As the weather outside gets dark and dismal, we look forward to holiday get-togethers to cheer us up. Anne-Marie Gabrini, co-owner of K+A Personal Concierge, says that holiday parties don’t have to be complicated. “The most important factor is to be organized and make lists, so you can cut down on trips out to the store.” Remember that as the host, people will recall the pleasure of your company rather than which appetizer you served. Here are five tips from our entertaining experts.
SET YOUR BUDGET.
It’s helpful to think about spending in advance, rather than when the credit card statement arrives. And you don’t have to spend a lot to create a memorable occasion. Gabrini suggests that if you do have a healthy budget you may want to consider having the food catered, or pay for help with cleaning and serving.
CHOOSE A FORMAT AND THEME.
Do you want a formal dinner or a buffet? Or
perhaps a “Come and Go” with appetizers and punch. Do you want to plan an activity like an ugly sweater contest or a costume photo booth? If you can, plan with both extraverts and introverts in mind, and include some activities for the kids if they are invited.
CONSIDER THE DECORATIONS AND AMBIENCE.
Anita Smeskal-Donato of Anita’s Events: Dreams to Reality is enthusiastic when it comes to decorating. She recommends checking out Pinterest for ideas, and is a big advocate of bringing the outdoors in. “Because I live close to a forest, I usually bring in pine boughs and use them to build my own, earthy decorations,” she says. She suggests investing in floral water tubes to keep your pine boughs healthy. These can be purchased through your local florist, at a nearby craft store, or you can order them online.
This year, Smeskal-Donato is creating arrangements in wooden planter boxes that she intends to send home with her guests. “For the past three years I’ve created a ‘Christmas Tree Dress’ for my front hallway,” she says. “A clear vase filled with apples and pomegranates can make a beautiful table centerpiece.” Not to mention, when the party is over, your centerpiece still makes a healthy snack.
Remember all the senses when creating your atmosphere. “A cinnamon stick in a little water simmering on the back of the stove can create a beautiful, chemical-free scent for everyone to enjoy. Just don’t forget that it’s there or the scent isn’t so beautiful,” Smeskal-Donato says with a laugh. Make a play list or stream some quiet music in the background, but don’t let it become obtrusive.
PLAN YOUR MENU.
Consider doing a cocktail like a beautiful Sangria with strawberries and cranberries. It will enhance the decor and also free you up from serving. Don’t forget to include a selection of non-alcoholic options such as hot apple cider or cocoa.
When it comes to the food, don’t be afraid to out-source, and make food that you love to eat. The menu does not need to be fancy. Consider purchasing some take-out containers in advance to make it easy to divvy up the leftovers.
Finally, Smeskal-Donato says, “Try to keep your perspective about why you’re having the party in the first place. Often we get so caught up in making everything perfect that we forget that the purpose is to enjoy ourselves.” Here’s to more fun, great company, and a happy holiday season!
by Elaine Jackson
K+A Personal Concierge