How To: Throw the Perfect Holiday Fête in Five Steps

The holidays are in full swing and there’s no better excuse to pop some bubbly and pull together a festive gathering with your nearest and dearest. Sound complicated? Think again! Here, I’ve imagined my own very merry holiday table; follow my five simple party-hosting tips below to help you plan your own winter celebration, whatever your seasonal style…

snow dot modern holiday tabletop placesetting

modern, simple snow dot holiday table

Click through for Kelli’s tips on throwing the perfect holiday party…

snow dot holiday party, sun in my belly catering Passed plates of bite-size hors d’oeuvres kick off our festive dinner.

A vintage sleigh bell strap doubles as an escort card holder. Guests could pick up
their card and flip it over to find out if they were siting at a “naughty” or “nice” seat.

1. Find your inspiration.
You’re ready to party plan, but where to start? I’m always inspired by holiday nostalgia, but I also love to add my own modern twist. For this party, I started with the classic jingle bell on a velvet ribbon: the gold bell was reflected in the party’s metallic textures, while the luxe, textured ribbon inspired the brushstroke type on the menus. And you can’t have all this jingle without some snow: Enter a smattering of dots suggestive of snow flurries and you’ve got yourself a jingle bell-inspired table top! Some ideas for finding your own party inspiration:
• Draw inspiration from a favorite holiday song, movie, or any festive artifact. Nothing is off limits.
• Use your inspiration to pull colors, patterns, or even textures; those details will become a jumping-off point for your invitation, paper details, and food and drinks.
• Carefully selected table surfaces can set the perfect mood. For my gathering, I’ve chosen a snowy white surface and added pops of plush, velvety red for warmth.

holiday party champagne and cocktail bar A bar stocked with bubbly makes drink service a snap. Glasses were pre-filled
with cocktail spirits and guests added their own champagne!

Festive paper wine collars add some flair to champagne flutes.

holiday party menu, painterly stripes 2. Create a focal point.
From an intimate dinner party to an all-out bash, the key to keeping the party décor (and your sanity!) in check is to create a single focal point in the room. The dining table is a great choice, but also consider a fireplace, coffee table, or anywhere you can best group guests in your home. Once you’ve found your spot, pick a couple of pieces to emphasize the space. For my holiday gathering, I’ve focused on the table, using a snow-patterned runner to liven up a white wood surface, dipped-gold glassware for eye-catching sparkle, and fresh greenery to draw your eye to the tabletop. I enlisted the talented Meredith Mejerle to work her floral magic, but you can easily recreate this at home: Take your favorite vases and vessels and fill them with fresh, foraged greenery. But if you’re pressed for time, skip the centerpieces and create a pool of candlelight for a warm, cozy glow.

snow dot holiday tabletop and place setting Cards at each place setting read “jingle jingle mix and mingle, grab some treats and take your seat.”

winter salad with persimmons for holiday party The first course: salad with farm greens and in-season persimmons from Sun in My Belly Catering.

naughty or nice holiday table favor “Naughty” and “nice” favor boxes contained either a lump of “coal” or a red-velvet bite.

gold foil champagne menu and bar signage 3. Break the ice.
Try to think of fun ways to get guests mixing and mingling at the table. Here, I incorporated yummy treats to create a fun seating arrangement: Each guest received an escort card printed with “naughty” or “nice” on the back, then chose their seat by matching their card to a “naughty or “nice” favor box at each place setting. Inside each box was either a lump of “coal” (dark-chocolate marshmallow cookies) or a red-velvet treat. It’s a great way to give each guest a gift and spark conversation about your dinner neighbor’s “naughty” attributes! Another idea is to create cards with icebreaker questions (like the one here) to help get conversation flowing.

snow dot holiday party Mod chairs created a pared-down, Nordic vibe.

creme fraiche pancakes by sun in my belly Passed bites with smoked trout and crème fraîche.

winter white holiday table toasting A dotted table runner is the foundation for a simple, festive spread.

