Invitations are out, and guests are on the way. And while the busy holiday season leaves little time for planning, there’s still plenty to do to prepare your home for entertaining. How can you get it all done in time?
We asked stylists April Brown and Rick Sims of Louisville, Kentucky advertising agency Power Creative, for tips to create an inviting atmosphere for hosting holiday gatherings—at a cost that won’t break the budget. They weighed in, with ideas that bring in elements of nature and recycling to create a whimsical and nostalgic environment where everyone can feel at home:
Decorate with found, organic objects
Evergreens offer an abundance of berries, pine cones and branches perfect for creating wreaths, centerpieces and other natural décor. Twigs, for example, can be spray-painted white or silver for added holiday flair; pinecones look lovely stacked in a clear vase with evergreen branches. For a cohesive look, carry the natural theme throughout the house; place clippings of pine, holly or other evergreen plants in every room, whether on the wall or in a small vase or bowl.
Add a little aromatherapy
Scented pinecones and cinnamon brooms—available at most craft stores—offer a comforting scent of cinnamon and spice. Magnolia and holly plants add to the holiday aroma. Finally, a special cider or Wassail (a traditional English mulled cider) simmered on the stove, creates the finishing touch. Scented candles are also in style and add earthy ambiance in addition to a relaxing scent.
Start with a linen cloth and a beautiful centerpiece (think candles, pine branches and berries). From there, add extra touches of whimsy and nostalgia (handed-down china, for example) to make your holiday setting feel special. Heirloom linens can also offer a special feeling of comfort. Not only will your table stand out, but unique pieces can also serve as a great conversation starter and provoke fond memories, helping guests to relax right away. Bring natural elements to place settings with rosemary clippings wrapped around napkins; secure with twine. Add name cards for extra personalization.
Choosing a theme for the meal can also help with planning menu courses and can pay homage to the heritage of family and friends.
Prepare food in advance-and serve up a theme to pull it all together
Chopping, prepping and freezing food beforehand will help your party go off without a hitch. Choosing a theme for the meal can also help with planning menu courses and can pay homage to the heritage of family and friends. For example, Brown prepares traditional Italian meals for her family—like the Feast of Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian Christmas celebration consisting of seven different seafood dishes. For dessert, she makes pizzelle (flat and crispy Italian cookies that resemble snowflakes) and “clothespin” cookies (rolled dough cookies filled with Italian creme). A theme helps pull the meal together and gives guests something to look forward to.
Set the scene with porch pots
The concrete planters on your porch? They’re not just for summer and fall: Flipping porch pots ‘year-round, using plants that are in season, sets a cheerful and seasonal tone as guests enter your home. Magnolia and evergreen are ideal choices for winter. Bring everything together with a natural wreath for the door.
When the party’s over: Reuse and recycle
Simple brown craft paper is wonderful for wrapping gifts. After everything is opened, shred the paper and use it to mulch around plants, or substitute for bubble wrap when mailing delicate packages. Similarly, extra ornaments (and even beloved broken ones) can be placed in a bowl for a table centerpiece. Finally, if you have decorated a live evergreen for the holidays, recycle it in the backyard; let the pine needles provide mulch for your garden or plants, and tie pine cones with birdseed to the bare tree for a makeshift animal feeder.