Crunchy, colorful leaves, cozy sweaters, and everything pumpkin… Fall is officially here, which means backyard barbecues and pool parties are being replaced with Halloween bashes and harvest parties. We spoke to Dayna Tolley, owner of Party On! Events and Thumbtack professionals to get the scoop on the most popular fall party trends, including themes, décor, party favors, entertainment, and more. Read on to learn all latest trends for fabulous fall parties. And remember: there’s a Thumbtack pro near you to help with all of it.
People Love Any Excuse to Throw a Party
Tolley says a lot of her clients are throwing milestone parties, like 40th and 1st birthdays, but autumn is one of the most beautiful times of year and also the official start of baking and entertaining season, which means a lot of people are just looking for a reason to host friends and family. Besides baby showers and retirement parties, you can also expect harvest parties, Halloween bashes, “Friendsgiving” gatherings, and over-the-top tailgates.
Every Party Needs a Theme
Tolley encourages her clients to come up with a theme because it helps set the tone for the entire party. “You can tie everything together from the decorations to the dessert table to party favors, and it gives your party more purpose and direction.” That being said, don’t pick just any old theme; Tolley says her clients are taking a theme, whether it be “Alice in Wonderland,” “80s,” or “Western” and giving it their own twist, so that it’s not like anyone else’s party. It’s not just about the tablecloths, accents, and lighting; it’s about making sure the food, cocktails, and entertainment all work together to enhance the guests’ experience.
For example, Tolley recently put together a “Classic Rock” 50th birthday party and no detail was too small. She put albums on the dessert table. A live band played classic rock. The dessert table had candy named after bands (Chocolate hearts wrapped in black foil = Joan Jett and the Black Hearts; candy sticks = Styx; gumballs = Rolling Stones). It’s those little details guests remember and make the party unique.
Color Themes Are Popular
Tolley isn’t as big a fan of using colors as the only theme, but says she does see it a lot for showers (peaches, whites, and pinks), 1st birthdays for girls (pink and gold), and 40th birthdays (black, gold, and white). If this is the direction you decide to go, be sure that the theme extends beyond the décor. You’ll want the dessert table to match, a signature drink in those colors, and you may even want to ask your guests to dress accordingly.
Home Is Where the Party Is
Tolley says she has a lot of clients who are throwing their parties in their home. Sometimes it’s a cost factor as venues can get expensive, but she points out a lot of people just enjoy hosting friends and family where they’re most comfortable… especially if there are children attending. That being said, if you don’t have a large house and you want to invite a lot of people, you will need to rent a venue, whether it’s a private event space, a restaurant, or just space in your local public park.
Create a Signature Cocktail
A signature cocktail is one more way to elevate your theme (and to keep your liquor costs down). For a fall harvest party, serve your guests a bourbon apple cider or a caramel apple mule. For Halloween, consider going a little more out there with the drinks. Cocktails with green liqueurs and gummy worms are a hit with clients of Jamal Harbison of Signature Selection, a bartending service owner in Atlanta, GA. Dry ice cocktails also make a big impact on Halloween and add to the décor.
Sweeten the Party with a Dessert Table
Tolley says all of her clients want a dessert table. There’s usually at least one cake, jars of candy, cupcakes and cookies, decorations to pull it all together.
Still, a candy buffet is the perfect way to create a beautiful display that elevates your theme. For fall think: caramel apples, molasses cookies, pumpkin brownies, tiny apple pies, and cinnamon doughnuts. Then decorate the table with pumpkins, leaves, branches, and other fall accents.
You can even have a dessert table on Halloween; just be sure to unbox/unwrap the candy as wrappers can look cheap and don’t photograph as well.
Lastly, let your dessert table/candy buffet double as party favors. Put bags that go with your theme at the end of the table and let people fill them up with candy and cookies. Or wrap caramel apples in cellophane so people can take it home.
…Because People Aren’t Really Doing Favors Anymore
Sure, people are still doing favors for children’s parties, but Tolley says she isn’t seeing them much at adult parties. And those kids’ party favors? People are putting more thought into them than ever. Tolley did a “Mod Monkey” 1st birthday party and all of the children got to “adopt” a stuffed monkey (with a green ribbon to match the theme) holding a banana-shaped sugar cookie on their way out the door. At a recent “Tinkerbell” party, the little girls all got colorful tutus, fairy wings, and fairy wands, while the boys were given Peter Pan hats and wooden (play) daggers they wore in sashes around their waist. Tolley says the most important thing about favors is to make sure they are something you can use that won’t just end up in the trash.
Party Guests Love Photographs
Tolley says that while she sees people hiring professional photographers for children’s birthday parties (especially first birthdays), adults are choosing photo booths for their parties instead. It’s fun, spontaneous, and let’s guests interact and be silly together, which is a perfect way to break the ice.
If you’re having a Halloween party, you’ll definitely want to rent a photo booth. It encourages guests to make sure their costumes are memorable, which is a huge part of the look and feel of your party. Just be sure the booth is stocked with awesome props so any costume-shy attendees can still participate.
Don’t Forget the Entertainment
Every party needs entertainment. Especially a Halloween party. The top five most highly requested performers on Halloween are magicians, balloon artists, tarot card readers, fortune tellers, and clowns. But don’t stop there! Thumbtack pro Linda Lighthill of Successful Events in Houston, TX, has created Addams family-themed parties that go beyond spooky decor by hiring professional actors to play Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, and the rest. When it comes to entertainment, if you can dream it, Thumbtack can help make it happen.
Get More for Your Budget with a Party Planner
Tolley says she’s seeing people spend more, especially on parties celebrating milestones. “People come in with a budget of what they want to spend, but also a strong idea of what they want; usually it costs a bit more than what they expect.” What many people don’t realize is that while it costs money to hire a party planner or a caterer or a bartender, those people can actually help keeps costs down because they know how much of everything is needed and will prevent you from buying more than you need and wasting money.
Want more party ideas? Check out the Thumbtack 2016 Holiday Party Trends Guide.
Dayna Tolley is a party planner located in Plano, Texas who creates events from baby showers to retirement parties that reflect her clients’ unique style. You can find her on her website and Thumbtack.