JESSICA BAILEY, PARTY STYLIST FOR EVITE
Light It Up: A holiday party should have some sparkle, from twinkle lights to party favors (Jouer’s Sparkle & Shine crackers are great for the ladies). If you're using candles, either go unscented or choose a single fragrance, like cinnamon or pine, so you don't overwhelm guests.
Respect the RSVP: I once went to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party that was loads of fun, but a few guests brought uninvited friends and, soon enough, there wasn't anything to eat. Two lessons learned: First, tell guests if it’s an invite-only affair, or ask them to let you know in advance how many plus-ones they’ll be bringing. Second, be sure to have plenty of food. One of my go-to options: a cheese plate with figs and my Aunt Mae's famous Rosemary Cashews.
Signature Drinks: I like to have apple cider heating on my stove when guests arrive so it smells warm and inviting. And I love a Moscow Mule; try adding rosemary and/or cranberry for a holiday spin. Also fun: mistletoe martinis garnished with mini candy canes.
KATHRYN KNOX, FOUNDER OF ECO-EVENTS COMPANY STONE SEVYN
On Dinner and Décor: You want your guests to be satisfied, not stuffed. Think arugula salad with cranberries and pecans; butternut squash bisque; quinoa-stuffed peppers. As for the table: Focus on the centerpiece. I’m currently into metallic tones; if an evergreen garland is your foundation, complement it with something like Illume’s Demi Mercury Glass Candles for a touch of sophistication.
An Element of Surprise: An unexpected thematic detail adds a bit of whimsy. Serve roasted nuts from a Metallic Zebra Dish by Jonathan Adler or hot chocolate in Kate Spade’s zig zag–print mugs. To pique guests' interest from the get-go, combine the invitation with a small gift (as long as your guest list is small). One of Jonathan Adler’s animal-shaped porcelain ornaments would do just the trick.
Look The Part: I like to coordinate my outfit with the overall theme and décor. This does not mean I’m dressing up as a holiday tree! To go with the zebra dish and zig-zag mugs, I might wear faux-snakeskin Stella McCartney pumps and accessories by Cave Collective and Samma. Last but not least, I like RMS Beauty’s metallic Cream Eyeshadow in Magnetic, and RGB Nail Polish in Dew and Vellum (I’ll throw in a different color on a few nails to keep it fun).
CARLA RUBEN, PRESIDENT OF CREATIVE EDGE PARTIES
Do’s and Don’ts: Set expectations right from the invitation; don’t invite guests at dinnertime and only serve hors d’oeuvres, for example—they will go home hungry. Use Pandora or Spotify to make a great playlist; don’t just count on your iPod. Don’t have guests throw their coats on the bed; throw yours on the bed and let them use the closet. And finish any preparation that you can the day before—not the day of. If you’re relaxed and having a good time, the guests will follow your lead.
Food for Thought: I love using seasonal foods to decorate. Your local farmers market or Whole Foods is a great place to find inspiration. Snacks displayed in glass containers can fill a coffee table—no need for flowers. A small cake stand with cheese balls or gougères under a cloche can add a wonderfully interactive element.
To Gift or Not to Gift: I always encourage guests not to bring gifts. Their presence is the only gift needed, and if someone brings flowers you’ll be stopped in your tracks—now you need to find a vase and trim the arrangement to fit. That said, a bottle of wine or a scented candle (better still: Laura Mercier’s La Petite Patisserie Travel Candle Trio) is always welcome.