To help you plan this year’s festive gathering to perfection, and make it a glamorous affair, find the experts top tips.
A grand entrance
Get the festive mood going right from the outset. “Use solar lights to brighten the walk way and entrance to the garden, or fairy lights on your main door. This allows you to share the festive cheer with everyone passing by,” says Saadi Khawaja, Regional Visual Merchandising Manager at Ace.
First impression are made with the invitations! “Send out the invites at least four weeks prior to your holiday party and choose a date when most people will be free,” says Sarah Feyling, Managing Director of Couture Events. Invites can be hand-made, sent as a message in a glass bottle with a piece of twine wrapped around, or if you haven’t got the time or money for that, simply via email. But make sure you add a personal touch to it by giving it a creative design – numerous software options offer user-friendly ways to get graphic.
Centrepieces with a twist
While flowers are pretty, they tend to be overused. “Use seasonal fruit, a tureen or make a homemade wreath of citrus fruits,” says George Arnold Foster-Vincent, in-house designer at home store Ethan Allen. These are not only unique centerpieces, but also make a dinner table look more vibrant.
“Food is an integral part of the festive celebration, which is why it’s important to greet your guests with aromas of the food,” says Saadi. Make sure you uase unscented candles in white or ivory shades at the table and in the living room. Feel free to use seasonal, scented candles in other areas of your home.
Light it up!
Lighting is key to creating an alluring party mood. Ditch overhead lights on this occasion and use lanterns, lamps or dimmers to transform the room into a festive wonderland. “If your budget permits, hire the professionals to create an ice blue tone for that winter wonderland feel,” says Sarah. You could also group a selection of candles of different shapes and sizes together in clusters to create a cosy, vintage-style effect while illuminating a space. If using stick candles, place them in the freezer a few days prior, to prevent them from dripping wax all over your furniture.
Party favours are a lovely way of putting a smile on guest’s faces as they depart – who doesn’t like leaving with a little something? If you have time on your hands, and prefer giving gifts that have a personal touch, make a batch of truffles, cookies, or salted caramel and pack into small mason jars. Alternatively, you can follow Sarah’s recommendation for a party gift and give a holiday survival kit filled with a chocolate bar, bottle of grape juice, small pack of bath bombs, scented votive candle, eye mask and a hot chocolate mix.
Get a headstart
Marta Yanci, owner of boutique catering company Marta’s Kitchen, suggests taking the stress out of cooking by preparing make-ahead dishes. “Plan your menu in advance so that you can purchase ingredients three days prior to the event. You can then create a schedule with what you will cook each day, so you don’t leave everything to the last minute,” she says.
Make it personal
Place cards add a personal touch, so make sure to use them on your dinner table. If you want to go the extra mile, you could also ask guests to send in their favourite Christmas memory and leave a gift or memento linked to it on their plates – it’s a brilliant conversation starter.
Deck the halls!
“Choose one theme and style,” says George. It makes shopping for décor easier, and gives your space a more professionally designed look at the same time. Base the colours on your home interior style and colour. It is a good idea to choose a key colour theme that flows from the tree ornaments, to the flowers, table runners, crockery and napkins. Colours such as green and red are great for a traditional feel, while silver and blue are perfect for a white Christmas theme. White is always useful to include in the colour scheme, as it breaks the monotony and adds a classic touch, so use it on the dinner table with your chosen colours.
If help is not an option and you feel you might find yourself busy when guests arrive, make a hot chocolate, cocktail or mulled wine station near the entrance, so that guests can help themselves as and when they like. This could also end up being a great mingling spot for guests. Or, you could place a chocolate fountain, puddings and a selection of pies at the station post-dinner.
The classic Christmas songs are par for course at every Christmas party, but not everyone is a fan! Sarah recommends playing jazz or remixed versions of the classics, while Saadi suggests asking everyone to send in a list of their favourite tunes when confirming their attendance.
The great outdoors
Planning to take the party outdoors for a digestif or cup of hot chocolate post-dinner? Make sure to continue the festive theme outside as well. “A fire pit is a wonderful feature and certainly evokes the feeling of cooler climes. The outdoors is also somewhere where your smokers will most likely gather, so ensure you continue the festive atmosphere and décor to this area also,” says Sarah. Make sure the garden or balcony is clean and tidy (with your odds and ends neatly stashed away out of sight), and light it up with candles and/or fairy lights.
George suggests simmering a stovetop potpourri mix of one whole orange or orange peel, ½ cup of cranberries, 1 tbsp whole clove, 3 cinnamon sticks (or a handful of small pieces of cinnamon), a bit of grated nutmeg and 3 pieces of star anise with water or apple cider juice, to let the seasonal aromas waft in the air around the house and create a festive ambience.
A helping hand
It’s important to stay out of the kitchen, have fun and mingle with the guests at your party. “Hire bar staff to make cocktails and serve drinks, and a butler to serve dishes on the dinner table and cater to guests needs. This makes the party less stressful and will keep you from running around and panicking,” says Rachna Chadha, CEO and Partner of BAQAA-FNP Glamour Weddings and Events.
The five-star touch
“Small touches go a long way,” says Sarah. Place mints and chewing gums in a bowl in the living room, perfume, hair spray and travel sets of toothpaste and toothbrushes in the washroom, and anything else you think your guests will require. These will leave long-lasting impressions.
Make your own festive wreath
Nothing says festive as much as hanging a wreath on your front door does! You could also place the wreath as a centrepiece on your dinner or coffee table with candles in the centre. Here Michael Lenon, Director at Bliss Flowers and Design, shows us how to make a D-I-Y a wreath at home.
What you need:
- Soft-touch wire ring, to use as a frame
- Greens such as buxus sempervirens (dark-green boxwood, small leaves), Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’ Sawara False Cypress (soft, feathery, blue foliage), Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Gold’ Winterberry Holly (orangey-gold fruit) or Microbiota decussate Russian Arborvitae (purplish hued foliage). These are available at flower boutiques but you can also use artificial leaves available at most home stores.
1. Keep the wire ring on a table, and carefully place a green branch around it (Make sure all the green branches are of the same size).
2. Secure the branch with a pin by piercing the pin from one side of the green branch to the other side. Make sure the pins are placed carefully on the side of the branch which will be facing the wall or table.
3. Pinch the pins along the side of the greens to secure, ensuring they are wrapped tightly around the greens so they do not fall out. Continue with the rest of the branches, with each successive branch covering the cut ends of the previous branch.
4. Once the wire ring is covered with the green branches, wrap a ribbon all over or tie one on top if you like. You could also secure pieces of holly on top with pins.
Note: If using fresh greens, keep your wreath out of direct sunlight and mist regularly with water; it will keep for about two-three weeks.