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With the holidays just around the corner, its important to understand what all impeccable hosts have in common. ‘Tis the season for a wide array of dinners, parties, and events. Whether starting a new tradition or continuing one long-established, it’s likely you’ll be opening your home to friends and family at this time of year. And with careful planning and thoughtful styling, yours will be a party to remember.

Hosting a holiday soirée, big or small, can be stressful, but there are a few things that great hosts know about keeping their festive cool.

They Come with the Willingness to Innovate

The impeccable host knows that not all parties are created equal. While the dining room remains a classic space to entertain, bring freshness to your celebration and investigate the lesser-used corners of your home. Banquette seating in a loft or a long banquet table in a light-filled guest house can shift the mood from expected to exceptional. Exterior heaters turn patios and balconies into cozy milieus for champagne under blankets, and solariums, boat houses, and lounges all make for the list of potential party locations.

Bring this same joie de vivre to your selection of theme and timing. A cocktail party is time-honoured, but would an early farm-to-table dinner free up your guests during a busy season? Could you add variety to the social calendar with a mid-afternoon themed lunch or extravagant weekend breakfast? In the landscape of the winter party circuit, a novel approach to gathering can be a welcome and appreciated change of pace.

They Know a Party Needs Impact

 

Ensure your evening has at least one fantastic, powerful visual to get the party started. Whether you opt for swathes of delicate florals hung from the ceiling or a twelve-foot tree done up entirely in velvet, give your party a central focus—or two—to make an impression. Not only an excellent topic of conversation, but a fantastic piece of fanciful décor will also keep your evening in people’s minds long after the night is over.

Another way to add flair to your festivities is to liberate your menu. Stage a mix of serving stations, each with a carefully-considered hors d’oeuvre or entrée offering. Make your guests feel extra special with small plates that are prepared individually, like prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears or an expertly-sliced roast, or push the envelope with crêpes, oysters, or sushi prepared by noted chefs. Straying from a set menu provides your guests with yet another chance to customize their evening.

They Make Every Guest Feel Like the Center of Attention

 

Whether it’s prompting guests with questions ahead of the night or inviting attendees to share a favourite holiday memory, great hosts know that inviting people in doesn’t stop at the door. From the first welcome to the final send-off, set your guests up for social success by connecting them with people you know they’ll like, and posing thought-provoking questions.

If you prefer to be more behind the scenes and less on the front lines, engage a friend to keep an eye out for lonely guests, or speak with your event planner to ensure you have designated minglers on hand.

They Present a Winning Drinks Menu

Offering a signature drink is a well-established way to set the tone for your holiday gathering. Consider giving an old classic a festive spin, like a cinnamon rosemary Old Fashioned, or a Holiday Manhattan, which incorporates pomegranate and molasses. Add rosemary sprigs or sage leaves as garnish, and select signature glassware to integrate a colour palette or design theme. Drinks are another way to add a visual to your event—coupe glasses holding individual floral buds, champagne towers, and decorative bottles can all set the scene.

Invite guests to take part in the creation of the signature drink you’ve selected with a self-serve station—and seize the opportunity to tie the instructions and drink components in with your décor. Combine this with a staffed bar so that guests have access to a professional, should they so desire.

With a few preparations and carefully considered lists, you’ll be well on your way to creating the most memorable fête of the season. The most important thing to remember is that if you enjoy yourself, your guests will too.


This article was originally on Sotheby’s International Realty’s Extraordinary Living blog and has been adapted for Sotheby’s International Realty Canada’s Insight Blog.

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