I decided to create this guide on how to throw an Oktoberfest party at home because, well as we’ve seen in 2020, sometimes we just can’t make it Munich. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from being able to experience the magic that is Oktoberfest. *jazz hands*
You may not have a giant Ferris wheel and Alpine views in your backyard, hordes of strangers streaming in and out of your front door, or horse-drawn beer carriages parked in your driveway.
But you can still have the smell of warm candied almonds, the sounds of cheery oom-pah-pah, and gemütlichkeit galore without even leaving your lawn. And I’m here to show you how.
How to throw an Oktoberfest party
Okay, so your at-home Oktoberfest won’t be anywhere near the size of the original in Munich. (I hear seven guests are easier to cook for than 7 million anyway.) But you can still recreate it on a smaller scale in your very own backyard.
And putting this guide to how to throw an Oktoberfest party into action is going to be just about as much fun as going to the original. (Almost.)
Whether you’ve been to Oktoberfest in Munich or not, this Oktoberfest party planning guide will help you host an awesome party that’s as close to the real thing as I could get you!
And when you’re ready for the real thing, book an Oktoberfest trip planning session with me! Details in that link.
What you’ll need
When coming up with how to throw an Oktoberfest party, you’ll need the following:
- Proper Oktoberfest beer
- Authentic Oktoberfest foods
- The perfect Oktoberfest playlist
- The right Oktoberfest decorations and ambience
- And, of course, the perfect Oktoberfest outfit.
This guide will cover everything you need to know to host an Oktoberfest party of your own in these five easy steps.
1. What beer to serve at an Oktoberfest party
Though Oktoberfest is about so much more than beer, no one can deny it is, in fact, the glue holding the whole thing together. Without it, your party would be little more than an awkward employee appreciation barbecue in the office parking lot.
At Oktoberfest, only beer from Munich’s six main breweries is allowed to be served. Each brews a special festbier exclusively for the Oktoberfest beer tents. Therefore, for your Oktoberfest-themed party, you should try to stick to these same breweries as well:
Oktoberfest party beer selection
Though you won’t be able to find the exact beer served at Oktoberfest, you can still find most of these breweries’ “Oktoberfest”-style beers at a store near you. The most widely found tend to be Paulaner Oktoberfest, Spaten Oktoberfest, and Hofbräu Oktoberfest, but you can find the others if you know where to look. My Oktoberfest party beer guide will explain more.
If you can’t find the Oktoberfest versions from these six breweries, sticking with whatever you can find from them will do just fine. Some options that are easy-to-find year-round include: Spaten Lager, Spaten Franziskaner, Hofbräu Original, and Paulaner Original Munich Lager.
Try to keep it German
And if you can’t find any of those, do your best to just keep it German! Oktoberfest is as much about Bavarian culture as it is about beer—so remember that in your party planning. Focus on celebrating Bavaria, not just on celebrating.
Some other brands to look for are: Weihenstephaner, Warsteiner, Erdinger, Ayinger, and more.
This information, however, is just the tip of the Oktoberfest party beer iceberg. There’s much more to know! The beer is the foundation on which your Oktoberfest party is built; make it a strong one.
Consider a keg
For larger get-togethers, consider opting for a keg over bottled beer. Besides being much better for the environment (kegs are reusable!), this could potentially save you tons of money and trouble. Plus, the beer will taste so much better.
Buying a keg may seem like a hassle, but it’s actually way easier than you think. I have a 4-tap kegerator at my house so I’m buying kegs all the time. But even if your party is just going to be a trash can + ice situation, kegs are still a great (economical, eco-friendly, and tasty) way to go.
2. What food to serve at an Oktoberfest party
Maybe you think of Oktoberfest as only a beer festival, but it’s actually so much more than that. Oktoberfest in Munich is just as much about the food as it is about the beer, the tuba, the lederhosen, the beautiful blonde in the monk’s robe on the horse.
And though it may not be the first thing on your mind when you enter the Wiesn, it should definitely be one of the first things you think about when deciding how to throw an Oktoberfest party. The last thing you want is a bunch of empty-stomached beer drinkers passing out on your lawn. Actually, that would be pretty authentic Oktoberfest.
At Oktoberfest in Munich, 500,000 roast chickens, 124 giant oxen, and about a gazillion pretzels are served each year. And while you won’t be toiling away that fiercely (step away from the rotisserie Rhonda), there’s still a list of must-have Oktoberfest party foods.
Oktoberfest party appetizers
At a party where beer is the main focus, it’s important to offer snacks on snacks on snacks. Here are some on-theme appetizers to keep stocked:
Bavarian soft pretzels
The first rule of Oktoberfest food is that you must have big Bavarian Oktoberfest soft pretzels. Without those, your Oktoberfest-themed party is just… a sausage fest?
These Gebrannte Mandeln are super popular at Oktoberfest and super easy to make at home. The smell of them cooking alone will turn your block into an instant Volksfest.
Also known as Kartoffelpuffer in German. This potato pancakes recipe is easy to make for both large and small groups, and who doesn’t love a fried potato dish?
Oktoberfest charcuterie board
You’ll find these meat / cheese / vegetable boards in all the Oktoberfest beer tents. Each is unique, but they typically contain pretzels, various sausages and meats, delicious cheese spreads, and always radishes!
This would be perfect for an at-home Oktoberfest but be sure to provide serving utensils and/or toothpicks to avoid hands-on-food. (Cute Bavarian flag toothpicks here.)
If you’re having a sit-down Oktoberfest dinner, dishes like sauerbraten or the ever-popular roasted half chicken would be ideal. For larger gatherings, brats on the grill are as easy as they come!
Oktoberfest side dishes
Every Oktoberfest must have German potato salad (yes, it’s different) and sauerkraut—two serious Bavarian staples that are easy to make (or buy) for any size party.
