How to Plan the Perfect Holiday Party

These tips will help make your soiree a success.

Use your good stuff.

The fine china your great aunt passed down to you shouldn’t be quarantined in a buffet. Honor her by using it regularly. It’s a great way to start a tradition. My husband’s grandmother gave me a milk-glass punch bowl that I fill with flowers and use as a centerpiece. It makes her so happy to see I use it. And don’t be afraid to mix patterns. If it’s fear of breakage that’s keeping you from pulling out your Spode, get over it. Visit and order a new piece for a nominal cost.

Create a schedule and work ahead.

The week before your event, create a production list and knock out anything you can do prior. Ask yourself, “What can I do three days before?” Think about what will hold. I’m all about the host being present at his/her own party.

Batch out drinks.

Make a punch (they’re festive!), or set up a bar and let people pour themselves drinks. Do be sure you have all the appropriate glassware, mixers, tools, garnishes, and beverage napkins conveniently located.

Stations are key.

Set up dessert or sides stations and let guests help themselves. Not convinced? Even The Mansion does a dessert station. If The Mansion can do it, so can you.

Make it easy on yourself.

If you don’t have time for from-scratch cooking, make a stop at Central Market or Whole Foods and plate it on your china. Guests will never know. Slicing and dicing is time intensive. Buy pre-cut veggies and have the butcher carve up your meat in your desired thickness. You can also have the shrimp pre-boiled and ready to go.

Engage the senses.

I use floral all over my home. But a word of caution: Keep centerpieces on the shorter side. In a photo shoot, tall arrangements can look amazing, but at a dinner party, they’ll obstruct the view of guests. Light a candle in the powder room. A lot of people forget to dim the lights. This is so important; no one looks good in harsh lighting. And while I love stinky cheeses, I refrain from serving them at parties.

Temperature control.

I set the thermostat to 72 degrees the morning of the party. The more people you’re having, the cooler the temperature should be. Don’t light the fireplace until 30 minutes before your event.

Do the math.

For the bar, plan on two drinks per person the first hour, and one drink per person for each additional hour. For appetizers, one-and-a-half appetizers per person should typically do it. 

  • Keep red wine reserved for the table. Both you and your guest will regret crimson stains on your carpet.
  • Sauce happens. Treat a stained clothing item immediately with a dab of dishwashing detergent. Its degreasers penetrate and release the stain.
  • Tidy up, but leave the food out so people can graze. 
  • Buy extra rolls and have plenty of plastic storage containers on hand for to-go boxes. Guests will appreciate the opportunity to take home leftovers. 
  • Hire help. A little expense is worth the peace of mind. And remember to tip the staff extra and feed them.

Visit the D Home blog to get more of Lisa’s tips as well as her Holiday Detox Soup recipe.

In This Photo:

Clockwise from top left: LinenMe “Wave” napkins, $20/Set & Co.; Hampton Forge Argent Orfévres Paris hammered copper flatware, $175 for 20-piece set/Horchow; Bernardaud Prune et JR dish, to the trade/Dahlgren Duck; Allegheny Treenware wooden butter dish, $52/Set & Co.; Floral arrangement, Grange Hall; Potomak  Studio salt and pepper set, $52/Forty Five Ten; L’Objet gold charger, to the trade/Dahlgren Duck; Sieger by Furstenburg mini soufflé dish, to the trade/Dahlgren Duck; Fishs Eddy “Seconds” dish, $10/West Elm; Baccarat  water glass, to the trade/Dahlgren Duck;Saint-Louis Stella gold wine glass, to the trade/Dahlgren Duck


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