It's almost the Most Wonderful Tiiiiime of the Year. I can't actually believe it's November. For us that means the holiday party season is upon us for both private parties and corporate parties.  Although we do many more large-scale corporate events in general, we get called in to people's homes and to smaller businesses to help plan, design and execute their special holiday soirees.

I thought I'd separate the two types of events and talk today about private holiday parties.  There are a few different things to think about when planning a party at your house or venue and hopefully I can help steer you in the right direction:

Size of the party: Are you thinking about inviting your closest 6 friends for Thanksgiving, do you have a 30-person extended family like I do, or are you planning a fete for your small business with less than 50 employees? With every event you plan, the quickest way to affect your budget is by deciding on the size of the event. Every person added means more food, more alcohol, more rentals, more invitations.  Everything is scaled by the number of guests you're expecting so be reasonable when selecting who's coming to your event.

Time of the event: If you decide to host your party during a typical meal time: 11-1 for a lunch party, 4-7 for a dinner party, you should expect to feed your guests enough food to be considered a full meal.  That could be a sit-down dinner or heavy passed hors d'oeuvres, but the quantity has to have substance.  If you decide to do a later event or a pre-dinner event, you can get away with slightly less food and or different types of food.  A post-dinner party could include desserts and coffee.  A pre-dinner party could include smaller passed hors d'oeuvres and wine or champagne.

Menu: Once you decide on your guest list and the time of your event, you can start thinking about your menu.  You can theme your menu on the design of the event, the color palate, or you could even ask guests to bring an item and host a pot-luck party.  If you're hosting and cooking yourself, please please please do as much in advance as possible to simplify your life the day of your party.  If you're hiring a caterer be prepared for a higher cost but no mess and no fuss and also revel in a clean kitchen at the end of the night that you didn't have to wash yourself :) Go the traditional turkey route or think outside the box and serve mini courses to keep the conversation going throughout the night.  The menu can be as creative as you'd like it to be.

Design: This is the fun part- also happens to be my favorite part.  There are so many directions you can go in when designing your holiday party.  First, I would take stock of what you already own.  Do you have a table cloth you want to base the color palate on? Do you have ornaments you could put in a glass vase to make a centerpiece?  There's no need to go out and buy everything just for this one event.  Start with what you already have- it's also a great way to get a sense of your own event style since you've already invested in these pieces. Here is a list of traditional and not-so-traditional holiday themes you might consider:

  • old-fashioned - 40's or 50's style holiday party
  • woodland- pine, branches, flannel and plaid
  • winter wonderland- snowflakes, silver and gold accents, ice details
  • gingerbread- kid theme, stripes, candy canes, reds, greens, white
  • traditional- glass balls in assorted colors, pine boughs, colored lights
  • modern- white and navy blue, clean hydrangea centerpieces, lots of votive candles


above images by Mark Davidson Photography, Studio Nouveau, and douglaslevy Photography

There are plenty of other themes you could work with, this list is just a starting point for you to get some inspiration from.  Look on Pinterest, if you haven't already, because you will find thousands of design inspirations.

Other small details to think about: coming up with a signature drink, perhaps an activity such as a gift exchange, and a take gift home for your guests who came out to see you for this special evening.

Hosting a holiday party doesn't have to be stressful. It should be enjoyable and hopefully a few of these tips will help guide you as you plan yours.

Happy Holidays (early to say, I know)!!!