And for dessert, you can’t go wrong with some delicious dampfnudel or apple strudel. Though, there may be something wrong with your backyard bierfest if you don’t have some lebkuchenherzen. Make your own and personalize!
3. Oktoberfest party decorations
From what I’ve learned, there are two ways to decorate for an Oktoberfest party at home:
- The cheesy, Pinterest way
- And the authentic, mock-Munich way
The first of the two involves corny photo booth props and face cut-outs, fancy chalkboard menus, ribbon-tied wheat bundles, and customized koozies. Remember, Oktoberfest is the focus here—not that 12-hour course you took on calligraphy.
This can quickly become too much. One look at the Oktoberfest party offerings on Amazon is enough to make you vomit blue and white. And I’ve seen pictures where people have utilized everything on this page. It’s… a lot.
The second, more sane option is where you want to be. Creating a mini Munich in your backyard is the best and most authentic way to celebrate Oktoberfest at home.
The great thing about Oktoberfest decorations is that you can keep it simple and it works. At Oktoberfest, the décor is grand, but it’s not the focal point. It’s unobtrusive. It works behind the scenes with the music, the outfits, and the food and beer to create the perfect atmosphere. In short, you don’t need in-your-face centerpieces and confetti to get your point across.
How to decorate for an Oktoberfest party
To accomplish this, I suggest simply replicating your favorite Oktoberfest beer tent, but on a much smaller scale. If you’ve been to Oktoberfest, you probably have a favorite. If not, choose a favorite based on photos or your brewery of choice.
So you love the Hacker-Pschorr tent (like me)? Go with simple light blue and white streamers and some star lanterns. Paint yourself a Himmel der Bayern banner.
If your favorite German beer is Hofbräu, model your decorations after the Hofbräu beer tent at Oktoberfest. For instance: white streamers, sunflowers, blue and white tablecloths.
For Augustiner fans, green and black streamers along with wreaths and light blue ribbons will do. And so on. (There are 14 large beer tents at Oktoberfest representing the full color spectrum.)
4. Oktoberfest party music
At Oktoberfest, I’m there every morning at opening. The beer tents open at 10 am but the band doesn’t start playing until noon. During those first two hours, the party is only slowly getting started. But when the band strikes up at noon, the energy in the place changes to something you’ve never experienced before.
Oktoberfest simply isn’t Oktoberfest without the music. But if you’ve never been to Oktoberfest before, choosing the music for your Oktoberfest party could seem like an impossible task. Like, where do you even start?
So for you I’ve put together an entire Oktoberfest party playlist. It’s got over 60 songs and lasts for over three hours. It contains all the same songs and in the same order that you’d hear them at Oktoberfest in Munich. (So make sure not to hit the shuffle button!)
It starts with some traditional oom-pah-pah, morphs into some German pop hits (you won’t know the words but you’ll definitely feel the rhythm), and onto some American rock classics. All authentic to Oktoberfest (with one exception).
Listen while you party prep, listen while you cook, listen while you write this blog post. (Ok, that one’s just for me.)
5. What to wear to an Oktoberfest party
Wherever you celebrate Oktoberfest—be it in Munich or at home—you should definitely wear the traditional Bavarian outfits! It is so. much. fun. and adds a whole other dimension of awesomeness and authenticity to your party.
Depending on your preference that would mean either a dirndl or lederhosen. If you’ve been to Oktoberfest in Germany, chances are you already have a set of one or the other. And YAY! You get to wear it again! If not, you can easily pick some up for your party.
Lederhosen, typically worn by men, consists of a pair of leather knee-length shorts with suspenders, a white or checked button-up shirt, knee socks, and loafers. They vary in color all the way from black to *gasp* brown.
These also come in women’s shapes and sizes which I call Ladyhosen because why wouldn’t you? These can be all kinds of colors and materials, from red leather to denim.
A dirndl is made up of three pieces: a white blouse, a dress, and an apron. Yes, aprons are finally fashion statements! Socks can be worn but it’s not mandatory. Everything from ballet flats to cute booties works for shoes.
Unlike with lederhosen, I can tell you just about anything you could ever want to know about dirndls. For everything you’ll need and where to get it, how to wear it all, what not to wear to Oktoberfest, accessories, hair, cleavage, and more, check out my post on how to dress for Oktoberfest. It covers everythinggg.
Where to buy Oktoberfest outfits
Since picking up some authentic pieces in Munich is out of the question, let’s switch it up. You can actually find everything you’ll need for your Oktoberfest outfit online from your very own couch.
I’ve purchased plenty of dirndls and Oktoberfest accessories online and I have plenty of experience buying them from stores here in the U.S. and from stores in Europe. It’s easy and can be relatively inexpensive… if you know how to shop.
And for that, I’ve written a post all about buying a dirndl online. It covers:
- Where to buy dirndls online
- My experiences with a few of the top shops
- What all you need to buy
- And 9 crucial things you need to know before you buy a dirndl online.
Check out my guide to buying a dirndl online here!
Additionally, you’ll need things like:
- a bottle opener – I can’t stress this one enough!
- Serving utensils and toothpicks
- Trash bags
- and, because it’s 2020, you’ll need a bottomless supply of hand sanitizer, face masks, disinfectant wipes, etc.
- You can find everything else you need in the checklist below!
Oktoberfest party planning checklist
Now that you know the five most important steps for how to throw an Oktoberfest party, it’s time to get to planning! To get you started, I’ve put together a free, printable party planning checklist that contains all the most important things you’ll need for your backyard bierfest.
Get this free checklist sent to your inbox by signing up below.
Feel free to drop any Oktoberfest party-related questions below in the comments. Prost!
Tell me about your Oktoberfest party plans below!
But first, pin me ⇣⇣⇣