How to Throw the Perfect Fall Dinner Party in Your Backyard

Updated 10/30/18
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Before the weather shifts from crisp to unbearably cold, there a few fleeting weeks of beautiful fall weather to be enjoyed. During this respite from the heat of the summer and the biting cold of the winter, it's the perfect time to have a few last outdoor dinner parties in the company of good friends and loved ones. Invite friends and family over to enjoy fresh food and yummy drinks in a private, intimate setting.

If you're planning on hosting a fall dinner party, take note of interior designer Shannon Wollack's tips for throwing a gathering your guests will truly love. The founder of design firm Studio Life.Style recently collaborated with home décor brand Serena & Lily's Palisades Village design shop to create a stunning fall backyard entertaining scene. Ahead, find out how the design pro puts together the perfect setting and menu for a stunning fall fête outside. Here are six fall dinner party ideas from the interior designer to inspire your next event.

Create a Cozy Setting

Backyard Dinner Party
Stephen Busken

The key to throwing a cozy fall dinner party is layering. Make guests feel comfortable and warm by layering up on blankets, comfy seating, rugs, and pillows. "We love using throws, candles, and outdoor plants to create intimacy, coziness, and warmth and love to integrate touches of brass, matte black, and heavy wood in entertaining-ware," says Wollack.

Milo Alpaca Throw
Serena & Lily Milo Alpaca Throw $248
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Harbour Island Floor Pillow - Raffia
Serena & Lily Harbour Island Floor Pillow $208
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Choose Neutral Décor

Outdoor Entertaining
Stephen Busken

While warm-weather entertaining is the time to be bold with colors and patterns, Wollack suggests going for a more neutral look during fall. "Keep outdoor entertaining more serene with more grounded colors and more natural materials," the designer advises. Think natural woods, rattan, and woven elements in whites, tans, and browns.

Perennials® Rhodes Outdoor Rug
Serena & Lily Perennials Rhodes Outdoor Rug $898
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Directors Chair
Serena & Lily Directors Chair $498
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Have a Fire Element

Fall Dinner Party Décor
Stephen Busken

Even before winter hits, a fall evening can get quite chilly. That's why Wollack suggests keeping guests warm with a fire feature when entertaining outside. "If accessible, setting the dining area near an outdoor fireplace not only adds warmth literally but aesthetically," she says. If that's not an option, simply bundle up with extra blankets and perhaps a warm beverage in hand.

Nicasio Pillar Hurricane
Serena & Lily Nicasio Pillar Hurricane $188
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Cabrillo Side Table
Serena & Lily Cabrillo Side Table $798
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Serve Seasonal Dishes

Fall Dinner Party
Stephen Busken

Fresh seasonal ingredients are always ideal at any time of the year. Wollack suggests keeping your fall fare light and fresh while incorporating foods of the moment like fresh roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish, squash blossoms on pizza, and brussels sprout salads with pomegranate seeds. Finish the meal with a fresh pear tart to really go all out.

When it comes to beverages, Wollack suggests serving up a fun apple cider mimosa if you're hosting a brunch or a heavier whiskey cocktail for an evening affair. If you're mixing up a lighter drink, be sure to garnish with fresh rosemary or thyme to add a little something special. 

Spinnaker Tray
Serena & Lily Spinnaker Tray $128
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Healdsburg Napkins (Set of 4)
Serena & Lily Healdsburg Napkins (Set of 4) $48
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Make Creative Table Arrangements

Fall Table Setting
Stephen Busken

When it comes to the tabletop, a simple design is all you need. "No need for tight flowers in fall," Wollack says. "We like to use heartier things like branches, leaves, and even vegetables in arrangements," she continues. Set out natural fiber placemats and cloth napkins to finish off the look.

Tortola Lantern
Serena & Lily Tortola Lantern $178
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South Seas Bar Cart
Serena & Lily South Seas Bar Cart $598
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Up next: We designed a fall dinner party menu to celebrate the cool change.

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