Want to throw a holiday shindig your friends will actually enjoy? Professional event and party planner Jacqueline Vazquez, owner of Scarsdale-based Lifetime Events By Jacqueline, tells you how!
Set the Mood. “This is very important,” says Vazquez, noting that mood ties everything together. The atmosphere can be set with lighting, music, color schemes, where and how food is displayed — even the colors of the food.
Choose Décor. Decide whether you want a whimsical theme, a casual vibe, or an elegant affair. “Little touches, based on color or style, matter; you don’t have to spend a lot of money, either,” says Vazquez. Scatter a few pinecones on tables and use candles, ornaments, and/or lights.
Photo by Auriole Potter
Set the Pace. People don’t generally arrive the moment the party starts, so set the pace by “greeting guests with a drink, cheese and crackers, let them mingle, then start serving dinner (whether sit-down, buffet, or stations) within an hour.”
Select Music & Entertainment. In addition to holiday music — which should be soft enough so people can talk without yelling and should be lower and slower, perhaps instrumental, during dinner — Vazquez recommends “specific entertainment, such as carolers or other performers.”
Consider Hiring a Caterer. Doing so reduces stress and allows you to focus on entertaining your guests. A caterer will not only prepare the food but will help with or set the menu and determine how much food is needed. Vazquez also recommends hiring someone to prep, set up, execute and clean up. “Or even just to serve,” she says. “It doesn’t cost much, just $25 or $30 an hour.”
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Don’t Assume Anything. This goes for food (“Not everyone eats meat; be sure to have something for vegans and vegetarians”) and alcohol, as well as etiquette (“If you want adults only, indicate it verbally or on the invitation”).
Wind Down Graciously. Specify a start and end time or, Vazquez recommends, cue your guests that the party is winding down by “serving dessert and coffee, removing food, clearing the table.”
Remember Safety. Be sure that candles are within sight and not near anything that can catch fire. Ensure that “guests who consume alcohol have designated drivers.” If a guest is inebriated and insists on driving, “call a cab or Uber and pay for it, if necessary. They can pick up their car tomorrow.”