Location: A quaint inn or converted barn surrounded by beautiful countryside is the perfect setting for an autumn celebration.
Welcome baskets: As overnight guests arrive, present them with small burlap bags filled with cookies, peanuts, Jones Soda (personalize the labels at myjones.com), an itinerary and a map of the area, suggests Ivy Robinson of Ivy Robinson Weddings & Events in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Décor: Use natural elements, such as branches, berries, gourds and leaves. Opt for table linens and accents in rich, seasonal colors like chocolate, spice and gold.
Menu: Try a biscuit bar with a variety of savory biscuits—sweet potato, cheddar, garlic—filled with brie, cheddar cheese, sausage, country ham or seared tenderloin. Play off Thanksgiving favorites, such as butternut-squash soup and sweet potato soufflé topped with marshmallows in martini glasses.
Dessert: In lieu of a traditional cake, serve a buffet of seasonal desserts: cobbler, sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie.
Favor: Opt for homemade fudge wrapped in colored cellophane and tied with raffia.
Late-night treat: Serve s'mores and hot apple cider spiked with brandy or bourbon.
Cocktail hour: For a dazzling display, dispense drinks from a bar carved from ice, says Karen Clark of Something Borrowed, Something Blue in Raleigh, North Carolina. A perfect signature drink might be an icy cosmopolitan, made with vodka, Cointreau and white cranberry juice. Welcome guests with carolers performing Yuletime favorites.
Special touch: Take your first twirl around the dance floor with "snow" drifting down around you, suggests Robinson. (The "snow," courtesy of a snow machine, evaporates quickly and doesn't leave the floor slick.)
Décor: Icy blues and lavenders. And for a magical effect, don't forget to arrange for the room's lighting to change from white to blue to lavender-blue during the night.
Menu: Classic comfort foods like cups of tomato soup and miniature grilled cheese and grilled Reuben sandwiches. Round out the menu with a pork and beef tenderloin carving station and a station serving Asian dim sum.
Dessert: Consider a three-tiered "present" cake topped with a monogrammed white-chocolate bow and filled with luscious chocolate mousse and fresh berries.
Favor: Guests will love small, old-fashioned snow globes or tiny potted evergreens.