This is how I deck the halls!

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‘Tis the season for holiday parties and for the first time in years, I’ve decided to host my own. One of my invited neighbors teased me when she RSVP’d saying she wouldn’t miss a party thrown by a professional which led me to wonder if all of my guests are expecting some over-the-top occasion. So, what is this professional event planner have up her sleeve for her own holiday cocktail party? I think most will be surprised.

I spend a lot of time planning elaborate details of large scale events for other people. However, when I’m planning things for my circle of family and friends I tend to do the opposite . . . keep it simple. Here’s what I’m doing to ensure that I enjoy my shindig and keep my stress level to a minimum.

The guest list. Instead of inviting everyone I know and love, I restricted my guest list to an intimate group of neighbors that we are very friendly with. Six couples will be large to fill the house with laughter but small enough that I can spend quality time with each guest.

holiday_decorationsThe menu. I love to cook, but I hate trying to cook with a house full of people. That’s usually when culinary disasters strike. What is the easiest way to lighten the load? Potluck! Guests always ask what they can bring anyway, so why not just build that into the plan? So for this party, I’m providing all the cocktails and desserts but have asked each guest to bring an hors d’oeuvres to share. For my contributions, I use a combination of make-ahead items and high end store bought things so that I have no last minute cooking tasks.

Décor. Throwing a party early in the season was great motivation for me to get out all those holiday decorations right after Turkey Day. Besides the usual garlands, stockings and knick knacks, I’m going to fill each room with mix and match glass containers filled with water, fresh cranberries (they’ll float!) and, of course, floating candles for a warm glow. Perhaps my favorite decoration of all though is the sound of Christmas carols that will be floating through each room.

Entertainment. Keepin’ it simple and yet in the holiday theme, I’ve asked each guest to bring an unmarked and wrapped gift for a Chinese Gift Exchange and if you’ve never done one of these, try it! It is so much fun, especially when there are a few gag gifts in the bunch. For additional conversation starters, I’ll scatter packs of game cards on tables throughout the house, you know, Trivial Pursuit, Scruples, that sort of thing. People can’t resist picking those up and starting an impromptu game.



So that’s the plan for this professional planner. Good food, nice ambiance, great friends and lots of holiday cheer. Simple or extravagant, I hope you find some time to enjoy this season in your own way. Happy Holidays!