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Yes, invitations still matter. Top event planners and chefs share how to sprinkle extra joy, style and cheer into your upcoming holiday dinner plans.

Dec, 14, 2016

December is the perfect time to toast to how fruitful the year has been and what’s in store for the new year.

We’ve had our share of the holiday parties full of rambunctious guests and holiday karaoke, but recently people are opting for a more intimate gathering of friends and family for a holiday dinner party.  

With the help of Pinterest and Instagram anyone can host a holiday affair with their close acquaintances, but how can you take your dinner party experience up a notch with the latest trends while impressing your guests without breaking the bank? 

Here are some secrets from event planners and chefs on how to sprinkle a little magic to your upcoming holiday dinner for a flawless evening:

Invitations Are a Must

No matter what you do, send an invitation to those who made your “nice” list.  

“Be sure to send out some form of invitation no matter how casual your dinner party may be,” suggests Janell Mack of Pinch and Plate, a mobile dinner party service.  Ditch the mass group texts, Facebook invite and GroupMe shoutouts and take the time to create a personalized or themed invitation.  Email invites work best for dinner parties because they have a quicker RSVP response, it’s easy to design and there are many free platforms you can use.  “Our favorite is Paperless Post because of its design options, customization features, and the ability to take an online invitation and get it printed,” shared Janel.  When adding your dinner details to your invitation Janel also advised that you account for guests who may run a little late, when picking a start time for your dinner as well as inquiring about dietary restrictions so guests can include this information with their RSVP.  “This can help the host with creating the menu and meal preparation.”

Ditch the Sit Down Dinner

Many dinner parties serve food buffet-style, family style or seated and served, but why not switch it up. Makini Martin, owner and lead designer of Makini Regal Designs suggests you go against tradition and opt for tapas and drinks for smaller budgets. “Consider putting a spin on the traditional holiday dinner party by opting for a cocktail style soirée. Serving small bites will not only cut cost but also sets the tone for a fun and fabulous night. Stock up on your favorite hor d’oeuvres, like meatballs or artichoke bites, zhuzh it up with a homemade dipping sauce and voila, you have yourself a quick and easy solution for serving your guests. Also, having food stations is another fun and cost effective way to feed your guests.  A mac and cheese station with your favorite holiday toppings would be a hit.”

Choose An Unexpected Color Palette

You don’t have to stick to reds, greens and golds in your holiday dinner decor. Think outside the box this season and wow your guests with some of the latest decor trends and unique color palettes.

“Monochromatic color palettes are big this year.  Blacks, whites, greys and metallics are HOT HOT HOT!!! Do you know how hard it used to be to find a black Christmas ornament?  Well, not today – there is now lots of black and white holiday decor available everywhere you look, shared Tricia Smith Brown of TSB Planning & Design. You can also make bold statements with pops of unexpected colors on your tablescape. “Pairing a traditional holiday color like red or burgundy with an unexpected color like coral or fuchsia adds a fresh and modern touch to your holiday dinner party. Also, try incorporating seasonal fruit in your holiday dècor like pomegranates or plums. This not only adds texture and dimensions to your table but it also adds that color twist that will set your holiday soirée apart from the rest,” Makini adds.

Appetizers Are the Perfect Distractors

Things can happen that may set you off schedule and delay your dinner. 

"Have appetizers or snacks prepared for guests to nibble on prior to dinner being served. This will give the host a little extra time to tie loose ends or deal with last minute mishaps before dinner,” Janel shared. There’s always that guest who shows up way ahead of schedule and you might not be ready to entertain them. Have some appetizers prepared for the early arrivals to snack on while you put your finishing touches on decor or dinner.

Set The Vibe With a Great Playlist

Your Tidal and Spotify accounts will come in handy during your holiday dinner. 

"A great playlist is key to keep the dinner party lively! You can opt for a live DJ or simply create a playlist based on your guests musical choice. Great food and great music are memorable items that will keep the guest talking long after the dinners over!” shared Sade Brown, event coordinator for Omar’s Kitchen.

Cheerful Drinking

Makini suggests adding a signature drink or two to your menu for an additional special touch.

“Not only is it more affordable but also, it’s the perfect customized detail that will wow your guests. Or if you want a little more variety, try having a champagne bar. You can purchase bottles of Prosecco from your local wine shop for less than $10. Add a variety of fruit and garnishes and you have yourself a pretty fancy setup,” Makini shared.  

Personalization

A little personalization can go a long way in adding a unique detail to your holiday party.

“Unique seating cards, gifts, ornaments – you name it.  You can pretty much personalize anything these days,” Tricia shared. Your guests will appreciate the thought you put into the details and the little trinket they can keep from the experience. These tips will sure to have your guests talking about your upcoming holiday party well into the next year.