Want the secrets to hosting a memorable holiday bash? We’ve got ’em, courtesy of top entertaining experts.
Schedules fill up fast between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, so reserve your date early. “It’s hard to do something on Fridays or Saturdays in early December since people are booked with office parties they can’t wiggle out of,” says Sherri Foxman, CEO of Party411.com. Her suggestions: Tag the Friday after Thanksgiving and make it a potluck or host a Sunday-afternoon soiree. And don’t forget about the week between Christmas and New Year’s when there’s an unexpected lull in the action.
Hone in on a theme, even a casual or understated one. “That sets the tone for everything. You’re not going to serve Asian fusion food at a nostalgic Christmas party,” says Blair French, owner of In Good Taste Productions in Manhasset, New York. Investing a little brain time up front will pay off big during the party. Do whatever it takes to solidify your vision—make and update lists, draw diagrams, research food and drink recipes. Advance planning also gets you psyched, and your guests will catch on.
Snail mail is experts’ first choice for sending invites, but these should be sent out six weeks in advance. If you go with email invites, make sure to personalize them, suggests event planner Loren Michelle, owner of Naturally Delicious in Brooklyn, New York. Look for images online or upload your own photographs, then cut and paste them into your message using a font that works with your vibe. A carefully crafted invite will provide a sneak peek of your soiree and get guests pumped.
Putting a modern twist on sandwiches, skewers, spiced nuts, cookies and cakes are all safe bets. The most important thing is that you’re comfortable with the preparation and serving, so feel free to rely on store-bought food if that works best for you. Some tips from the pros for adding your own spin:
For quick canapés, start with squares or rounds of whole-wheat bread smeared with a mixture of curried goat cheese, halved grapes and walnuts, suggests Chef Matthew Tivy from Cafe du Soleil in New York City. Or try his personal favorite: Take frozen pizza dough or even pita bread and cut out small circles or squares with a cookie cutter; top them with a dab of pesto, a slice of plum tomato, grated Parmesan, chopped olives and Provencal herbs.
For a dessert-themed party—or just a memorable after-dinner presentation—Tivy suggests creating an elegant-looking tray of store-bought cookies combined with a selection of pastries cut into small pieces. Put them on special plates or in individual confectionary cups (available at any party store).
And don’t forget to stock up on Party Palettes! You won;t have to worry about additional seating as your guests can load their plates and carry their drinks, easily and stylish! Remember to serve wine in wine glasses and watch how easily they hang on the plates without a single spill.