Planning for This Year’s Holiday Party

Another great post by Natalie Bradley…



by Natalie Bradley {as originally seen when published on Online Athens}

It’s easy for anyone to get stressed thinking about the holidays – especially if you’re planning any events for friends and family. The holiday season is hectic for most, especially if you have a large family, school activities, church commitments, and so on. Of course, the stress can also increase when “competing” with those other hosts to create the most fabulous (and popular) holiday soirée this year. But before you throw in the towel, there are a few simple tips I suggest that can help any host move from overwhelm to a plan for fun and festivities. You just have to think like the pros do!

Change up Your Food and Beverage Choices

Here’s the thing, no one ever gets extra bonus points for working yourself beyond sanity. So be smart. Prepare as much as possible ahead of time. Caterers start way in advance with slicing and dicing, and doing as much prep work as possible. You can do the exact same thing. It’s no fun having a nervous breakdown the night before the party. Don’t take on too much alone, and get help where needed. You also don’t get a “Holly Hostess” gold star for cooking and prepping it all by yourself. So if it helps you out, get a local caterer or restaurant to make a few of the side dishes. (You can always take them your own dishes to display everything in, and no one will know the difference!)

I can’t tell you how many moms I’ve spoken to recently who have this perfection syndrome with hosting or even providing goodies for school and church functions. When I have a busy schedule, I have no problem (or guilt) calling caterers and serving it up as if it were made from scratch in my own kitchen!



Now, when it comes to selecting your menu and how you’ll present it all, there are so many options! It’s easy to overlook some wonderful options when we get stuck in a routine (or rut, as the case may be). What do you normally do when planning? Start there, and either do the opposite or approach it with a few significant changes.

Think about serving what many caterers call “short plates” and offering stations, as you would at a wedding or larger reception. You can easily do this on a smaller scale and offer food and beverage stations throughout your home instead of on one traditional buffet table. This can eliminate congestion in the kitchen, dining room or other “food rooms” when you spread it out. It also gets people circulating a lot more in your home or other venue.

Another fun twist can be a holiday brunch, if you choose a late morning or early afternoon event. Everyone loves a good mimosa, screw driver, poinsettia or bloody mary! You could even have a more laid-back event with casual fare and small bites of delicious eats. Truly, the options are endless. You just have to break out of your usual mold.


Create a Theme to Pull it all Together

I know sometimes when you hear the word theme, you may immediately think of clowns or something extreme like that. But really a theme is just coming up with a palette for your event. It sets the tone and helps you stay consistent with all your choices. Plus, this is a big professional planner secret that makes your event looked much more pulled-together (and more expensive in the process). The more cohesion you have from start to finish with your event, the more fabulous it will be. Keep this in mind when selecting your invitations, linens, florals, other décor, music and more. Your guests will notice the extra effort!



It Really is all in the Details

One of my favorite sayings is from Oprah Winfrey – “love is in the details”. I couldn’t agree more! When it comes to planning and designing any event, the best way to show your love for guests (and one another) is to pay attention to personal touches everywhere.

Put yourself in your guests’ shoes. What do you appreciate as a guest? Some simple things to consider are details like a welcoming entrance with live florals and greenery. Possibly even a signature drink upon entering your home (or venue). Continue your theme into the details of your napkins and guest towels. Use your event branding, monogram or design in all these subtle areas.

Think about other details that will get guests’ attention. What about beautiful, fragrant soap shavings in the restroom? Candles and lamps throughout your spaces and a fire blazing inside to cozy up to. But don’t forget the unexpected elements too. You could have a live music – a harp, acoustic guitar or violin is quite elegant. Surprise guests with something fun, like a s’mores station in your back yard or a hot chocolate station with dessert.

Take the usual and make it yours. Personalize it, present it with a twist, and get creative. This is what makes your event memorable, customized, and will make your guests feel loved this season.



Photos by ZoomWorks; Floral Design by European Florals; Food by Chef Shayne atThe Georgia Club; Farm Table and Pilgrim Chairs from Oconee Event Rentals; Printed Materials and Signage by plainjane designs


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© 2003-2013 Soirée! Ltd./Natalie Bradley Events

Want to use this post in your E-newsletter, blog, or website? You can as long as you include this complete statement: Southern Event Planner & Designer Natalie Bradley publishes the “Soirée Secrets” blog filled with secrets, tips and how-tos for planning your fabulous event. Get your exclusive inspiration, tips and tricks at Soirée by Natalie Bradley Events is an event planning and design company based in Athens, serving Northe


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