Event planners Meredith Waltzer Falk and Ashley Wendell Reece of The Great Party Box give us their expert advice on throwing the best holiday bash ever.
The perfect holiday party includes…MF: A great guest list, fun music and...
AR: Great food. The holidays are a time for splurging, so set your menu in advance but try to add seasonal foods, like pomegranates, persimmons, sweet potatoes and root vegetables.
And don't forget to…MF: Enjoy your own holiday party. Don't spend the whole night in the kitchen; hire staff to help you. If you are relaxed and having fun, your guests will, too!
AR: Send out a paper invitation. People love getting mail and it keeps your party on their mind every time they see the invite on their fridge.
Tips to make your party stand out…MF: Personalized paper invitations and host your party on behalf of a charitable cause. For example, ask each guest to bring a pair of mittens to keep someone’s hands warm this holiday season.
AR: Make the details yourself. Glitter pinecones or tie the silverware together with ribbon. These details can add a lot to a party and can be done ahead of time so you’re not rushing the day of.
And to go off without a hitch...MF: Never make food items you haven’t cooked before.
AR: Hire staff. No one wants to go to a party and never see the host. Find local college kids to pass hors d’oeuvres or tend the bar. It allows you to mingle with your guests and is easy on your wallet.
Easy, festive decor tips...MF: A standing veggie Christmas tree — the skirt on the tree can be your favorite dip. Putting fresh green of any kind on a white tablecloth immediately makes the table feel full, fresh and festive. Also, pick a single color scheme, no need to overdo it. Sometimes simple is better.
AR: Allow your guests to help! For example, have a “make-your-own-cookie bar,” where guests can decorate their own desserts.
And quick and easy hors d'oeuvres…MF: Bacon deviled egg. Who doesn't love bacon and eggs?
AR: Cranberry Bites. Buy the pre-made mini-pastry shells, place a small piece of brie inside each, top with a walnut and Craisin. Bake until the cheese has melted and drizzle with honey. You can’t make enough of these!
Favorite holiday cocktail…MF: The Mistletoe — vodka and soda with a cranberry on a stirrer, and ice cubes with a green herb, like rosemary, frozen inside. And for Christmas brunch, Milk Punch — rum, bourbon, vanilla, whole milk, cinnamon and a few other special ingredients, served on the rocks.
AR: Spicy Gingerbread. Combine and shake 1 oz vanilla vodka, 1 oz hazelnut liqueur, 1/2 oz butterscotch schnapps and 2 oz ginger beer, and shake over ice. Pour over ice into a rocks glass. Add a cinnamon stick garnish.
Favorite holiday party memory…MF: My mother decided that every year Christmas and Hanukkah overlapped we could have what she called the "Hanukkah Bush" — basically a short, round Christmas tree decorated in blue, white and silver, topped off with a big Hanukkah Harry on the mantel.
AR: Growing up in Florida, the weather rarely felt seasonal. My mom allowed my brother and I to eat ice cream for dinner the night we decorated the tree to give it more of a wintery feel.
Most creative holiday party attended…MF: A Nutcracker-themed party when I was a child. I still remember pulling up to the house — the valet drivers were dressed as nutcracker soldiers and the host was dressed as the sugar plum fairy.
AR: I went to a party where everyone was asked to send in a paper snowflake with their RSVP. The house was then covered in hanging snowflakes that all the guests had made. It was great fun trying to find the one you made and seeing all the others.
No holiday party is complete without...MF: Lighting and music. Having tons of candles and low lighting can change the whole feeling of a room. And mix in a few old-school Christmas songs to your playlist.
AR: Tradition. Bringing your traditions to your holiday party allows your guests to feel included in the celebration. I always invite all my friends over to help decorate the tree. We’ve even made our own ornaments, which I still have and love seeing every year.
Scene from Vincente Minnelli's 1959 film Gigi, from Assouline's Maxim's: Mirror of Parisian Life