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How to Create the Perfect, Stress-Free Fall Gathering

It is that time of year again – It’s Family Reunion season! The cool weather (if you don’t live in LA like I do), the amazing smells (cinnamon, pumpkin, bonfires and marshmallows), the holiday music, and the beautiful scenery (changing leaves) really set the mood for a fun outdoor gathering. With so many great reasons to throw a party this fall, all you need to do is start planning. Whether you have a large family spread out over the globe or a small bunch nearby, planning a family gathering can be stressful. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead to stay organized and keep things running smoothly.

If you’re in need of some real-life inspiration, I’m here to help! In this blog post I’m partnering with some local vendors to pull off the ultimate guide to help you plan a memorable outdoor gathering this fall that will certainly impress your family members! So when the day arrives, you’ll be able to enjoy the party, knowing you’re well prepared for the celebration.

Choosing the Venue

The season gives you an excuse to consume all things pumpkin and revel in the beauty of nature. So it seemed only right to take full advantage of our backyard and enjoy time together with friends and family outdoor. For me, this party was a way to do all the things I love doing (planning events/decor/entertaining), and given the LA weather in November is still warm I must make the most of every moment.

Although sitting bohemian style on the ground is a pretty “revolutionary” concept for Asian families (my mother and mother-in-law had a little bit of trouble adapting), it was something new for us and was fun to experience together.

How to Decor the Outdoors

Lighting

Lighting is a must, indoors or out. The illumination you choose for your ceremony and reception set the tone for the event, and add a layer of magic to the entire event. A few strings of lights or carefully-hung lanterns can be all it takes to transform a shadowy backyard into the perfect party space. If you’re planning a party at dusk or in the evening, be sure to illuminate the path with candles set inside mason jars.

DIY a Floor Table

Nowadays, DIY is the trend anywhere! Gone are the days when anything handmade are considered cheap or low-class. Now, the perfect words to describe it are practical and creative. So opt for handmade invites, place cards, napkin holders, and just about anything you think you can make yourself including your main table.

Low tables make for a casual and relaxed dinner vibe and you can literally make one! My husband constructed wood table tops which were then placed on wooden crates. Simply add throw pillows to make a cozy and relaxed atmosphere. Add a few rugs for extra comfort too. Exquisite carpets don’t just belong over hardwood… they add an elegant and cozy touch to your outdoor event. I successfully convinced my sister-in-law to let me borrow her $850 Turkish rugs to decorate the space.

Teepee

And of course we had to have a teepee in the spirit of Thanksgiving! Teepees come in two sizes.  The magical teepee is the largest and then the midi which is slightly smaller but just as beautiful. If you have children attending your fall gathering, this will be a private nook where the kids can enjoy seclusion, play, and maybe sleep. A teepee may be a great idea for adults, too, if you need some relaxation and privacy, and if you love boho decor.

My teepee and all of my picnic supplies that you might see in all of my Instagram posts (picnic baskets, cheese platters, picnic blankets,…) are from inPicnic -a brand specialized in the design and manufacture of high quality yet budget friendly picnic sets. Their Large Cotton Canvas Teepee Tent is my favorite. It’s made of 100% natural, non-toxic, and unpainted cotton canvas. The tent poles are made of sturdy pinewood and are free of chemical odors and harmful substances. 

How to Style the Perfect Fall Tablescape

Decorate with fall décor

Your fall festivity won’t be complete without some autumn-themed décor or seasonal plants. Whenever I design a tablescape, I like to pick a color palette first. It helps me define the mood of the table and narrow down the materials I want to use. This year I wanted to use traditional fall colors like oranges and reds and go for a rustic vibes. I dressed up the table top with eucalyptus garlands and miniature gourds and pumpkins.

Centerpiece

Fresh flowers are the easiest and prettiest way to add a special and festive feeling to party decor. Before my event I kept seeing these gorgeous pumpkin flower arrangements on Instagram. A collection of blooms tightly packed into a bright orange pumpkin just screams “fall.” It’s an elegant take on fall decorating. So I contacted J’Adore Les Fleurs – my favorite florist in LA and they created perfect fall floral arrangements in 3 mini pumpkins that were exactly what I had imagined.

Plate Setting 

It’s all in the details. Placemats, napkins, napkin rings and place card holders are a big part of the overall look. You don’t have to own pricey china to design a dynamite table. Let the charcuterie board and cheese platter be the centerpiece, then just snack, drink and cheers away. 

My cheese board is also from inPicnic. Their cheese board is 100% natural bamboo wood board with hidden drawer with 4 stainless steel slicing, spreading and serving tools. This board is great for holiday entertaining!

Favors

Family reunions are often special events that occur infrequently. Mark the occasion with a special family reunion party favor that guests can take home to remember the event. So I asked Bitter and Sweet to customize unique chocolate flavors for my event. Their milk chocolate with wafer, hazelnut cream and edible roses was such a big hit at our party.

