So you want to host your own Oktoberfest party? Wunderbar! You’ve come to the right place. Backyard Oktoberfest is here to help you plan for, set up, and enjoy the best Oktoberfest party outside of Munich – right in your own backyard. Pop “Oktoberfest” into Pinterest or any search engine, and you’ll find pictures of pretzels, beer, and Bavarian-themed decorations of all kinds. But how can you tell the difference between the authentically German and other less-than-authentic elements? How do you know what’s needed to make your party a success? That’s where we come in.
It is our mission at Backyard Oktoberfest to provide you with the wealth of knowledge needed to design a truly authentic experience for your guests. From the moment of the ceremonial keg-tapping to night-long cheers of Ein Prosit, your guests will feel as if they’ve been transported to one of Munich’s biergartens, all without having to get a passport first.
Let’s start at the beginning; you need to inform your guests of your grand event. Most hosts nowadays use social media or email to send out electronic invitations. There are certainly benefits to this method. You can add to or edit the guest list as needed and provide your guests with up-to-the minute information about your Oktoberfest. However, for larger events, or to add a personal touch, we recommend going old-school as a nod to the Old World and send paper invitations along with instructions that tell your guests how to RSVP at least a month before the event. A truly great Oktoberfest party requires a lot of preparation, so nailing down the headcount as early as possible will make planning much easier.
Hosting any kind of party can get out of hand quickly if you’re not organized. A checklist is a good way to stay on top of things, but who has time to sit down and write one? We did! It’s the only Oktoberfest checklist you’ll ever need, and it’s free. Download your FREE Backyard Oktoberfest Checklist (752KB)
Beer is obviously very important for any Oktoberfest party. Starting in August, you’ll be able to find a number of Oktoberfest-style beers at your local grocery or liquor stores. Grabbing a few six packs of these or other German beers is certainly an option – one that’s recommended by many “how-to host your own Oktoberfest” articles, especially if you do not want to spend a lot of money on imported beverages.
However, if you want to create a truly authentic experience, you should buy beer from the six Munich breweries that have tents at Oktoberfest. Only these six breweries can produce the official Oktoberfestbier that is served in Munich:Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten. Not all Munich breweries ship their Oktoberfest beer worldwide. Currently only Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Paulaner and Spaten Oktoberfestbier are shipped to the United States. These are more costly than domestic options, but we think it’s more than worth the extra expense. And your guests, who may not taste these beers anywhere else, will likely appreciate it, too.
If you go the imported route and would like to honor tradition further, Spaten should be the first beer opened at your party. Traditionally, the ceremonial barrel-tapping happens at noon on the first Saturday of Oktoberfest. Whether you tap a keg or crack open some bottles, as the host you should be the first to do so and proclaim “O’zapft is!” (It is tapped!).
Believe it or not, there are more options for Oktoberfest fare than pretzels and sauerkraut. Even though the beer is the star of the show, food is a key part of a successful Oktoberfest party. Traditionally, a full meal is served as a part of the celebration. There are a number of different food items served at the Oktoberfest in Munich. For instance, roasted chicken (hendl) is the most popular food item at Oktoberfest. That said, some Oktoberfest food is easier to prepare than others. For a complete Oktoberfest menu, we recommend the following:
- The Bavarian pretzel is a very common starter. Often, these soft pretzels are served with the Bavarian cheese delicacy obatzda
- Hard stick pretzels. These are a great substitute if you don’t have the time or funds to prepare fresh warm pretzels for all of your guests.
- Sausages (Bratwurst, Knackwurst, Thüringer)
- German Potato Salad
- Red Cabbage
- Boiled Potatoes
- Roasted Chicken
- Apple Strudel
- German Chocolate Cake (Although this is not actually a traditional German dessert, it is enjoyed by many.)
- Various European Cookies. Heart-shaped gingerbread cookies are a particular Oktoberfest favorite.
For recipes and more information, check out our Food page
Stylized clothing is the quickest way to get into the right mindset for any theme party, and an Oktoberfest celebration is no exception. Lederhosen and dirndls are the most popular attire worn at Oktoberfest. When hosting a backyard Oktoberfest party, encourage your guests to don the traditional attire, or at least novelty T-shirts that make it look like they are. For a list of shops or more information about traditional Oktoberfest attire check out our Clothes page.
For hosts of a backyard Oktoberfest party, we highly recommend purchasing authentic traditional attire, but we know that it is not the cheapest or easiest option. If authentic clothing is not within your budget, we encourage you to visit your local costume shop or an online Halloween retailer. If all else fails, the combination of khaki shorts, a checkered shirt, and suspenders would work. Take a look at the photos on our site, and be creative. Anything that will get you and your guests in the Oktoberfest spirit helps make for a better party.
