With the holidays just around the corner, I’m in full planning mode for all of the parties my family is hosting this season. But the stress from the hustle and bustle can certainly interfere with the magic of the season. Sounds a bit like wedding planning, no? Sure prepping ahead of time and having an event timeline is key for a smooth event, but what is it that truly makes a successful, memorable, and stress-free party?
Rather than let the stress get to me around the holidays, I always try to dive into my wedding planner bag of tricks and use these same hospitable entertaining tips at home. Whether used for a party of 200 or a party of 20, these are my favorite ways for planning a thoughtful, effortless event:
Set the Mood from the Start:
I always turn on music and light candles at least thirty minutes before guests are scheduled to arrive. That way, when the first guest walks in the door (20 minutes early of course), they’ll feel much less awkward if it already feels like a party.
Allow Guests to Feel at Home
People feel most comfortable when given space to do their own thing. Create “help yourself” stations for necessities throughout your home. For example, I love setting up a spa water station of beautifully filled carafes of water with blueberries, cranberries, rosemary and/or cucumber. Place decorative cocktail napkins around the house – not only at the bar or along the appetizer table – but also on coffee tables, in bathrooms, and on end tables. Guests can help themselves easily and these extra details look pretty too – so it’s a win-win.
A Simple, Curated Bar is a Crowd Pleaser
No need to pull every single bottle of alcohol you’ve ever owned from your liquor cabinet. (Do people really use brandy? lol). Simplify your bar selection with curated crowd-pleasers. Always include a light beer, a seasonal craft beer, one red wine, one white wine, one bubbly and a pre-made batched cocktail. Make large batches of the cocktail ahead of time, so your guests don’t create back-ups at the bar by mixing drinks themselves or playing bartender. Make it interactive with different garnishes or a rimming station.
Plan for Late Night, Not Leftovers
Last year, our design associate Giovanna had a large dinner party for Thanksgiving. Cocktails were had, appetizers were enjoyed, dinner was devoured, dessert was delectable…And then her dinner party turned into an amazing late-night party she didn’t quite expect. So when everyone was craving a midnight bite, rather than pull out leftovers, they popped an insane amount of popcorn! Lesson: Always plan ahead for late-night treats – whether salty, sweet or even nostalgic – people love an unexpected, tasty midnight snack.
Favors Aren’t Just for Weddings
A thoughtful parting gift can make any event more memorable and meaningful. We love giving guests an edible, take-home treat. Something small, local or themed is always well received. Favors can sit at atop place settings at dinner or be given on the way out the door. Last Christmas season, I hosted a Sunday brunch for my girlfriends and gifted each gal with a cozy pair of slipper socks when they arrived. It was such a treat for them, and a treat to give, too!
Plan for Yourself
I’m pretty sure my mother’s worst side came out whenever she didn’t have enough time to get dressed and ready before a party she was hosting. She’d run around frazzled, irritated and exasperated. We called her “Party Mom” and we learned that under no circumstances should we engage. Back away…slowly…(Love you, mom!) Make time to get dressed at least two hours before the party, so you can look and feel your best when your guests arrive. Trust me, your kids will also thank you. (Love you, mom!)
Happy hosting! Wishing you all the best this holiday season!
Photo: Elizabeth LaDuca