December: Holiday Entertaining
December: Holiday Entertaining
Show Your Wine Savvy
Wine is a must at your party but it doesn’t need to be the usual suspects. Pablo Moix, Mixologist for One Group on the West Coast, recommends serving pinot noir for red, rose champagne for sparkling and sauvignon blanc for white. "Everyone drinks these now," says Moix, who adds, "People are looking for smaller, hand-crafted wines instead of the well-known ones." He recommends Williams Selyem pinot noir from Carneros, Perrier Jouet rose and any sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough region in New Zealand.
Perrier Jouet sparkling rose, $70; buy online now at
Add Inviting Scents
Place scented candles around the house, including the bathroom and front hall. "Candles in winter-inspired aromas like fig, cinnamon, juniper or spiced pear bring the sweet smells of wintertime indoors," says eBay's design director, Shawn Henderson. If you're baking delicious-smelling treats, skip the candles altogether so the scents don't overwhelm your guests.
Diptyque Cannelle and Figuier candles, $60 each; buy online now at
Keep Food Simple
Food that is easy to prepare, inexpensive and pleasing to a crowd is the way to go. A few easy-yet-delicious finger foods that the Food Network's Sandra Lee recommends-and can be found at foodnetwork.com-include sausage-stuffed mushrooms (left), phyllo cheese straws in pesto and holiday bark for dessert. All of these will impress your guests and won't strain your wallet.
Try to avoid a lot of excessive rubbish at your bash. "Instead of using a ton of disposable products, opt for cloth napkins and real plates," says design expert Kristan Cunningham. "I love scouring thrift stores throughout the year for things like old trophy cups to put flatware in and mismatched crystal and china,"
Set of six cloth napkins, World Market, $10; buy online now at
Play Mood Music
"Play music that makes you feel elegant," says Sandra Lee-and for her that includes having Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald on the play list. Place speakers around your main entertaining room and keep the volume loud enough so you can hear it, but not so it’s louder than a speaking voice.
"Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas," $9; buy online now at
"Classic faux pas include not having enough coat hangers, ice or places to put garbage," says event planner Marcy Blum. Stock up on hangers that have grips-your guests won't be happy when they see their coat on the closet floor. Another faux pas to avoid is "cleaning of any kind when guests are around," says Sandra Lee. "Washing the dishes should be done when the party is over and everyone has gone home."
Flocked hanger set, $35/30; buy online now at
Have a Well-Stocked Bar
"Cover yourself with the basics first," says Pablo Moix, who suggests stocking rum, vodka, tequila and gin in your bar. "And then have some alternatives too," says Moix, like Lucid Absinthe for a fresh, festive drink. He also likes to mix it up when it comes to the extras: "Juice some limes and grapefruit, serve cucumbers and grapes in drinks, and try ginger beer as a mixer instead of just cola and tonic."
Simple Decorating Tips
"Using things that you already have in your home or using fruit in your decorations is not only beautiful, but it saves money," says Blum. Pile pears on a cake stand and add some holly to it and voila, a cheap and festive centerpiece. And forget pricy bouquets of flowers: "They can cost you a fortune," says Cunningham, who recommends using a few stems of a flower with strong lines, like calla lilies, which look beautiful in a simple, cylindrical vase. Add votives both in and outdoors, says Cunningham. "I stock up on bags of the Ikea votives." The effect adds warmth to a room, the way a fireplace does.
Tea lights, Ikea, $4/100; buy online now at
Break the Ice
If you have a small group of people who don't know each other very well, a game can be a fun way to break the ice. The new game Partini-which includes a series of activities like musical humming challenges, molding clay objects and firing balls into a cup-appeals to men and women, and you don't have to be a wiz at trivia or drawing. "Games make good conversation starters and therefore the good times will be off and running," says Cunningham.
Partini, $30; buy online now at