Bitter and Sweet chocolates are premium handcrafted chocolate made with pure origin and high quality ingredients by professional chocolatiers. They are packaged and curated with care and high attention to detail.

Wines

You know how it is to entertain a crowd, whether it be family or friends, you want to impress, but not always break the bank. You want to serve something of quality, at the same time please many different palates and personalities. I chose white wine for my party because it pairs so well with my charcuterie board and hors d’oeuvre appetizers. My favorite white wine is the 2016 Davis Bynum Chardonnay.

It has beautiful aromas of toasted sesame, marzipan, meyer lemon and baked apple. On the palate the wine opens with toasty brioche, hazelnut and baking spices, with a lush finish that is balanced with acidity and a rich creaminess. Enjoy this Chardonnay with creamy cheeses, vegetable raviolis or grilled veal chops and mushrooms.

Create a Fruit-Infused Water Bar

As friends mingle, offer a few different drink options around your patio and yard. Get creative with your bar set-ups. To create my water bar is quite simple. You need two or three large beverage dispensers. Assign a different fruit to each pitcher {here I chose lemons and oranges}. Chop the fruit to fill the pitcher one third the way, fill with water, and chill 2-3 hours in the fridge. Note, if you are taking this outdoors, I recommend choosing an acrylic pitcher in lieu of glass!

Have a Stress-Free and Unique Fall Gathering with a Personal Chef

Looking for a way to serve amazing food for your fall gatherings/Thanksgiving dinner and still spend time with your family? The answer is hire a personal chef. I love setting table, decorating, and making  just a few hors d’oeuvre appetizers. But I would rather have someone take care of the rest so I can have time to hang out with family. And not only can hiring a personal chef alleviate stress from the holiday, but it presents a great opportunity to make the holiday special and unique in terms of the dishes you can ask the chef to prepare.

So I contacted Rachel – one of my favorite personal chefs in LA area. Rachel has been a personal chef for 20 years. She has a great passion for cooking, helping others to eat healthier and showing them how to have more fun around the dinner table. She also has experiences in cooking gluten-free, vegan, low-calorie or diabetic-friendly meals  for many clients to meet their dietary requirements through planning and preparing nutritious meals.

I called Rachel kinda last minute and she was beyond accommodating, sincere and pleasant. Not only did I call her only one week before my event, but I also had a pretty high demand for the food. Rachel called me back that night, guided me through the menu planning process, and gave me so many suggestions that I knew would delight my guests. Isn’t it wonderful that you don’t have to spend time buying groceries and cooking (and clean up after)?

What a treat to have a professional chef come into our home with everything necessary to prepare a multiple course gourmet meal. Rachel somehow found a way to bring an entire gourmet kitchen into our home. From the beautifully presented charcuterie board to the vegan pudding with gold flakes, our guests and I almost did not want to eat them.

The ingredients and the balance Rachel chose for her dishes were fresh and exciting and perfectly placed. The fantastic combinations that she put together and prepared to perfection were impossible to resist! We particularly enjoyed watching her food prep and so appreciated her patience with our questions.

All of my guests could only describe the food as nothing less than divine.  The professionalism demonstrated by Rachel from the expertise in menu planning, and the manner in which she worked in the background of a house full of company (my family members were very chatty) were all exemplary. The speed and care that Rachel demonstrated in the post-dinner clean-up was way beyond expectations, and very thoroughly appreciated. So if you are thinking of taking your family out for fall gatherings/dinners at a fancy restaurant, consider calling Rachel first because I guarantee the cost will be well below what you expect and her service will bring such class and taste to a private party with expensive pallets.

I always thought personal chefs were for movie stars and the ultra-wealthy. Having a personal chef evokes the image of gloved butlers filling crystal wine glasses and serving silver platters to a couple seated at opposite ends of a 12-foot dining room table. But now that has changed; a personal chef started as a luxury but now it is cost effective and very affordable. Rachel also offers cooking classes that teach how to make healthier meals for your family, how to make a wide variety of food or simply the basics, if you’re new to cooking.

Spending the holiday with your family and letting the personal chef do all of the work in the kitchen is a great experience that you and your family must try. Better yet, when finished, a personal chef cleans up the kitchen, leaving nothing behind but the delicious aroma of home-cooked meals. If you need some holiday gift ideas for your beloved ones, how about hiring a personal chef to alleviate their holiday stress? That will be a very unique gift. Contact Rachel for your next event (Her email: rachel20050@yahoo.com).

***Thank you to J’Adore Les Fleurs, Bitter and Sweet, inPicnic, Davis Bynum Wine, and Rachel for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.


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Hi there! I’m May, a girl who loves to wander and wonder! I’m from Saigon, based in Los Angeles, but my current location is anywhere and everywhere. Travel, Photography, Tea Time, Picnic, Home Decor and Event Planning are a few of my favorite things. inArabymay is a travel and lifestyle blog inspired by beautiful destinations, by color and nature, and by wonderful people that I’ve met on my journey.

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