Whether you’re hosting a Friendsgiving or a post-Tofurkey Day holiday bash, chances are you’re looking for ways to add a unique, personalized touch to your shindig. Although it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed at the mere thought of throwing a party, fear not. These smart tips from party-planning pros will help you host a fest your guests will remember long after all the flutes of bubbly have been downed (and Snapchatted).
Stay True to Yourself
Fiona Leahy, party planner to Louis Vuitton and Stella McCartney, recommends that we just be ourselves: “Be a happy host. People who do what makes them happy when entertaining tend to have the best time, and so do their guests. Trying to impress by stepping out of your own comfort zone will make you and your guests uncomfortable.” Think about your natural entertaining “element”–are you all about the delicious food, do you rock an awesome make-shift bar, or is music and ambiance more your thing?
When Possible, Get Luxe Party Staples for Budget Prices
Want a chic bubbly that won’t break the bank? San Francisco champagne bar owner Jen Pelka recommends Crèmant de Loire, a drink that’s similar to authentic champagne sans the hefty price tag: “If you want true champagne—that is, made in ‘Champagne, France,’ it’s almost impossible to find one for under $20. This is made in the same method but comes from the neighboring Loire Valley.” Try Langlois, M. Bonnamy, or Tissot Crèmeant du Jura. (These range from $14 t0 $25).
Don’t Stress Too Much about the Meal
Homemade author Clodagh McKenna encourages us to have faith in the goodness of fresh produce: “When you use ingredients that are fresh, local, seasonal, and, of course, delicious, your work is nearly done in advance. I find that combining simple recipes with quality ingredients is a foolproof way of creating a fabulous meal.” If you want to do something really special, however, just focus on one element—like dessert or a custom cocktail. Keep the rest simple.
Think Outside the Box
One of Leahy’s party planning secrets is creating an element of surprise. “I love introducing unexpected elements at parties—a unicorn in the garden or a random mariachi band. The important thing is to break from the ordinary for one night…I really like creating a special signature touch for a party. A bespoke neon sign, for example, can be a backdrop for photos, and after the party, you can put it up at home as a memory of a great night.”
Okay, so we may not be shelling out for a mariachi band, but on the topic of random animal sculptures, I did attend a small gathering once where there was one of those wire-frame, Christmas-light reindeers inside the house, in the middle of the living room. The nonconventional placement of an otherwise typical suburban lawn ornament made the piece fun and chic.
Make it Personal
Guests love noticing special touches that make them feel instantly welcomed. Marketing director for Absolute Elyx, Miranda Dickson, shares her cute tips for making your guests feel at home: “Name cards look really cute, especially if they have something personal written on them—or photos of people from their Instagrams.” Psst…Pieces like this are also great conversation starters!
Be Smart with Flowers
Don’t feel obliged to stick to a single floral centerpiece. “Use smaller vases so they can be moved around easily and don’t take up too much space,” founder of floral studio L’Atelier Rouge Caroline Bailey suggests. “And there’s a 12-inch rule! You can’t go above 12 inches on a dining-room table because you want guests to be able to see across and talk to each other.” Alternatively, you can skip flowers altogether and opt for pinecones dipped in gold paint with clusters of eclectic votive candles.
Create a Mindful Guest List
Cupcakes and Cashmere founder Emily Schuman has a few smart secrets when it comes to putting together a slick guest list: “I always like it to be a mix of the known and unknown—couples I think might like each other, singles I think might like each other. With the latter, the key is to include an odd mix of singles (e.g.,three), so that nobody feels as if they’ve been put on an awkward blind date with six other people as witnesses.” It’s also a nice gesture to invite your guests to bring a significant other if want to. This eliminates the need for them to ask you if it’s okay.
Don’t Forget the Tunes
As we’ve all experienced, music can make or break a party. “Music is the ultimate mood enhancer. Playlists are as essential for martini gatherings of four as they are for dance parties of 100,” Leahy explains. “Don’t leave this to the last minute.” Put that Spotify subscription to good use, and create a playlist around a mood—rather than a single genre. A week before the party, play it to yourself and tweak as needed.
Are you throwing a holiday party this year? How do you plan to make it special?
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