There are really only two types of holiday hosts: the one who researches recipes during an August heat wave, has a linen closet perpetually stocked with freshly pressed holly-embroidered tablecloths and obsesses over individually placed pumpkins at each place setting (we’ll call her the “Monica Geller”).
Then there’s that rare creature who makes holiday entertaining feel effortless and stress-free by focusing more on creating meaningful moments than carefully crafting a five-course gourmet meal. (Editor’s note: We know there’s no such thing as “effortless entertaining,” only hosts who make it all feel effortless and, in doing so, put their guests immediately at ease. This is the art part.)
When we think back on the holiday memories that never fail to put a smile on our face, it isn’t the roasted turkey or Grandma’s china that we remember, it’s those times spent gathered around the dinner table laughing, connecting and reminiscing. In other words: It’s who’s at the table, not what’s on it. In our mind, the best hosts are those who take the time to set up those memory-making moments and allow that special brand of magic to unfold.
Here are our five favorite tips for getting the dinner party started — and ensuring that the memories last long after the punch bowl is packed away.
1. Set the stage. Now’s the time to pull out all the stops. You don’t need to OD on red and green and tinsel, but if you’ve been collecting hand-blown glass ornaments or vintage decorations from the 1960s, make sure they get their chance to shine. Stage beautifully framed family photographs from past celebrations. Spin a festive playlist. And add generous dashes of plush textiles and glam sparkle— holiday decorating is your home’s once-a-year chance to really show off.
2. Make your guests feel one of a kind — because they are. Yes, gathering a diverse group of guests (especially if they’re related) carries a certain amount of angst. But, if you look past the differences and find the common ground, you’ll remember why you’re all there, together in one room. So, really, a lesson in navigating life itself.
3. Whip up a signature cocktail. Nothing says “this is a party to remember” than a cocktail crafted especially for the occasion. Have fun with it! Bust out those gold-rimmed martini glasses or Champagne coupes that have been gathering dust. Find a simple-to-prepare and easy-to-please recipe online. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint or mini candy canes. Bottoms up!
4. Banish boring place cards. “Best smile.” “Class clown.” “Most likely to name drop.” Rather than seating guests by name (ho hum), choose stand-out personality traits (think of your high school yearbook) and let your guests suss out who’s who. This will surely mix up the seating chart in interesting and unexpected ways.
5. Craft creative conversation starters. Choose a question designed to draw out an interesting answer (“What advice would you give your childhood self?” “Who has been your biggest inspiration?” “What is the first thing you do in the morning?”). Write it on a piece of paper and tape it underneath one of your guest’s dining chairs. While you’re enjoying dessert around the table, ask everyone to look under their chairs for a surprise and let the chosen person have the floor. You just might be surprised at what you learn.
The Inspired Interiors team wishes you and your family a very happy holiday season filled with meaningful moments and once-in-a-lifetime memories. We’re looking ahead to 2019 when we will reveal our “Dare to Live” series exploring how design can help us all live life more fully. We hope you’ll join us on the journey!