Who doesn't love a party where Aunt Agnes drinks too much Budweiser and starts burping the alphabet? But sometimes the holiday season calls for a more sophisticated affair where guests arrive dressed for dinner and American lager isn't on the drink menu.
Elegant and upscale pretty much go hand in hand, and although the craftiest of hostesses can do elegant on a budget, you should probably plan to drop a little dough on your sophisticated soiree. Here are 10 tips for hosting the most elegant of Christmas parties.
The invitation and the way you choose to deliver it is the first impression your guests will have of your party, so an e-vite is out. If you want to make a good impression but don't want to break the bank on invites, there are tons of tasteful, pre-packaged options that you can run through your printer to add the party details. But if you're ready to spare no expense for your fancy fête, hire a graphic designer and invest in a professional printer to create letterpress invitations.
You know the large plastic Santa that usually lives on your roof during the holiday season? He certainly conjures up feelings of nostalgia, but elegance? Not so much. If you're going to have an upscale Christmas party, then you should have elegant outdoor decorations greeting your guests, and this usually means less is more.
Start with a modest amount of white lights framing your roofline -- go ahead and skip the icicle variety. Add tasteful greenery, such as a boxwood wreath or fir needle garland. Then, fill planters with rosemary bushes and top them off with oversized red bows.
The same rule of less is more applies to indoor decorating for your party, as well. The first place to start is to give your Christmas tree a makeover -- no tinsel or colored lights this year.
Start by choosing your color palette. Limiting it to one or two colors is best to achieve the elegant look you're going for. Get the largest tree you can fit into your space and start wrapping it with white lights. Then, choose one or two of the same ornaments to repeat throughout the tree. Choose coordinating schemes for your mantel and tablescape and keep the rest of the decorations to a minimum.
Very little has the impact on a scene like the music selection, and mellow is the epitome of elegance. You want to create a setting for guests so that they spend their evening relaxed and comfortable, and the tempo of the music you choose will play a large part in that. But mind you, you don't want them to get so comfortable that they fall asleep. A tasteful playlist for an elegant Christmas party could include a mix of traditional Christmas songs and some classic jazz thrown in to keep the tempo up.
As far as the impact on the ambience of a room, lighting is right up there next to music. If you have a fireplace, then a roaring fire is a must. With the exception of the dining room chandelier, overhead lighting should stay off, or at least be dimmed.
To create a warm environment, your lighting scheme should include multiple sources. Table and floor lamps illuminate conversation areas, while candles provide mood lighting throughout. If you want to add a lighting effect, use uplighting to highlight your Christmas tree or mantel décor.
A typical upscale affair usually includes a sit down dinner, but depending on the size of your party, you may not have enough seating for all of your guests. If that's the case, heavy hors d'oeuvres served buffet style is perfectly acceptable.
As far as types of foods, if you want to pull out all the stops, you can impress your guests with the likes of caviar and all the trimmings. If that's a little over the top for even your most elegant friends, a fancy shrimp cocktail will suffice.
Regardless of how you serve it, the food should be high quality, substantial, and served on proper plates instead of plastic ware. If your budget allows, we highly recommend that you get a caterer so that you can just be the hostess.
The ideal scenario for an elegant Christmas party is a full bar stocked with top shelf liquors and plenty of mixers, especially because it will finally give you a chance to use all of your specialty bar ware from your wedding registry that's been gathering dust in your cupboards.
Even if you just offer one type each of scotch, rum and vodka, most of your guests should be happy. Also, be sure to have a selection of beer and wine and some non-alcoholic options for the designated drivers. For an added touch, offer a seasonal signature cocktail, such as rum-spiked eggnog.
If you're going to spend the time and money to plan an upscale affair, then you probably don't want your guests showing up in sweaters and jeans. If you run with a crowd that has evening wear readily available in their closest, then go ahead and make it a black tie affair. But if a tux rental could be a deal breaker for some of your nearest and dearest, just ask them to wear their Sunday best. Whatever you decide, be sure to state dress requests on your invite.
You certainly don't want your nicely dressed guests parking down the street and then surfing back to your house on the ice and snow, so if you want to leave no stone unturned, consider hiring a valet company. Sure, you could have your nephew and his friends do it for a little pocket cash, but remember, they won't be insured if something happens to one of the cars in their care. If you want to keep your guests from feeling obliged to tip, offer to pay the valets a little more and ask them to decline tips.
What elegant Christmas party would be complete without a favor for your guests to take home to remember the magnificent evening? Your best bet for any party favor is to think of something that your guests will actually use. For that reason, food is always a great party favor.
If you serve a special kind of cookie or candy that everyone always raves about, wrap up a little to-go portion for your guests to take home and enjoy later. Or, choose something more permanent, like a tree ornament. Every year your guests can hang it on their tree and remember your fabulous and elegant Christmas party.
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- "Elegant Appetizer Recipes." Marthastewart.com. (Jan. 21, 2012). http://www.marthastewart.com/275105/elegant-appetizer-recipes/@center/276961/dinner-party-ideas#/256287
- "Elegant Christmas Dinner Party." Southernliving.com. (Jan. 21, 2012). http://www.southernliving.com/home-garden/holidays-occasions/christmas-dinner-party-ideas-00417000076723/
- "Valet Parking Service Frequently Asked Questions." Parkinc.com. (Jan. 21, 2012). http://www.parkinc.com/valet-parking-service-faq.html
- Wittrup, Debra. "How to Light Any Room." Bhg.com.( Jan. 21, 2012). http://www.bhg.com/decorating/lessons/basics/how-to-light-any-room/