How To Host a Flawless Fall Dinner Party

Event planner Tara Wilson shares six tips for successful autumn entertaining.

1. Setting

Fall weather can be unpredictable, depending on where you live, but event planner Tara Wilson said hosting an outdoor party in fall is unexpected-and your last chance before the chilly winter months. However, always have an indoor back-up plan in case of sudden bad weather.

See more: Fresh Ideas for a Festive Thanksgiving Table

2. Centerpiece

You don't have to go over-the-top to create a stunning scene. Wilson enhances standard grocery store bouquets of roses or mums with a few natural elements, like feathers and dried wheat.

Hurricane lanterns are another great option for outdoor dinners. "They add light for function, glow for ambiance, and their shape and size make them practical in windy settings," Wilson says.

3. Drink

Pair a fun, seasonal beverage with your meal or appetizer. Wilson calls hot apple cider spiked with champagne, a timely (and tasty!) choice.

Recipe: Hot Spiced Cider

4. Appetizer

Welcome guests with a snack-like a rustic cheese board-as they arrive. Wilson's favorite three cheeses: blue cheese, apricot Stilton, and pepper-crusted Brie. "I serve them with a fresh sliced baguette, dried cranberries, apricots, and cashews. I also love including an organic honey to complement the blue cheese," Wilson says.

See More: Appetizer Recipes

5. Entrée

"Beef tenderloin can be served at room temperature, so the pressure of getting it to the table hot isn't an issue," Wilson says. She suggests serving the beef with a rustic salad of greens, dried cranberries, sugared pecans, and blue cheese.

Recipe: Tara's Beef Tenderloin

6. Favors

If you plan on giving out a party favor, Wilson advises choosing something cheap, but useful or consumable. Her go-to gift for autumn? Caramel apples.

Recipe: Caramel Apples

More party-hosting ideas:
Thanksgiving Side Dishes

How to Make the Kids' Table Fun

12 Things to Add to Your Thanksgiving Table (Besides the Turkey!)

The Holiday Recipe Book

Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.