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Style Magazine

Party On! Holiday Hosting 101

As the end of the year approaches, so do celebrations. Whether it’s a casual or fancy affair with family or friends (or both!), there are some important details to dial in to ensure a flawless, fun party.

Your first step should be to compile your guest list, says Sandy Stringer of Strings & Champagne Events ( This will be the starting point for budget, overall feel, and menu. Is this a casual group of friends who are comfortable with each other or an elevated event where some guests will be strangers?

Plate decorations


Next, and possibly most importantly, decide on a budget. “Oftentimes, people don’t know what it takes to plan, organize, and throw a party. Having a number in mind [can help you] from experiencing sticker shock,” explains Nidhana Perera of Paradise Parkway Event Productions ( “Deciding how lavish you want the party to be will determine the average cost per guest,” she explains. Of course, the more casual the affair, the less cost per guest, but there’s something to be said for hiring extra help. “When it comes to preparing for your event, serving guests, or cleaning up, it’s great to have someone else help out. Event support [via] independent contractors with years of experience will do the heavy lifting and behind-the-scenes work, so you can relax at your holiday party,” explains Courtney Comstock at The Party Consultant ( Perera agrees, saying, “Hiring a professional will expose you to a wealth of information—creating less hassle and saving money and time in the process, which you would otherwise not have access to should you decide to DIY.” If you decide to split duties between hired help and yourself, be clear in which responsibilities belong to whom.

Party table setting


Once a guest list and budget are set, theme and décor are next on the to-do list. “A fuller table always looks more festive, so adding chargers, plates, and salad plates, as well as two sets of glassware and flatware, will definitely do the trick,” says Stringer. She also advises to check your personal inventory well in advance and consider renting pieces. Rentals offer a variety of choices that can produce a cohesive and impressive look and is a better deal than buying brand new pieces. “To incorporate some holiday flair, add some color to your napkins and linens, and don't [scrimp] on candlelight,” explains Stringer. A warm glow from candles can really set the tone for a beautiful and intimate event.

Table top decorations


Now that the table is set, it’s time to start thinking about your menu. This factor depends on the overall feel of your party since options abound when it comes to food and drinks. Perera advises asking yourself what you envision: “a buffet dinner, potluck, a cocktail party filled with heavy appetizers, a food truck, or a three- or four-course sit-down dinner?” This is another piece of planning that can be done with way less stress if you decide to hire out. Caterers can save you from spending the party in the kitchen away from guests, and they often provide both full-service and pick-up options. If you’re on a budget, potluck is always in style and can be a fun way to bring guests together—just be sure to provide each guest with detailed instructions on what they’re in charge of bringing. This is also your opportunity to check for food allergies or preferences and to relay that information to those bringing food. For an extra special touch, Comstock recommends hiring a mobile bartender who can provide specialty cocktails in a fun setting.

Table settings to create the mood


With the big factors out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about any “extras” you may want to invest in. “Flowers, balloons, tables, chairs, and specialty lounges, together with entertainment (DJ, band, experiential entertainment, etc.), will determine the complete environment you and your guests will be immersed in,” says Perera. Of course, a simple music playlist gets the job done, too, but entertainment can really set your party apart and keep guests talking way after the soirée is over.

Stringer encourages small touches to make a big impact, saying, “A specialty napkin fold, cute little favor, and assigned seats with charming place cards can really top off a [party].” Comstock agrees, saying, “Parting gifts for guests are fun! These could range from store-bought items to something created specifically for your event or anything in between. Think of something that serves a dual purpose in keeping guests entertained and providing them with a fun memory of your event.”

As the party winds down, Perera advises one very important tip: “The last thing you want to do is ask for help from a guest you invited to the party. No one attends a party wanting to work.” While the post-party cleanup [is] daunting, be sure to stay in the moment and enjoy your party, so you can spend maximum, meaningful time with guests during the much-loved holiday season. 

by Emily Peter-Corey
Photos courtesy of Sandy Stringer.