Keys to Throwing a Big Holiday Party
The holidays may still be a couple months away, but if you’re thinking this is the year you finally host a large-scale holiday soiree, it’s time to start planning. We checked in with four Scouted event planners for their advice on how to seamlessly pull off a big bash. Cue Bing Crosby and prepare to deck the halls. To find a scouted event planner in your area, consult The Scout Guide Directory.
Start with a theme. Kick off your party planning by selecting a fun theme or design inspiration that gets you excited for the creative planning process, advises Rachael Bruzas, owner and event designer at Party Little Things in Carmel, Indiana. “Choosing a central design element helps create consistency and adds that extra touch of elegance to impress your guests,” she says.
Don’t make decor an afterthought. You can easily elevate the ambiance of your party with thoughtful decor and lighting. Bruzas recommends investing in, or renting, quality decor elements that tie into your theme and using lighting strategically to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. She likes to incorporate taper and votive candles to add a warm, romantic glow to tables. Another one of her go-to’s is to peruse the produce aisle. “Bowls of fresh produce, such as fruit and vegetables, not only add color, but a sense of abundance and hospitality,” Bruzas shares.
Play to the senses. Holiday parties are intended to be festive and cheerful. “To set the ambiance, consider all of the senses from the sights, to the scents, touch, sounds, and taste,” Virginia Frischkorn, founder and CEO of Partytrick (app available in AppStore or Google Play) says. “We tend to focus on one element and give all of the other senses less attention. When you plan an event with a five senses approach, it’s nearly impossible not to set an ambiance that people will love.” If you’re in a pinch, she recommends throwing up some twinkle lights, scattering a lot of candles, putting on a pot of hot cider with spices on the stove, tuning to a holiday channel on Spotify or Pandora, and serving up some crowd favorite foods.
Consider the menu. When planning your holiday gathering, one of the first considerations is whether you will have buffet service or a seated dinner. Both have a very different vibe and are equally lovely. If you go with the latter, Frischkorn recommends keeping variety front and center, ensuring you please as many guests as possible. This means offering a mix of stationed areas like grazing boards, charcuterie, seafood stations, and/or crudite. If you decide to hire support staff, which is crucial for a large party, it’s also a good idea to offer passed appetizers. Frischkorn advises a one to two bite size maximum and considering a blend of vegetarian, fish, meat and hot and cold selections.
Make it a dinner party. Going the more formal, seated dinner route, is Megan Howard Forbes, founder of Range Curated in Naples, Florida, favorite way to entertain. She recommends starting with passed hors d’oeuvres, offering a signature cocktail and following with plated dinner with wine service. “It gives everyone a chance to mingle, then settle in for more intimate conversation over the main meal,” she says. “This keeps people eating while conversing and cocktailing, and helps curate an intentional menu with less waste.” While logistically sometimes harder to pull off, a seated dinner party is always going to feel special.
Carve out zones. While big soirees are great fun, they can also be short on intimate moments. That’s why Forbes stresses the importance of thinking of your guests’ comfort and creating spaces that cater to all types—from the extrovert to the introvert. For every party, whether it’s a large cocktail party or seated dinner, she likes to create a tête-à-tête corner, quiet nooks for four or five to gather, and a room dedicated to keeping children, should you choose to invite them, entertained. “Having a mix of more informal seating or standing areas is important,” she says.
Plan now. The biggest takeaway from all of our experts is that advance planning matters when taking on a large party. “Start now and pick your date,” shares Tonya Morris, founder and creative director at ABBA Design in Greensboro, North Carolina. This will ensure that your key guests will be able to attend. Other things Morris advises doing ASAP include setting a budget and determining your purpose, finding a venue, and deciding if you are going to use vendors (think florists, caterers, party suppliers) and securing your preferred ones. Finally, get those save-the-dates in the mail. There are only a few weekends during the holiday season and they book up fast!
TSG Tip 464 from Rachael Bruzas, owner and event designer at Party Little Things in Carmel, Indiana; Virginia Frischkorn, founder and CEO of Partytrick in Denver, Colorado; Megan Howard Forbes, founder of Range Curated in Naples, Florida; and Tonya Morris, founder and creative director at ABBA Design in Greensboro, North Carolina. Party Little Things appears in The Scout Guide Hamilton County. Partytrick appears in The Scout Guide Denver. Range Curated appears in The Scout Guide Naples. ABBA Design appears in The Scout Guide Triad.