Red velvet and “coal” (dark chocolate) marshmallow cookies;
shot glasses filled with chocolate mousse and festive flags.

4. Keep the menu simple.
My cardinal rule of hosting any party: Deck the halls or cook. Trying to master both leaves me frazzled. There’s no shame (and it’s not a huge expense) to phone it in (especially during the holidays!). Catering can be super simple: soups from a local deli or bite-size sweets from the supermarket. Many caterers will serve small dinner parties and will creatively work your party theme into the menu. My soiree got a big helping of wonderful from Sun in My Belly Catering. I sent them my ideas and they came up with a genius array of nibbles (my favorite: the raspberry tartlets with powdered sugar, inspired by my snow-dot pattern). Also, keep things simple by choosing a family-style menu or a combo of passed plates and served food.

bloody mary soup shots for holiday party by sun in my belly Bloody Mary soup shots

paper globes as giant snowballs, holiday decor For an easy lighting idea, place Christmas lights in a corner and pile on
paper globes—they’ll give off a warm glow as the sun goes down.

edible gold leaf and vanilla bean lollipop Vanilla-bean lollipops flecked with edible gold leaf and Meredith’s overflowing flower bucket.

sugar dusted raspberry tartlets from sun in my bellyA tray of raspberry tarts is a graphic nod to the dot-patterned table runner.

5. Start setting up the night before.
The best way to greet your guests? Relaxed, with a cocktail in hand (not with wet hair wrapped in a towel, as I’ve found myself in the past). To avoid a last-minute rush, set the table the night before. Place plates, flatware, and even flowers ahead of time (blooms often look happier the next day, anyway). The bar can also be set up ahead of time: For my jingle-themed fête, instead of mixed drinks, I created a “12 Days of Christmas” champagne bar. I set out the glasses and garnishes in advance and then let my friends pour their own champagne. Want something even simpler? Serve a holiday punch or pitchers of white sangria.

alford park holiday photo back drop Hang mistletoe above a photo backdrop to encourage kissable photo-ops!

tomato crostini on sticker embellished cocktail napkin Festive crostini on a sticker-embellished cocktail napkin.

holiday table top Family-style passed plates.

A festive dinner plate and a “Cup of Cheer” tag attached to a dunkable cookie.

end of holiday party
Photography: Morgan Blake
Florals: Meredith Mejerle of Amy Osaba
Catering: Sun in My Belly
Model wardrobe and styling: Life Styled Atlanta
Calligraphy: Yes Maam Paper Goods
Marshmallow confections: Malvi Joy
Venue: The Loft on Roswell Square
Gold “Midas” glassware: Design Within Reach
Dining table, gold-rimmed plates, and side table: West Elm
“Snow dot” runner, banner, confetti, wine tags, and place cards: Minted
Velvet ribbon: Minted
Gold bells: eBay
Striped party menu: Minted
“Gold Rush” menu: Minted
Small favor boxes: Minted
Gold-foil wrapping paper (on bar): custom made
Menu sign holder: Beaucoup
White candlesticks and sheepskins: Ikea
White paper globes: Minted
Edible gold-foil lollipops: Luxe Lollipops
Vintage gold ice bucket: eBay
Photo backdrop: Minted
Kraft circle stickers: Minted
Cheer tag: Minted
Flatware: Target

Find more of Kelli on her blog.

  1. Melissa Egan

    I want to be Kelli when I grow up, or at least get to attend one of your parties!

    PS-I went to a bridal brunch a few weeks ago at Sun In My Belly when I was in Atlanta-so good! I ordered everything they had on the menu with pimento cheese 🙂

    • thank you Melissa! ; )

  2. Pingback: Modern Holiday Party From Minted | francois et moi

  3. Oh I just love this so much!!!

  4. Pingback: A Jingle-Bell Inspired Dinner | kelli hall design