A Fun, Easy Gathering Idea for Fall


It’s been over a year since my fiancé Jared moved into our apartment together and still, there were no dinner parties to be had.  Life just kept getting in the way, plus I was waiting to get all of our furniture and decor in… You guys know, it takes so very long to make a house into a home.

Finally I realized, there will never be a perfect time. The apartment will never be “done,” or perfect. It was time to just make this party happen!

Even though I used to throw dinner parties for a living as a caterer, when it comes to my personal life I like to keep things as simple as possible. Why? So I can enjoy my own party! In this video and further detailed below, I share how I hosted our first party including many of my favorite tips for turning hosting into an effortless, enjoyable process.

I truly find entertaining to be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things we can do. Putting together the evening – from the menu to the decor – is the ultimate creative expression because you’re creating an experience that you get to share with the people you love. I hope you’ll feel inspired to host your own gathering soon!

coming up with the theme

😉

I considered doing a housewarming party but that felt a little off since we’ve been here over a year. Still, I wanted something bigger and more celebratory rather than a small, seated intimate dinner. Since the weather is still nice out and we have such great outdoor space, I wanted to utilize that. Plus I figured I could stick Jared on the grill, which meant less work for me. 

Planning a dinner party can be overwhelming because there are almost too many options. As with art of all kinds, sometimes it helps to give yourself some rules or boundaries so that your creativity can find a flow.

For me, coming up with a theme offers a perfect starting point for inspiration. In order to keep it modern and not verge into cliché territory, the key is to avoid going overboard. In this case, I let the theme lightly inspire the menu and overall casual energy of the night but I kept the decor simple and more in line with my personal style.

The brainstorm began by thinking about fall and grilling, which made me think of football… but I didn’t really want to host a party where people were more interested than the TV than each other so I kept going. Next I started thinking sausages… then I came up with the idea to host an Oktoberfest party. Immediately I was picturing brats on the grill, pretzels with different mustards to choose from, lots of interesting beers to try––this would be a great way to get guests involved and also contribute in a natural way.

the menu

Pretzels with Cheddar-Beer Dipping Sauce
Brats & Sausages / Sauerkraut with Assorted Mustards
German Potato Salad
Brussels Sprout & Apple Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
Black Forest Sheet Cake

*We had around 20 guests but I’ve cut the recipes in half since I realize most won’t be serving such a large group. You can easily double the recipe if you do!

I ordered pretzels from Black Forest Brooklyn, a great local, German restaurant down the street. This would be enough to serve as an appetizer with mustard, but I opted to make a cheddar-beer dipping sauce, just because I was craving it and you know, cheese makes people happy!

For the sides, I went with things that could be made in advance and were fine to sit out at room temperature. This is key! I went with German potato salad because it’s authentic to the theme and super-hearty and filling (this way you know everyone will leave full). I then made a brussels sprouts salad to have a lighter option, which cut through the heaviness of the rest of the meal. I chose to not add cheese to this so that it would be safe for vegans to eat. I also had Jared grill up some peppers and onions to serve with the sausage, which offers more proof that you don’t need to follow the theme to a T. It’s better to put your own spin on it!

When hosting a larger party like this, I don’t like to have to ask about dietary restrictions, especially since people may bring friends, etc. – I just like to make sure that there are options that work for everyone, and in turn this usually works out to a nice and balanced meal.

For dessert, I went with a Black Forest sheet cake. Black Forest is a traditional German cake that is typically chocolate cake with cherries and whipped cream. I made this into a sheet cake because I thought it felt family-style and cozy, and a sheet cake is great for feeding a large crowd. I love desserts where everyone can sort of dig in together.

extra touches

For a more casual gathering like this, I think games are a great addition. I ordered a Giant Jenga from Amazon which was a huge hit. If you have a larger yard I think cornhole would also be fun! And if you’re hosting indoors, any favorite board game or even cards would work.

If you’re outdoors I think it’s nice to have a few blankets to offer guests in case it gets chilly. I picked up a couple of inexpensive options at H&M and I keep them outside in our storage bin.

It’s also always good to check and make sure that the bathrooms have plenty of toilet paper and I like to keep candles burning in there, too.

decor & ambiance

I kept decor really simple, using things I mostly already had on the patio and around the house. String lightspillar candles (also found these citronella pillars which are great for keeping the bugs away!) and lanterns, add instant ambiance.

I’d bought this inexpensive tablecloth from H&M and this was a perfect time to use it. Then I incorporated some copper elements like our hammered copper beverage tubcondiment caddy (which I use to hold napkins and utensils), and water pitcher. All of these items add function in addition to a decorative element.

I saw some seasonal blooms while shopping at Trader Joe’s and decided to go for a floral arrangement, inspired by the one we’d recently bought (in this video) from our local florist. I loved doing it and I was surprised at how much I liked the way it came out! Let me know if you’d like to see a video tutorial on this.

time-saving tips

  • Get your brussels sprouts pre-shaved (Trader Joe’s)
  • Buy jarred cherries (TJ’s also carries these which are great)
  • Order pretzels from a local restaurant or bakery
  • Good mustards and sauerkraut dress up the main course with no extra work

my prep list

  • Day before: Clean and prepare party area, go grocery shopping, get serving dishes out
  • Morning of party: Bake cake, arrange florals, grate cheddar for dip (using food processor!), dice red onion for potato salad
  • Afternoon of party: Prepare table/music/flowers/decor, make potato salad, make brussels sprouts salad, set out mustards/toppings
  • 1-2 hours before party: Make dip, pick up pretzels and ice, whip cream and top cake

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10/11/2018

A Fun, Easy Gathering Idea for Fall

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