Summer is synonymous with weekends spent up in cottage country, or checking off another friends’ wedding weekend from the to-do list. But everything begins to slow down in autumn, which makes it the perfect time to reconnect with girlfriends.
There is nothing I love more than bringing a group of my nearest and dearest together for a themed brunch or a dinner party at my place. I love working with the seasons to create the perfect menu, mood, and scents. If you’re new to playing hostess, have no fear. I reached out to my friend and Creative Director of Melissa Andre Events Inc., Melissa Andre, to answer every question you might have on how to curate the perfect fall fete.
Who should be on the guest list, and who should you exclude? If hosting at your home, what’s the right number to keep it quaint and intimate?
That depends on the size of your home! I love a great mix of people who can share stories and anecdotes and keep things interesting all night long. I just hosted a party at my home and included some of my new neighbours, old friends, new friends, and my siblings as well as significant others!
What type of invite should you send? If online, is there a go-to format, app, or site you recommend? Is it old-school to mail an invite?
I love Paperless Post for online invitations – although there is nothing quite as special as receiving a formal invitation in the mail. It really depends on how formal you want the party to be. I sent an online invitation for my house-warming party, but a formal letterpress printed invitation for my holiday fete. The nice thing about an online invitation is that your guests can go back and reference the details without having to find a physical invitation!
If hosting an intimate event at your home, how do you set a tone and create a mood?
I always pre-make a big pitcher of a signature cocktail and have that ready as soon as guests arrive. That way, while I’m taking people’s coats and thanking them for coming, the prep work of serving them a cocktail is already done. Make sure you have background music playing as well. Seating is very important so when I host people in my home I do re-arrange the furniture a little bit to allow for a bigger group-seating plan. At the same time, some people will always want to have a more intimate catch-up so it’s great to have options for that, too.
What is the go-to colour scheme, scents, and floral arrangements for fall?
This is absolutely seasonal but, most importantly, I like to be a bit unexpected. For example, I never decorate with green and red during Christmas or orange and brown at Thanksgiving. I’m using apricot and rose gold for my Thanksgiving party this year, and, while I haven’t decided on my holiday decor, I’m leaning towards powder blue and red, or raspberry and blush. Candles are an absolutely must; my go-to is Diptyque. Cannelle and Vanille are my favourites from the line (cinnamon and vanilla) but I also love Jasmine, Freesia, and Orange. Florals should be seasonal and low if you’re decorating a table-scape or coffee table. For powder rooms, occasional tables, and the entrance of my home I go with orchids in whatever colour looks the most beautiful on that day.
What are your tips on coming up with a menu and cocktails? Is it about the taste, the cache that comes with whoever made it, or about the look of how it’s served? Any glass recos?
Always about taste! And I think size is important, too. Smaller bites are always preferred and neater. You need less plates and flatware as well if you go with something more dainty. I love refined versions of old favourites – mini truffled mac and cheese, tuna tartar in a cucumber cup, kobe beef mini sliders. It’s important to keep your menu balanced so there is something that everyone will enjoy.
Aside from a signature cocktail that suits the look and feel of the party, I think it’s important to have a fully stocked bar. Even if you only use a liqueur once at this party, you can use it again in the future. I always keep cases of rose champagne on hand, white and red white, and a large range of liquors. I love to have fun, special mixes as well – like lychee juice, strawberry juice, sparkling grapefruit juice, etc. – and beautiful fresh garnishes.
Any go-to music recos to set the tone?
This definitely depends on your guest list! Sometimes Norah Jones is the most appropriate, while sometimes Party Next Door is the best fit.
Is it necessary to gift guests with a forget-me-not? If so, what’s hot and unique right now to gift your guests?
I always include a favour because I think it’s a special touch. But it’s not necessarily a must. I gifted my friends with beautiful Christian Lacroix notebooks at my housewarming party with a personalized note from me inside each one. It really did take hours to come up with something special to write for each guest but it was truly a labour of love.
I also love the idea of decorating your home with succulent plants and then gifting them to your guests as they depart – this favour serves double duty since it will add to your decor as well.
Studies show that over 50 percent of people who get married these days have a hashtag for their wedding for guests to use throughout. What’s your take on hashtags? Valuable or self-indulgent?
Hashtags are a lovely way to collect images. I think it’s a great idea and I personally love following my client’s hashtags and seeing everyone else’s snaps. I planned my friends’ wedding in the Dominican Republic last year at a beautiful villa. I was also a guest at the wedding. We used the hashtag all week so there are literally hundreds of memories in the feed.
How do you react if someone finds out who wasn’t invited? Etiquette? People obviously post in-the-moment on their networks. Is there a way to respond to friends who feel left out?
Weddings and parties are very personal – and guest lists can be quite tricky. I don’t think anyone should hide their event from anyone not invited. It’s always appropriate to be truthful and explain that due to the size of wedding or event you wanted to host, or the capacity of the venue you have selected, you had to keep the guest list quite tight. I have a good friend getting married in Bali this winter who is only inviting 30 guests to the destination event. However, she’s hosting a much more casual party back in Toronto for extended family and friends who weren’t invited to Bali. There are always ways to make people feel included – even if you choose to keep your event pretty private.
What are some of your tips to hosting and curating a fall party? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.