5 Outdoor Fall Dinner Party Ideas with Nicole Cole of Vestige Home

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This year, we’re excited to extend the outdoor entertaining season through the cooler months. While many of us may typically pack up the patio once the temperatures drop, it’s actually quite fun—and festive!—to have friends and family over for cozy gatherings through the fall. We recently caught up with our friend and principal designer at Vestige Home, Nicole Cole, to share her top dinner party tips on what to serve, how to stay socially distant, and what will make the evening feel both casual and special.

terrain: How have you adjusted your entertaining habits to ensure friends and family stay safe while still having fun?

Nicole: We’re encouraging our guests to dress appropriately for the weather, even if it means keeping entertaining very casual (i.e.: no dressing up). We also try to serve as many individually portioned dishes as possible to limit sharing food. I love having brown paper bags filled with snacks like gourmet popcorn or spiced nuts (think European winter festival staples). While I would usually pull out our glassware, we might be leaning a bit more into recyclable canned beverages this season. And instead of sitting around a table for a meal, we’re being more informal and having everyone pull up a chair in a wider circle where we can still engage in conversation but still be safely spaced apart.

terrain: What do you enjoy most about entertaining loved ones outdoors in the fall?

Nicole: There's something so special about enjoying a crisp autumn afternoon or a chilly evening snuggled up by the fire pit. It’s a different way to enjoy the garden, seeing the leaves turning beautiful warm shades. The lighting is softer and lower and filters through the trees differently too.

terrain: What’s one finishing touch or special detail that’s simple to do but makes an impact to your guests?

Nicole: I've found that the biggest impact on a fantastic get together is making sure that the host is having a great time and can actually relax and participate in the festivities. I try to take a little bit of time before a gathering to ensure I have everything ready to go. I love creating meals with dishes that can be served at room temperature so that I'm not stuck in the kitchen. That way, once my guests arrive, all I have to do is enjoy the company. 


5 Tips for Throwing an Outdoor Gathering this Fall

1. Don't be afraid to bring the indoors out! Pull a few personal items from inside your home to make your outdoor space feel cozier. Lamps, blankets, and sculptural ceramics adds a level of intimacy and hominess.

2. Build an outdoor entertaining kit. Add a cabinet, chest, or dresser in your mudroom, garden shed, or by the back door where you can store and easily access go-to party essentials. This can include washable items like extra scarves, hats, and gloves as well as enamel mugs, candles, blankets, heating pads, and any other items to keep your guests comfortable as the weather cools down. Functional items like extension cords, batteries, and flashlights are also good to include.

3 Create new traditions. Maybe your morning cup of coffee on the porch transitions to a cup of tea, mug of hot chocolate, or a warm cocktail in the evening by the fire pit. Find ways to make everyday moments feel like special rituals that allow you to enjoy your outdoor space.

4. Add seasonal plantings. Transform your summer flower container gardens into something fall-appropriate by including evergreen plants, dried stems, or faux greenery; this will keep your outdoor space looking vibrant. Weather-ready planters in durable materials and drainage holes are important to use; foraged branches and other natural elements make perfect finishing touches.

5. Grill everything. Nicole says she’s looking forward to experimenting with outdoor cooking this season. From grilling bread to simmering stews over the fire pit, there are so many dishes that are simple to prepare and will only taste better over an open flame!

Want even more entertaining advice? Check out our Wild Late Summer Centerpiece Tutorial and our 5 Seasonal Entertaining Hacks with Nicolas Vahe

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