You’ve put away your giant flamingo pool float, you're slowly making the transition from mojitos to mulled wine, and your bridal party is donning all of their beloved scarves. Fall is finally here. For a bride looking to embrace the autumn season for all of her pre-wedding events (bachelorette party, engagement party, rehearsal dinner, etc.), we got some advice from the experts on how to execute an fall-centric party.
For an engagement party full of bountiful fall cuisine, we sought advice from some of the wedding industry’s elite to put together a menu (and cocktail menu!) that’s both charming and unique. Garnishes that highlight harvest favorites like sliced apples, cinnamon sticks, and festive herbs make for extra cozy pre-dinner drink options. Seasonal picks that spotlight your event’s location make for a menu that’s even more personal. We love the idea of miniature fried chicken and waffles for a Southern soirée, or apple cider doughnuts for an upstate gathering. Nothing says delicious like fork-free favorites, after all!
We gathered an assortment of food and cocktails that will make your fall engagement party completely enchanting.
Create a warm welcome
“As guests arrive, there is nothing better than being served something warm and delicious to kick off the evening!” offers Diana Venditto, owner and creative director of Eventi Floral & Events, who considers spiked cider as the ultimate greeter cocktail.
Highlight your region
Calder Clark, owner and creative director at Calder Clark, likes to spotlight her company’s Charleston roots when suggesting a menu worthy of Southern charm. “Down south, our fall weddings are always rife with hearty ‘food truck foodie’ moments. Pimiento cheese on heirloom tomatoes, mason jars of lobster salad, and fried chicken on waffles go over well regardless of where you live,” Clark says.
Incorporate your tablescape
To ensure a cohesive table display (one filled with plenty of fall details!) Brooke Keegan, owner of Brooke Keegan Special Events, warms up an autumn table setting with a local charcuterie board. “Indulge in local cheeses and fruits that the guests are sure to enjoy,” she says.
Use festive seasonal garnishes
For autumn nuptials, Heather Balliet, owner of Amorology, suggests drinks with festive herbs and garnishes to bring even more personality to your fall cocktails. “This fun autumn drink was called ‘The Bonfire’ and was made of bourbon, apple cider, soda, sugar cube, and bitters!” Fresh cinnamon sticks and apple slices made for stunning garnishes.
Elevate garden staples
Just because summer is over, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still indulge in fresh harvest veggies. Amy Nichols, owner of Amy Nichols Special Events, encourages serving an assorted display of veggie crudités for an autumn engagement party. “It's guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser,” she says.
Rethink comfort foods
“Warm your guests on a chilly fall day with a passed tomato soup canapé,” says Ian Rynecki, executive chef at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, who miniaturized this familiar cult classic. “A simple favorite, this canapé will take your guests back to their childhood and will be sure to get your party started on a cozy note,” Rynecki adds.
Bank on traditional fall favorites
When it comes to embracing cold weather months, nothing says cozy like apple cider. “Integrating an old-fashioned cider press into your design will allow people to press their own cider and take a bottle home with them,” says Lisa Dupar, owner of Lisa Dupar Catering.
Encourage healthy and sustainable
By using locally sourced ingredients, Melissa Panico, director of sales and marketing at Taste Catering & Event Planning, suggests compiling a menu that is rich in freshness and embraces an eco-friendly feel. “For a fall engagement party, I love to encourage a composed salad of seeds and grains with seasonal, locally sourced fruit,” Panico says.
Give squash the spotlight
Aside from pumpkin, squash is one of fall’s most treasured ingredients—consider this for an earthy appetizer, entrée, or even dessert! With an eye for spotlighting this fall staple, Paul Larson, executive chef at Blue Plate Catering, considers a fall squash salad with roasted acorn squash rings, shaved yellow squash, mixed field greens, and toasted seeds an option for any unique autumn menu.
Take advantage of brunch
Not all events have to take place after the sun sets. With this idea in mind, Carly Katz-Hackman, event director at Great Performances suggests miniature avocado toast as a playful alternative to the traditional engagement party dinner entrée. “These smaller servings options make it easy for guests to eat and offer a unique twist on the original breakfast favorite,” she says.
Create noteworthy pairings
Often the perfect addition to a fall dessert station, Danielle Dworkowitz, owner and event designer at Creative Touch Party Design, promotes pairing cider donuts with a custom cider cocktail. “Offer toppings and glazes so guests can be interactive with the display,” she adds.
Stay away from heavy
With the common misconception that only heavier foods should be served during cold weather months, Marilyne Mitani, executive pastry chef at Paula Le Duc Fine Catering & Events, considers these petite sweets a great alternative to a heavy plated dessert. “These miniature cheesecakes are the perfect melt in your mouth bite, with the nut giving it a nice crunch,” she says. “The Douglas fir adds a scent of fall and evokes the winter to come.”
“Sweets are a great opportunity for personalization and whimsy,” says Bill Coyne, director of business development at Cloud Catering and Events, who suggests this Liquid Nitrogen Dessert Bar as a playful spin on the traditional fall pastry. “The ‘smoke’ off of the bar creates quite a spectacular moment,” he adds.