A guide to hosting the perfect gathering.

Whether you’re throwing an intimate gathering or a grander-scale holiday party, you want your guests to rave about your party and wonder how you do it. And as the host, the power is in your hands. As we near the holiday season, it’s time to take a walk on the creative side.

Set the expectations and the ambiance
An invite will be the first thing to prepare your guests for the soirée. These are all questions that an invite can help communicate:

  • Is it a holiday party?
  • Where should I park?
  • Will there be a dress code?
  • Should I wear my Christmas cheer?
  • What time should I be there?

The next step is decorating, and this is a must. To truly “wow” your guests you must transform the space. For lighting, use candles and dimmers. Candles are a go-to and bring that warm feeling to any room to help set the mood. Think eclectic with all varieties and sizes. Don’t use bright lights. Then you can bring in the floral touch. Poinsettias can help set a wonderful atmosphere this time of year. To finish the interior decorating, the tablescape should be over the top and so amazing that it could make any food look awesome.

To top off the night, greet your guests at the door with a refreshment, perhaps with a spiced cider or a personalized cocktail. This will resonate with the guests and leave a great first impression. Be sure that everything is set up at least 15 minutes before any of your guests arrive. Don’t mingle as new guests are arriving, this should be saved for later.

From the moment the guests walk in the door, you want them to be in awe of all that you have brought to fruition through planning and execution. There are three important aspects to make any event flawless — great music, great food and great beverages.

“There are three important aspects to make any event flawless — great music, great food and great beverages.

Great music
Music should be considered for all events, whether they’re elaborate or intimate. The music should be able to be heard in the background, but not so loud that you can’t hear any conversations. If it’s a big enough gathering, consider hiring a band or a DJ. Otherwise, make a playlist with music that will accompany the mood and theme.

Great food
The best way to be a stellar host is to have an array of options. Think full palate and menu;
this includes kid-friendly options if children will be present. It’s best to prepare for 10 to 20 percent over the expected count to ensure no guest leaves hungry. Spread out the dishes full of food. By doing so, it will look like you have an abundance of food. Don’t use the standard chafer dishes in a line to serve food; instead, create very unique displays. Presenting food this way encourages people to mingle and talk. The most important aspect of serving food is ensuring it is kept at the correct temperatures. Hot items should remain above 140 F, and cold items should remain below 40 F. Anything between those temperatures is considered dangerous. For health reasons, toss out any foods that have sat out more than 2-3 hours.

Great beverage
A festive drink, alcoholic or not, is sure to be the talk of any event. If alcohol will be involved, calculate for two drinks per person and one additional drink per hour. Do keep in mind that roughly 10 percent of guests won’t drink. Similar to having a full array of food choices, a full bar is appropriate as well. Mix it up with different spirit choices, wines and beers.

Time to party
Everything is set and it’s time to enjoy the event. Mingle and introduce guests to one another. My last hosting hack is about cleanup. As the host, you should never be cleaning throughout the night. If wait staff is available, this is their job. If not, simply place trays in designated areas away from the food for guests to put down plates and glasses. Then, empty trays once they’re full and place them back where they were before. Kick back, relax and toast to a successful event! May your holidays or any of life’s greatest moments be expressed through events.

If you’re serving up a delicious holiday roast, check the temperature with a meat thermometer. Once it has reached the recommended internal temperature of 145 F, it’s ready to be served. Refer to the USDA’s Safe Minimal Internal Temperature list:

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Randi Lesnick is the CEO and founder of Hospitality Consultants and is known as “party planner to the stars.” Rated as one of the world’s 40 best luxury event planners and Top 10 Fine Living Party Planners, she brings depth of business experience to the planning, management and execution stages of a broad spectrum of events, from intimate gatherings to those on the grandest scale. After expansion with Nashville Event Space, she also re-branded as Randi Events — a full- service, modern design form. For more information, visit randievents.com