With entertaining season quickly approaching, some of us still reeling from the COVID era may be feeling a little rusty on party planning and hosting. We asked entertaining and events aficionado Gregory Fast for his tricks of the trade to help Canadians step up their holiday hosting game. —Vita Daily
high energy welcome on arrival. Nothing can make a party fall flatter than a host who has spent more time prepping and cleaning, only to open the door completely burnt out. It’s the little, often overlooked things, that set your holiday hosting apart, like making sure your guest arrival is high energy. Turn the music on, louder than normal, and lower the volume once gusts are in the house. Dim the lights, light your candles, throw back an espresso martini, and welcome guests with a smile. Fake it till you make it (mentality) until guests take the reins and the party train starts conducting itself. You’ll forget you’re exhausted in no time and will have set the tone for a great evening.
the re-invented kitchen party. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of a formal dinner party or an over-the-top Christmas party with wall-to-wall guests, opt for something intimate that brings a refreshing experience around your island (or living room). Tapas and small plates are a great way to wow guests and most items can be prepared in advance, plated into small portions. This keeps things light with lots of room for conversation between courses—often the courses themselves become the topic of conversation. Pick up some plating tricks from your favorite restaurants, add a wine pairing, and you’ve got yourself a sophisticated party that won’t break the bank. If your guest list is just too large, consider back-to-back events on the Friday/Saturday featuring the same great menu and you’ve just killed two turtle doves with one stone.
mix old and new. Rental tableware and furnishings are a godsend. Usually rented by the dozen, this is an easy way to kick up your event without the added expense of a whole new china set or resorting to those dated card table chairs. Mix and match with your inherited heirlooms and you’ve got something refreshing and unique to you. The best part? Most rental companies take care of the cleaning for you. Just pack it up and walk away from the mess!
prioritize areas of décor. Start the season by evaluating how your home will be used. There are key pieces you want to set up first so by the time your inevitable busy schedule fills up, you don’t feel stressed that you ran out of time to put a garland around your powder room mirror. Start early and task things out little by little. Nothing kills the holiday spirit like décor resentment when you’re down to the wire a night before a Christmas Soiree. My top best recommendation is to prioritize the entryway, living room, dining room, and kitchen—anything outside of these spaces is secondary.
make it easy on yourself. An ambitious host will want to make everything from scratch but if you’re not used to this level of hosting, it’s ok to go store bought and add your own little twist. Take what you’re serving and step it up a few notches by simply replating and adding a garnish. It’s so simple and looks like you are the host with the most. Technically you did make it… better! Dips go into your own bowls, add some chives on top. Pies or cakes go onto tiered trays with added berries and dusting of sugar. I love ordering a big platter of Sushi when I’m down to the wire and replating it on a fabulous silver tray – it looks impressive and has an added benefit of snack on arrival.
bonus points. For the host who’s looking to really make an impression, opt for a neutral colour palette like silver and gold and change the colour of your ribbons year over year to update your holiday décor based on seasonal trends. Send a message to guests one or two days before the event letting them know you’re excited to host and set the tone on what to expect. Include anything important here like “Christmas sweater welcome” or “make sure to organize a ride for an evening of fun” and you’re all set to impress for the holidays. Happy hosting!