Autumn is around the corner — and you are excited for fall colors, crisp weather, and pumpkin spice. Calmer and cozier vibes are beginning to take over, but that doesn’t mean that the excitement of summer needs to disappear completely.

Birthday parties and other get-togethers may feel a bit different as winter approaches, but they can be just as festive — even when held in a brisk outdoor environment. Below, we’ve provided plenty of ideas to help you plan the ultimate fall bash.

Choosing the Perfect Location

Fall parties can be tricky to plan, in part, because the weather can be so unreliable. The weather is often spectacular in September — but as October and November approach, you will definitely want to have an option for shelter available, plus a bonfire to keep warm.

Of course, there are also plenty of worthwhile options beyond the confines of your own backyard. Reserve a picnic shelter for a park-based bash or check out the offerings at local apple orchards and pumpkin patches. This approach can provide built-in entertainment, so you don’t have to put as much effort into planning games or activities.

Fall season bonfire.

“Falling down dude” by blmurch is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Invitations and Picking a Theme

You can go as fancy or as laid-back as you want with the invites and the party theme, although, of course, the season should provide a few easy options: harvest festival, Oktoberfest, tailgating party, or Halloween. All are fun in their own unique way. Your choice will be dictated, in part, by when you want to schedule your party: late October calls for a Halloween bash, while most Sundays should accommodate tailgating.

Ultimately, of course, it all comes down to personal preferences. Select a compelling theme early on and incorporate it into your invitations. Traditional paper invites (especially DIY cards) are always welcome, but digital options can be customized to include beautiful fall imagery or spooky Halloween images.

A Fall Halloween invitation.

“Antique Halloween Party Invitation Stamped as sent on Oct. 15th 1924” by ShebleyCL is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Autumn-Themed Decorations

Despite the cool breeze outside, fall-themed decorations should feel warm and inviting. Anything that reflects the natural beauty of fall leaves will make an impression. If you opt for a harvest theme, select a color palette that emphasizes rich shades of orange and red, complete with brown accents. Other decorative displays worth considering include:

  • Cutouts featuring scarecrows or other familiar fall characters
  • Hay bales, which can double as seating spaces
  • Balloon arches featuring shades of orange, red, and brown
  • Fall wreaths with brightly colored leaves
  • Pumpkin or gourd centerpieces
Halloween themed table decorations.

“Dept. 56 Halloween carnival” by greyloch is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Fun Activities and Games

A fall dinner party can be a delight, but the occasion will be a lot more memorable if it incorporates unique games or activities. Yard games, for example, are perfect for backyard fun. On a brisk day, these get attendees up and moving instead of huddling in the cold.

Cornhole is always a favorite, but lawn bowling or a ring toss should also prove popular. Seasonal versions of these party games are available for purchase. Although, you can always take the DIY approach with a pumpkin ring toss. If you’re feeling ambitious, create a backyard scavenger hunt that encourages guests to search for items that epitomize fall fun.

As a backyard backup plan, select seasonal board games to have ready inside. These can be just as entertaining as outdoor games. Better yet, host a spooky movie night to celebrate Halloween.

Young child playing with cornhole bags.

“corn hole” by AllieKF is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Themed Food and Drinks

Brisk weather calls for hearty dishes that will instantly make guests feel cozy. Chips plus warm dips (such as buffalo chicken dip) should be an instant hit. Chili is sure to satisfy and can be a central part of your event if you host a chili cookoff.

Other options include satisfying soups (like butternut squash), wings, or even hot dogs for a tailgating party. For Oktoberfest, stick with pretzels and beer cheese.

Don’t forget dessert: when in doubt, opt for anything that incorporates apples or pumpkins, like cider donuts or pumpkin pie. Better yet: provide graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate so guests can make s’mores.

The drink selection may depend on the theme of your party. Provide plenty of craft beers for the ultimate Oktoberfest — or apple cider or hot chocolate for a harvest event. Cocktails are certainly not off the table: incorporate apples or cranberries, when possible, to amplify the effect.

A Fall themed birthday cake.

“Fall Theme Birthday Cake” by kimberlykv is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Outdoor Entertainment

Depending on where your party is held, you may be able to entertain guests with fall favorites such as corn mazes or hay rides. Even a simple hike can be thrilling if your party takes place during peak fall colors. Be sure to inform invited guests of your plans — and let them know if they should bring any specific footwear or attire.

Fall walk path with autumn colors.

“Fall Colors – country road” by joiseyshowaa is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Fall Party Favors

Send guests home with party favors that remind them just how delightful autumn can be. Anything they can snack on will be appreciated: popcorn balls, apple butter, or pumpkin spice treats, for example. Scented candles and soaps should also be a hit. Favors for a Halloween party should be appropriately spooky — and for an Oktoberfest event, beer steins or German treats should do the trick.

Halloween themed snacks, chicken satay and popcorn balls.

“Chicken satay and popcorn balls” by kinwart is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Dress Code and Attire

Fall parties tend to be casual, and while dressy outfits can be fun, cozy-casual attire will be a lot more comfortable if you plan to celebrate outside. Make the most of sweater weather and encourage guests to show off their most heartwarming ensembles. It can be difficult to predict the weather, so provide plenty of options to help guests keep warm. When in doubt, extra blankets should help.

For Oktoberfest or Halloween parties, the dress code should be obvious: dirndls and lederhosen for the former and costumes for the latter. Add a costume contest to encourage guests to show off their unique garb.

Fall themed clothes for outdoor parties.

“pile of knitted sweaters and fall leaves” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Safety and Comfort

The potential for cold is just one of many safety concerns you’ll want to keep in mind as you prepare for a wonderful autumn event. If your bash involves a bonfire, follow typical safety protocol: avoid fires during high winds and confirm that an easily accessible water source is near your fire pit.

Rain and even strong winds or lightning are possible, so be sure to have a backup option available. Typically, this means preparing your living room or other indoor entertaining space as a plan B.

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Photo Opportunities

Fall photos are a cherished tradition. Why not incorporate them into your party? Beautiful leaves make for an excellent backdrop, but you can bring extra whimsy to the event with a cardboard option. Either way, professional photographers are strongly recommended, as they can capture special moments and leave you to actually participate in — and enjoy — your party. You will love reliving your big day as you gaze at photos later on.

Two brothers playing in a leaf pile.

“IMG_1725” by Yatmandu is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Have a Happy Birthday This Fall!

As you plan for the ultimate fall bash, look to Cardboard Cutout Standees to add visual interest and whimsy to your event. We have a variety of options that can easily be incorporated into your get-together, ranging from life-sized cutouts to BigHeads and everything in between. Get started by uploading your favorite fall photos — or reach out to learn more.


  • Jason Frank

    Jason Frank is the Co-Founder and Vice President at Cardboard Cutout Standees. After 25 years of selling factory automation he started the company with one of his college roommates. The company has grown to one of the largest providers of large format custom printed products in the United States. Along with the namesake cardboard cutout standees, they also provide BigHeads, Point of Purchase Displays, Wall Murals, and Wall Decals to a diverse client base across the US and Canada. When not focused on the business, you usually find Jason either on the road biking or our in the woods and fields of western Wisconsin.

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