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Party Tips from the Pros!

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4 GREAT FOODS TO SERVE IN MINI FORM

Mini Hot Dogs

Serve in top-sliced hot dog buns cut into four pieces.

–celeb caterer Peter Callahan

Mini Beef Wellingtons

Wrap a crescent roll around a small piece of steak. Bake and serve with mayonnaise and mustard dip.

–Peter Callahan

Quesadilla Bites

Cut regular quesadillas into mini triangles.

–event coordinator Jo Gartin

Mini Cheesecakes

Cut a cheesecake into individual squares or wedges.

–Jo Gartin

Pick a Color Theme

CHOOSE A COLOR AND CARRY IT THROUGH YOUR DECOR, PLATES AND FLATWARE.

–Jo Gartin

TIME YOUR PARTY RIGHT

Include start and end times on your invites. There is so much going on during this season, guests will be happy to know the time expectation on the event.

–caterer Mary Giuliani

If you plan your party the Friday or Saturday night before Christmas, your invite will compete with others. Pick the second weekend of December or a weeknight for a better RSVP.

–event planner Colin Cowie

3 FABULOUS (AND FAST!) DECORATION IDEAS

USE BOWLS OF BRIGHTLY COLORED CANDY AS A RUNNER DOWN THE CENTER OF THE TABLE.

–event designer Preston Bailey

Do the ever-easy holiday ornaments in glass jars

–party planner Mindy Weiss

I LOVE TO TAKE WHITE HOLIDAY STRING LIGHTS (THEY EVEN MAKE LED ONES NOW THAT DON’T REQUIRE A PLUG!) AND FILL UP GLASS VASES WITH THEM. GIVES A NICE LITTLE HOLIDAY SPARKLE WITHOUT BUSTING YOUR BANK.

–Mary Giuliani

POST-HOLIDAY SHOPPING MUSTS

Buy wrapping supplies after the holidays when they are on sale. Not only will you save money, but you will always have gift wrap on hand.

–event planner Marcy Blum

HOW TO SET UP THE BEST BAR

1 Stock up on a fabulous champagne. And forget the champagne cocktails. A great champagne is best served chilled.

–event planner Diann Valentine

2 Create an all-white bar for the holidays, where every drink is clear. It’s beautiful, and you don’t have to worry about stains if anyone spills!

–Mary Giuliani

3 Serve guests with one or two large drink dispensers that can hold up to 40 cocktails. Then set out your glasses on trays with an ice bucket and guests will help themselves.

–Colin Cowie

4 Don’t forget delicious nonalcoholic beverages. Try Ayala’s Sparkling Cinnamon Orange Peel Herbal Water.

–Diann Valentine

easy (and pretty) platter idea

Take your average crudités spread up a notch and create a platter with a color scheme—such as red and white vegetables—and set it on the coffee table with a dipping sauce.

–Colin Cowie

LAST-MINUTE LIFESAVER FOR GIFTS!

BUY A FEW ALL-PURPOSE PRESENTS JUST IN CASE YOU NEED TO BRING SOMETHING IN A HURRY. COFFEE TABLE BOOKS ARE GREAT CHOICES.

–Jo Gartin

Lil Jon’s Holiday Playlist

“THIS CHRISTMAS”

Donny Hathaway

“I grew up in the South on a lot of soul and R&B. This is one of the all-time top Christmas songs.”

“SILENT NIGHT”

The Temptations

“I remember listening to that on Christmas Eve before we went to bed every year.”

“SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN”

The Jackson 5

“I’d watch all those claymation Christmas specials, and then I’d listen to the Jackson 5.”

“THE CHRISTMAS SONG”

Nat King Cole

“That’s classic, classic, classic.”

“CHRISTMAS IN HOLLIS”

Run-DMC

“It’s my all-time favorite hip-hop Christmas song.”

“WHAT YOU WANT FOR CHRISTMAS”

K-nock, Quad City DJs and the 69 Boyz

“It’s basically 12 Days of Christmas but a new version with a Cadillac and gold teeth. You’re going to laugh your socks off!”

MAKE THE MENU FUN

Pick a theme for the food.

Try a nostalgic menu with favorite childhood foods like grilled cheese and tomato soup. Or go French with a Bûche de Noël.

–Jo Gartin

Do a dessert and sparkling wine party.

There’s less to prepare—purchase everything if you don’t feel like baking! Set up a buffet, and guests can make your house the last stop on a busy night.

–Mary Giuliani

FOLLOW THIS PRE-PARTY CHECKLIST

Be sure to have plenty of ice.

Stock up on lots of hangers.

Lay out all serving pieces, platters and bowls in advance. Put Post-its on them to identify what they are for.

For large dinner parties cook whatever you can in advance and freeze it.

–Marcy Blum

2 PANTRY MUST-HAVES

Always keep DRIED FRUITS and NUTS in the cupboard for impromptu gatherings. Display an array of Medjool dates, dried cranberries, pears, apricots, walnuts and roasted almonds on a large platter and you are in business.

–event designer David Stark

TAKE TIME OUT

ONE OF MY FAVORITE STRESS KILLERS IS GOING TO A MOVIE. NO PHONES, NO TEXTS, NO TALKING!

–caterer Liberty Woodman of Lady Liberty

music mix tip

Your playlist should be only 20% holiday music so you will have the right mix—or “Santa Baby” will drive you crazy!!!

–Colin Cowie

HOW TO GREET YOUR GUESTS

Bring guests something when you open the door. Maybe a shot of tequila, a specialty soda or chocolate. Guests will feel taken care of and relaxed.

–Preston Bailey

DON’T FORGET THE BATHROOM!

Make sure your powder room is always stocked with a hand cream.

–Diann Valentine

3 GIFTS TO SEND HOME WITH GUESTS

1 A “Hangover Kit” with airline-size bottle of vodka, small can of V-8 juice, saltines, Alka-Seltzer or Advil.

–Peter Callahan

2 Lollipops! Choose upscale lollipops that match your party color scheme.

–Preston Bailey

3 Set up containers with white candy (rock candy, yogurt pretzels, marshmallows) and little clear bags with Happy Holidays stickers so guests can take home a bag.

–Mary Giuliani