I don’t know about you guys, but I (Blair) feel like the holidays are so close I can taste the champagne and smell the pine of the Christmas tree already! My best friends from home (we have all remained besties since 6th grade!) and I have a tradition of getting together every year over Christmas time. It’s the ONE and only time of the year that we are all reunited in the same city. During our college years, this usually meant an excuse to drink cocktails and gossip about boys, but now that we are getting a little older (and more mature!) we are planning an organized party this year. It’s probably just my excuse to send out cute invites and have a fun DIY hot chocolate bar, but that’s beside the point! I felt a little lost when it came to ideas and Pinterest was far too overwhelming, so I reached out to some party pros so I could get the ball rolling!
Meet the entertaining experts: Anita Yung from Enjoy Events Co. & Angel Swanson from Love and Splendor. These ladies really know how to get a party hoppin’! The two things I want to accomplish with our holiday party? To have a blast and to make sure the host (me!) has just as much fun as the guests! How can we make this happen?
USE WHAT YOU’VE GOT!
Since none of us are celebrating our “Sweet Sixteen” or have the funds to throw the party of the century, I want to aim on simplifying the decor, menu, and cost while maximizing the fun this holiday season. Angel’s advice is the best. “Look around the house for items you may already have for décor. I have a pretty good stock of random vases and seasonal tchotchkes that can be rearranged to create a tablescape. A potluck is a great way to simplify the host’s responsibilities and it always feels so festive this time of year. I find that guests love contributing something to the meal, so don’t be shy about asking people to bring something, even if it’s as simple as a bottle of cider or a pie. To maximize fun with family and friends, don’t overdo it — keep things simple. Opt for a menu that can be prepared ahead of time so you’re not standing over steaming pots and pans while your guests arrive. Keep decorations basic and remember that what guests will remember most is the warmth of the hostess, not the number of blog/Pinterest/Instagram-worthy details you’ve created. It is such a temptation in this day and age to project unrealistic expectations on ourselves that keep us from exercising the simple art of hospitality. Someone wise once told me that it’s better to offer a guest some coffee, a cozy chair and your heartfelt and attentive conversation rather than a decadent gourmet meal and a flustered hostess. I’ve never forgotten that! If you find yourself getting stressed, cut the fluff.”
IT’S GAME TIME!
When it comes to games, my friends and I whip out Heads Up at every get together. As much as we love the game, I think we could switch things up a bit! A favorite game of Enjoy Events Co. is a spin on the White Elephant. “Instead of something store bought, everyone brings 5 small handcrafted goodies, for example 5 mini terrariums or 5 hand drawn mugs, it’s fun to get creative with it! Every guest picks a number out of a hat and picks a gift in numerical order. This is repeated for 5 rounds. Each guest brings 5 gifts and leave with 5 hand crafted labor of loves.”
You might as well call Angel the Game Guru! Listen to her take when it comes to spicing up the party. “I type up fun questions and prompts and cut them up into strips, fold them, and put them into a bowl. We pass the bowl around during dessert and coffee, giving everyone a chance to share a fun story. Some of my questions include: “Tell us about your first date with your spouse/significant other” and “Favorite childhood holiday memory.” I also love playing the “purse game.” You divide everyone into two teams and have a judge in the middle, equidistant from both groups. You call out random items people would have in their purse or wallet and see who can bring it to you the fastest. Items include things like a compact mirror, a Target receipt, a wallet size photo, a loyalty card from a local grocery store, a Starbucks gift card, and the greatest number of earrings, etc. You award points based on the obscurity of the item. It is always a hit with guests of all ages.”
GET THE LOOK
Decor is my guilty pleasure. If you step into my bedroom, you won’t be surprised if I tell you I call myself a DIY Diva. Anita seconds my obsession with garland… “you can really think out of the box for this and make a garland out of anything really; paper cut outs, yarn, colored string, strips of fabric, floral wire and bay leaves, anything!” Angel likes to go seasonal with simple bouquets of flowers from the farmers’ market, fresh fruit and vegetables as tabletop décor (artichokes, eggplants, figs, pomegranates and persimmons are all gorgeous options this time of year) and lots and lots of candles. “I use my kitchen counter as a buffet for appetizers and self-serve beverages, and I serve the meal on large platters for a family-style service that encourages conversation. I can never resist the little details that make a party special, like handwritten placecards at each setting (I love the look of gold Sharpie on white cards) and a pretty chalkboard menu. A lovely bit of ribbon makes a sweet napkin accent, as does a sprig of rosemary or a bundle of cinnamon sticks.”
While most parties I am used to throwing have some sort of theme, I think it is best to keep a pretty cliche theme during the holidays. Angel likes to keep things pretty traditional for the holidays as well, which means the classic red and hunter green palette or a more modern twist with snowy whites and metallics like gold and mercury glass. “I always add a vintage touch whether it is brass candlesticks or milkglass vases — I think it adds a bit of visual interest to the table.”
Let’s be real. I am no Martha Stewart and cooking isn’t my forte. That doesn’t mean I don’t want it to be – but it is something I am working on! I think the cocktail served is one of the most important touches on the party. Angel ‘s apple cider is a holiday must: it features raw fresh-pressed cider from local apples, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and sliced oranges. Serve in a slow cooker so it is piping hot all night long! (I will be adding some kind of spirit to this!) For the meal, both Anita and Angel agree that a potluck is the way to go. This is a great way to get the guests involved. Angel explains, “I usually provide the entrée and drinks, and guests bring a seasonal salad, side dishes, and desserts. I also love hosting holiday cookie parties! Have everyone bring a few dozen of their favorite cookies, bars, or treats. Stack up take out boxes and bags for everyone to take home their own assortment of the goodies. As an extra bonus, have guests bring copies of the recipes to place alongside their goodies for others to take home!”
THE HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTESS (FUN)!
Last but not least, the hostess with the mostess has to have just as much fun! Sometimes it can get a little stressful when you are in charge, but when surrounded by good friends or family, everyone is willing to help and wants the night to run smoothly! Angel ensures me that the most important thing is to plan ahead so that you are prepped for success. “I like to set up as much as possible the day or two before the party (from ironing linens and setting up candles and decorations to shopping for last-minute supplies and ingredients). On the day of the party, I set the table early and make sure food will be ready right as guests arrive. This way I’m not spending all night in the kitchen — I can enjoy my guests and my party!” Anita adds some really important info… “It is very important to appreciate the moment and sink in all the love that surrounds you. Once everything is set and ready before your guests arrive, have that be the last time you think about it. Sometimes the holidays are the only time during the year that you have with all of your friends and family together, so cherish it.”
Happy Holidays everyone, this really is the best time of the year! XO