Guys! I have this secret obsession with starting a dinner club. It’s not a secret anymore since I just told you about it, ha. Seriously, anyone who knows me, knows I love to host gatherings. I mostly love hosting when it involves food (which is always). Also, you probably know I have an obsession with all things fall. So, of course I had to put those two things together! Recently, I co-hosted a fall inspired dinner party with my co-worker and I think it was a huge success. Here are some of our tips and pics!
- Pick a location – We wanted to have the party outside so we had to decide between backyards. When doing a party outside make sure you have a fairly flat yard if you want to put a table on the grass. Know where your electrical outlets are if you want to use any sort of lighting or music. HAVE A RAIN PLAN! We live in Pittsburgh and we have our fair share of rain, make sure your location allows for flexibility if you have rain or snow. (It did start pouring an hour before our dinner but we waited it out and luckily our guests were more than happy to help us get things set up when it was dry.)
- Sketch out a menu before you send the invite – This was a really crucial step. We actually made some pretty good decisions on the theme of the menu and number of dishes before we sent out the invite. We decided to focus on a Mediterranean feeling menu but wanted to make sure there were fall elements in each dish. We also decided on our protein early on because we knew that would drive a lot of the expense. Chicken is always a cost-effective way to go and there are plenty of ways to make it sexy! Also – remember your veg friends; they appreciate you thinking of them and making sure they don’t have to just eat salad.
- Make a Pinterest board – Shortly after menu planning we set up a Pinterest board where we could both pin things that inspired us and dishes that looked yummy. Ultimately, most of the recipes we chose came from Pinterest. This is also a good way to focus in on specific elements of the party that you want to make sure you capture (i.e., I was committed to having a blanket bench and luckily she had a bench so I brought the blankets!)
- When it comes to decor, simple can still be elegant – I subscribe to the notion that when you want something to look really classy, just add candles! We kept the decor very simple, the tables were covered in butcher paper (a roll from Michaels cost $7.00) and we used mason jars with tea lights as decoration along with two vases of dried flowers (see picture below). A simple accent of burlap and twine helped to keep the rustic fall look. The food was all served family style which means you need plenty of room for your dishes on the table. A strand or two of lights can also make a huge difference. Don’t fuss with fancy dishes or glassware! If you want to spend money, spend it on more candles!!!! Fun platters can also serve as a great way to bring color or detail to your table.
- Buy in bulk – We made a Costco run a week before the dinner to pick up ingredients that were non-perishable or had a long shelf life (nuts, cheeses, dried fruits). Buying in bulk can be a great way to save on the cost, we had also planned dishes that had similar ingredients so things could be used in multiple dishes.
- Full bar vs. wine or beer – We talked about this a good deal. Do you go with specialty cocktails? Do you get a bunch of wine and beer? Ultimately, you should do whatever you think your guests will like. We had a feeling a lot of our guests would bring some wine so we decided it would be easier to just have wine (we ended up going through lots of wine!!). To save on money, encourage your guests to bring their favorite wine or beer. Most people want to bring something as a token of appreciation so let them!
- Time out cooking so that you don’t have to stand in the kitchen the whole time – We did some prep work the night before (mostly sauces and cutting). Make sure you pick recipes that are simple enough that you can execute in a few hours. Time everything out based on prep time and cook time. If you want to pre-bake anything make sure you don’t overcook it. Your guests wont know what things are supposed to look like so you get to be the judge before things go out!
- Don’t Stress! – I have had my fair share of kitchen meltdowns but I have learned that the biggest part of entertaining is the time spent with your guests. Unlike a restaurant, your guests usually don’t come in with a lot of expectations (unless you have hosted before and then of course, you have to live up that haha) so just roll with it! If it rains, it rains. As long as you have plenty of wine I am sure it will still be a great time!