An Enchanting Fall Gathering

Fall is my favorite season. I love to take advantage of the ideal combination of warm days and cool nights by hosting an annual outdoor dinner party. It is the perfect excuse to gather friends around a beautifully decorated table and serve up some delicious comfort food. In this post, I share my thought process for creating the decor and table setting for this dinner party.

Several years ago, I purchased a set of antique English transferware at an estate sale. It provided just the sort of rustic elegance I desired for this dinner party. Its cream colored background and floral pattern consisting of brown, gold, and orange colors perfectly reflected the fall theme and became the starting point for the entire table setting.

Because nothing is more elegant than a white linen tablecloth, this was the table’s first layer. Another vintage tablecloth with a yellow-orange damask border was positioned diagonally across the center. Overlays such as this create an opportunity to introduce additional color and texture while giving the table a luxe feel. Matching napkins were gathered up in the wine glasses to add height and dimension to the setting.

Because my tables are somewhat narrow, I needed a centerpiece that would not interfere with the flow of food or conversation. I placed a rustic lantern in the center as an anchor and created a “runner” of greenery consisting of eucalyptus and other leafy clippings from my yard. I topped this base with branches of ornamental eggplant, also known as “pumpkin on a stick.” These cute mini-pumpkins added color and texture while giving the table a whimsical touch. Tiny white fairy lights and votive candles were dispersed throughout the plant material for extra sparkle.

I recently started collecting mismatched vintage silverplate flatware and I set the table with it. Though tarnished, worn, and imperfect, it was a nice compliment to the antique china which was also crazed and imperfect. Incorporating older pieces, even when in less than pristine condition, can add loads of character and personality to a table.

As a party favor, each guest was given a loaf of homemade cranberry-apple bread in a ceramic baking dish. Wrapped in cellophane paper and banded with dotted orange craft paper, a name tag that doubled as a placecard was attached with jute string. After guests were seated, the breads were removed and placed off to the side so that the table would not get too crowded. The favor was returned to each guest at the end of the evening to take home as a memento and perhaps to be enjoyed for breakfast the next morning.

Menu cards stood in little slices of tree branches to announce the coming meal. I designed the menus and name tags using clip art I found on line.

The meal was designed to be hearty, seasonal and comforting. Each course was paired with a wine that had been recommended by a nearby wine shop to help bring out the best in both the food and wine.

In anticipation that the weather might turn chilly by nightfall, cozy polar fleece blankets were folded over the backs of the chairs. A patio heater was positioned at one end of the space and the fireplace was lit at the other end so that warmth would be evenly distributed. I purchased a few white plastic tablecloths from the local dollar store, gathered them up, and stapled them to the top of the beams at the entrance of the patio. These easy, inexpensive makeshift curtains created a sense of intimacy, as well as helped hold in the heat.

Once the meal was over, we lingered around the table enjoying one another’s company. While the glow of the candles, the crackle and warmth of the wood fire, and the jazz playing on the stereo created lovely ambiance, it was the company of good friends gathered around the table that made it a truly enchanting fall evening.

The fireplace mantel was decorated symmetrically with candlesticks and pumpkins flanking each end.  Leafy plant material, fairy lights, and votive candles added fullness. For additional reflectivity and sparkle, a metallic bronze garland was threaded throughout the display.



4 thoughts on “An Enchanting Fall Gathering

  1. Lovely. :3 I love the fireplace in particular, and the blankets were such a good idea! Most of the cold-weather outings I’ve been to, you either wear your coat or endure the chill. (But then again I can say that for places with the A/C too high in summer, too!) I love the colours of this time of year, so that also appeals to me in this setting. I was taking a walk this weekend and noted that with the last of the leaves falling, the natural palette of the region has shifted from gold, orange, red, and evergreen to big blue skies, yellow dying grass and mountain shrubbery, and white snow covering the fields. November feels very ‘Thanksgiving” already and so different from the bursts of colour for the month of October. So orange and white or ivory are an interesting combination at this time of year — both warm and cold at the same time. … And the bread! Ohhh, favourite time of year for things like that. 😉

  2. Thank you! We don’t get a dramatic change of colors with the change of seasons here in southern CA so it’s important to me to bring it in with my seasonal decor. And I adore the cool nights we have at this time of year where with just a sweater and/or a blanket, it is really quite pleasant to spend time outdoors in the evenings. I take advantage of it as much as possible.

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