If you have the funds, hiring a local band is always a great way to entertain your guests. Keep in mind that traditional German bands are likely appearing at local Oktoberfest events throughout September and October. During Oktoberfest season, it’s best to book early to increase the chances that the band you want to hire is available for your event.
Even if you cannot afford a band, you should still play music at your party. It’s a great way to keep guests entertained and encourage them to get into the spirit of the event. You may be surprised to learn that German oompah music is not the only kind of music played at Oktoberfest. There is a good mix of traditional oompah and other German tunes, but there are also a number of popular English songs.
A big part of the Oktoberfest experience in Munich is singing along with the band and your closest 10,000 friends. There are a number of traditional Oktoberfest songs that encourage people to get up and dance. One of the most popular is Fliegerlied. Don’t be afraid to stand up on a chair or sturdy table to do this dance along with your guests. Teach them the steps as you go, and encourage everyone to dance along.
One requirement of any authentic Oktoberfest party is playing “Ein Prosit” every 20-30 minutes, just like they do in Munich. Every time this song is played, encourage your guests to stand up, raise their glasses, and sing along. We recommend placing cards with the lyrics, along with a phonetic pronunciation key and a translation, on every table, so your guests can follow along. At the conclusion of the song, everyone should clink their glasses and take a drink. More information about “Ein Prosit” and a suggested playlist of songs for your party can be found on our Music page.
The beer tents at the Munich Oktoberfest are sponsored by each of the six Munich breweries. While the word “tent” is used commonly to describe the beer halls at Oktoberfest, these are more like semi-permanent structures. It takes two months to construct the “tents” on the Wiesn, and they have all the amenities of a modern structure, including electricity and plumbing.
While an event tent is not essential to host a backyard Oktoberfest party, it certainly adds to the ambiance of the event. Tent or not, decorations are vital in turning your event space into the perfect stage for your Oktoberfest party. Traditional Bavarian blue and white is the most common way to decorate your space. Hanging a Bavarian flag, banners, streamers, wreaths, or evergreens will add to the Bavarian feel. Feel free to incorporate these traditional elements into your design or to create a new look specific to your party. All that matters is that you create a space that makes your guests feel welcome.
The Oktoberfest in Munich is also known for its rides and games. There are a number of different rides, including roller coasters, a Ferris wheel and even a log flume. These attractions might be difficult or dangerous to pull off in your backyard, so we recommend organizing some games for some added entertainment value.
- Stein Races
- Break off into teams of two (or more), and have each person fill a stein with water (don’t waste good beer!). Challenge participants to go as fast as they can around a relay point without spilling. The fastest team who spilled the least amount of water wins.
- Stein Holding Contest
- Challenge participants to hold a full stein for as long as they can. Each participant must hold their stein one-handed while extending their arm straight out at shoulder height. The goal of the game is to hold the stein the longest without spilling. Participants are disqualified if they bend their elbows or drop their glasses below their shoulders. It is common to issue one warning before fully disqualifying a participant. Note that this game works best if you have a real glass Maß; otherwise just make sure each participant has the same style of glass with the same amount of water.
- Beer Drinking Contest
- This game is not necessarily encouraged, but it does happen often. Have participants fill their glass with a specific amount of beer and have them start drinking at the same time. The first to finish wins. Commonly, you will see people at Oktoberfest on their bench with a full Maß stand and chug their beer. People around them (and sometimes the entire tent) cheer them on. It is imperative that participants are actually able to finish the beer in one continuous drink without spilling. If participants fail this challenge, it is common to boo and make fun of them, so if that’s the sort of thing your guests enjoy, proceed with caution.
While these games are not necessarily authentic, they provide good fun at your party.
Glassware is important for an authentic Oktoberfest event. The Maß or Maßkrug (a one liter glass mug) is the typical way beer is served at Oktoberfest. It is highly encouraged to buy real glass Maß for your party. For the past few years, the Paulaner Brewery has been offering the “Wiesn to Go” package, which includes a Maß as well as a one-liter can of Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn. Supply and prices may vary, but that is the easiest way to acquire a Maß. If using real glassware at your party makes you nervous, plastic Maß are also available through various fine online retailers.
To create the full effect, especially if you plan to throw an annual Oktoberfest event like we do, having the correct kind of tables is a great way to make your event even more authentic. More information about Oktoberfest biergarten tables can be found on our Tables page.
The more we learn from hosting our own annual Backyard Oktoberfest party, the more we will share with you on how to host your own. In the meantime, we would love to hear from you about what you do for your own Oktoberfest parties or if you have any ideas about information to add to this page. Contact us.