It is that time of year again. Sugarplums and mistletoe, gingerbread and eggnog…Yet, what is considered by many the most joyous time of the year is also full of obligations. In today’s fast-paced world, rather than anticipation, many feel dread at holiday season due to the responsibilities of shopping, wrapping, sending cards and, last but not least, entertaining.

Some of the lessons I have learned while working at Extraordinary Events can be applied to your own holiday gatherings, whether you are planning a get-together for 25 or 2500. In this economy, we’re all scaling back, so here are a few tips for throwing a fabulous party without breaking the bank.

The most important thing when it comes to planning a party is preparation. Do as much as you can in the days and weeks leading up to your event, so that you can actually enjoy the time you are spending with your guests.

Make sure your home is clean and guest ready shiny 24 hours before your soiree. You heard me. Twenty-four hours. There will be no last minutes dusting and vacuuming allowed. If your home is already decorated for the holidays, you’re good to go. There is no need to do more. If like me, you forego decorating, the answer is flowers…and more flowers. I love orchids at any time of year and white Phalaenopsis are perfect for the holiday table (and will still be in bloom weeks after you event).

It is easy to create a festive atmosphere with music. At holiday time, I love to crank up the Ella (“Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas”) and Frank (any of the numerous compilations) interspersed with Woody Guthrie’s “Happy Joyous Hanukkah.”

Rather than offering a full bar, where I know I will (inevitably) run out of a key ingredient, I create a themed signature cocktail and serve that along with wine and soda to keep things simple. I love Gingerbread Martinis (with cookie crumb on the glass rims), but it can be as simple as store-bought eggnog with a dash of cinnamon (and brandy on the side). When making ice cubes, throw a few cranberries in the tray and even bubbly water will have a holiday twist.

As for food, my new mantra is “keep it simple.” This year, I am forgoing a sit-down dinner and will be serving delicious finger food. On the menu will be warm roast beef sandwiches, individual macaroni & cheese soufflés and tomato soup “shots.”

I always end the meal with a fabulous desserts, whether home baked or store bought. Your guests will remember the first impression as they walked in the door and the last sweet moments before they leave…so, make sure their last bite is scrumptious.

In a (chest)nutshell, be ready early and over-prepared, so that the day of your event, you can work out (burn some extra calories so you can enjoy Chocolate Gingerbread Bread Pudding without guilt), do your nails (with festive sparkly polish) and be picture perfect when the doorbell rings.

Joyeux Noel!

 Michelle Lander is an Account Executive at Extraordinary Events, recently named One of World’s Top 50 Event Companies in Special Events Magazine. She can be reached at

This an other seasonal articles can be found in the 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide (PDF). You can also read the Flip Version .