles that evoke the season. If you can find smaller versions of whichever candles you choose (pillar-size for the party), give guests the tea light version (two per guest) as a parting gift.

We also like the idea of ensuring there are plenty of blankets and throws available for anyone who gets cold, or just as another way to decorate for the party with fall in mind.

Watch: How to decorate with pumpkins

Pumpkins are good for other uses besides pies and carving. Here are two!

More party planning and hosting tips

Party ideas for kids with fall birthdays
How to be the best hostess
Top 10 party ideas for grown-ups