Fall for an Autumn Party!
What happens when Southern Living hosts a farm party with West Elm? Delicious dinner, eye-catching tablescapes, and one unbeatable location. Get all our tips and tricks to re-create the look at your own home. | Story by Zoë Gowen
Party on the Farm
To celebrate the opening of Birmingham’s new West Elm store, our Editor-in-Chief, Lindsay Bierman, and West Elm’s creative director, Vanessa Holden, hosted a Feast on the Farm at downtown Birmingham’s Jones Valley Teaching Farm. Yes – that’s a farm right in the middle of town that’s dedicated to teaching all about healthy eating.
PARTY TIP: Make a striking first impression for party guests and have the table fully set before anyone arrives.
- Behind-the-Scenes Video: Feast on a Farm
Take It Outside
The hosts decided to embrace the scenic location and ideal fall weather and put together the ultimate farm-to-table dinner complete with a menu cooked by our Test Kitchen and sourced from the produce growing yards away, a farm table set for 30 (set by our Homes Editors with all West Elm products), and a bluegrass string band.
PARTY TIP: Don’t be afraid to move your wooden tables outside to celebrate. And if you don’t have enough tables, borrow from friends! Just be sure that the tables are the same heights. Take autumn’s shorter evenings into consideration and start the party early enough for guests to see the sun go down.
Rent farm tables – same heights!
Keep It Simple
A tablecloth would have felt too fussy in the outdoor setting. Instead, anchor each place setting with slate placemats that mimic the farm’s produce stand signs. A simple white plate rests atop a striped hand towel for graphic punch. Black place cards with white calligraphy from Meme Davis nestled into kraft paper branches add a personal touch. Weighty glassware and flatware that feels and looks substantial enough to be used outside finishes off each setting.
PARTY TIP: Fold napkins beneath the plates to keep them from blowing away in the wind.
Mix It Up
Take advantage of such a long table and create drama with a rambling centerpiece that runs the entire length of the 30-foot table. Here, a brigade of sparkly mercury glass bottles and jars in various sizes holds candles, red and deep-pink dahlias, and fresh-cut autumn branches.
PARTY TIP: Be sure to vary the heights and sizes of the containers to keep the look more casual.
Set Up a Dessert Table
Take cues from fine restaurants and their dessert carts and set up a buffet of sweets nicely arranged on elegant white cakes stands and serving platters. Be sure to extend the theme of the dining table to the dessert station and sprinkle in a few mercury glass candles and add in an arrangement of fall leaves.
PARTY TIP: A calligraphed dessert menu adds an extra-special touch to the party.
Leave the Kitchen
Make the cooking part of the party! Because this is a casual outdoor party, don’t be afraid to let guests see you cooking. Our Test Kitchen brought simple charcoal grills to the farm and cooked right alongside the guests.
PARTY TIP: Party-hosting chefs should protect their clothes with chic aprons. They should also have a drink in hand to show that they are enjoying the party themselves like Executive Food Editor Hunter Lewis, shown here.
Play Appropriate Music
Skip the hip-hop, the rock ’n’ roll, and the Top 40 hits and add some authenticity to your party with a bluegrass-y soundtrack. Look into local string bands–there’s nothing like live music to bring a party to life. Birmingham’s own old-time string band Flying Jenny entertained our party guests throughout the evening.
Serve Family Style
A seated dinner with a waiter can feel too stuffy, and a serve-yourself buffet comes across as too casual. Meet the two party approaches in the middle and serve family style so that guests feel a bit pampered while everyone enjoys their meal together.
Send Off Guests With Goodies
Give partygoers a small token to remember the evening. Here, simple market totes from West Elm with a Birmingham-themed illustration speak to the farm-themed event in a memorable way.
Cook the Menu
Wondering what the Test Kitchen dreamed up for this party? A simple but hearty seasonal meal served with cocktails, wine, and of course a smorgasbord of yummy desserts.
Guests were served refreshing, citrusy Apple, Lemon, and Gin Shandy.
- Recipe: Sparkling Pear-Brandy Cider
The Main Course
For dessert, guests were presented with an array of sweet treats ranging from petite glazed cakes to easy and elegant bar cookies.
Watch the Video
- Behind-the-Scenes Video: Feast on a Farm