"Growing up, my mom was probably the first person that I'd seen host a party and be able to entertain so effortlessly," Shay Mitchell says

By peoplestaff225
September 23, 2015 02:54 PM

Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Stella Artois

As Pretty Little Liars fans know, Shay Mitchell‘s character Emily Fields really loves Christmas. (We’re still hoping Santa belatedly brings us this now iconic festive t-shirt from the holiday episode.)

But the actress, author and lifestyle blogger is all about fall — so she hosted a “Bon Voyage to Summer” bash with Stella Artois aboard a Manhattan by Sail boat floating along New York City’s Hudson River on Monday.

PEOPLE caught up with Mitchell, 28, before the autumnal event to learn her secrets for throwing a successful soiree. (And luckily for the self-described “pizza and beer girl,” Stella’s Cidre is her favorite fall drink.)

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“Growing up, my mom was probably the first person that I’d seen host a party and be able to entertain so effortlessly,” Mitchell says. “And really she was all about time management and being prepared and not rushing or ever being stressed out. She always said to me, ‘Regardless of what’s happening, if you are stressed out, the company that you have over is going to feel it, and that’s never good. Regardless of how your meal is or the drinks or whatever, you always want to be happy, and that kind of sets the tone for the rest of everybody there.’ “

Read on for Mitchell’s simple but stylish party tips:

Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Stella Artois

Look to nature for your place settings 

“When I was on the East Coast with all the leaves changing, all that beautiful color, I’d go outside and pick a bunch of leaves, and that would be my table setting,” Mitchell says. “Using things that are around you, whether it be plants or foliage and even fruits or gourds, I love doing that. Setting a fall table is probably my favorite.”

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Bring back Polaroids 

Instead of basic name cards at each seat, Mitchell suggests creating instant memories by having a camera on hand while guests mingle before the meal. “Take a photo of them and balance it on the table when they are ready to sit down,” she explains.

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Set the mood with music 

“There’s nothing worse than when you’re having a great vibe and all of a sudden the playlist ends and you’re like, ‘What should we play?'” Mitchell says. “Have a good couple of playlists for different things, one that’s a little bit more upbeat and one that’s for when you’re eating or cooking.” Her go-to songs of the moment? “Here” by Alessia Cara, “Cake by the Ocean” by Joe Jonas’ new band DNCE and anything by her pals Among Savages.

Gives your guests a parting gift 

“You want to make it memorable for your guests,” Mitchell says. “I love giving away candles because I feel like that’s something everybody enjoys and every time they light it, they’ll think back to that.”

Michele Corriston