Last week we had Shaheen, Trevor (and Zain!) Kelly, Mitch (and Emma!) and Kai and Kevin over for a fun little low-key holiday get-together! (We obviously missed Blair and Rob too, but baby Owen is still a littttlee too new for holiday shindigs 😂) It had been awhile since we had all gotten together and it was so much fun! Excited to share some fun photos of our in today’s post!
I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t born with the Martha Stewart gene. The idea of hosting a full-blown fancy holiday soiree is just not my cup of tea. Who has the time? Or the space? It’s a little easier in the summer when there is outdoor space to take advantage of (remember this awesome rooftop dinner that Kai and I threw at her place?!) but in the winter, I think entertaining gets even trickier because outdoor space isn’t an option.
So–what’s an (admittedly, lazy) anti-Martha to do? Read on for my tips on how to put on a low-key holiday party and still make it sparkle at the same time!
Easy Holiday Party Tips:
1. Keep the vibe casual, and the guest list short
While we always love a good excuse to dress up, when it comes to hosting parties, I prefer them to be more casual–it just sets the tone for a really fun, relaxed evening. Plus–I’m kind of a walking tornado. With a casual party, it’s easier for me to let things go and not obsess over every detail that may not be perfect. (Because NOTHING in my house is ever perfect!)
The same goes for the guest list–I am WAY more likely to stress out if, say, a bunch of acquaintances are about to walk through the door. But my best friends? Psh. They already KNOW my Christmas tree doesn’t have nearly enough lights on it and that my Christmas ornaments are from Home Depot and they love me for it anyway. (Side note: I DID order nice one’s from Crate and Barrel, for those of you haters who have been ripping on my sad little tree on Instagram stories )
Moral of the story: The holidays are about the people who matter most–so keep the guest list short and only invite those closest to you! You have enough to worry about during the holidays–you don’t need the pressure of impressing people you barely know added to the list!
2. Opt for a heavy apps spread
Obviously I’m a big fan of dinner parties too (I mean, when else am I going to use our beautiful new china that we got for our wedding?!) but in this instance, we knew it was going to be WAY easier to skip the sit down meal this time around. The good news: just because you don’t have several courses doesn’t mean you can’t have an impressive spread! (I learned this from Kai!)
You know Kai owns her own catering company, littlevent, right? She is so good at creating the most beautiful spreads of little bites!
She made three different kinds of flatbreads: wild mushroom with fresh ricotta, prosciutto with arugula and mozzarella, and lamb with pine nuts and tahini sauce! Also, she made bacon wrapped, goat-cheese stuffed dates, and a beautiful charcuterie tray. (Tip: use a marble baking slab, if you have one, as a charcuterie board! The scale makes it so much more impressive, AND you don’t have to keep putting out new items on it all night, since everything fits on one tray!)
For desert, she made some incredible funfetti sugar cookies that I am still dreaming about! (Haha Alaina saw them on my stories and wanted them SO MUCH that Kai dropped off a batch to her Friday afternoon!) The addiction is REAL, you guys!
(Basically, if you live in Chicago, you should definitelyyyy hire Kai to cater your holiday party.)
BUT, if that’s not possible, the lesson here is to pick a few easy-to-assemble appetizers, and make enough to supplement a sit down meal! It’s so much less stress, and chances are, your guests will prefer the variety and the ability to chat and graze at the same time! Another idea is to make it potluck-style, so there’s even less work for you to do!
Now, how to display your appetizers in a way that feels special, and not, “buffet-like” for lack of a better term? Here are a few more tricks I picked up from Kai:
A fun tablecloth goes a long way
Kai picked up the cutest plaid tablecloth from Homegoods! (Kelly was very excited because #30DaysofPlaid 🙄😂) She says they’re the easiest way to transform any table and so cheap to purchase!
Always buy the matching napkins
This is a trick I NEVER would’ve thought of–always buy the napkins that come with the tablecloth, because…(you’ll see why)…
Play around with different heights
For the prettiest display, place your platters at different heights. Stack books, use those old Amazon boxes, and then put the matching napkins OVER THEM so they’re disguised! (GENIUS!) She also took some adorable gift boxes from Target to use as the highest display as well! (Which held the beer and pretty chalices, because, you know. It’s a party).
3. Have crowd-pleasing beverage options
Speaking of beer–one of our favorites is Stella Artois. Did you know it was originally brewed as a Christmas beer? The name “Stella” actually means “star”–as in, the Christmas star!
It’s truly one of the only beers that will please everyone no matter what kind of beer they like. It’s light enough for the light beer drinkers, and has enough bold flavor for the heavy craft brew fanatics. (Plus, I’m also a sucker for their packaging!) They also just came out with a 750ml special edition bottle that would make an awesome present or hostess gift!
Also, have you tried Stella’s Cidre? It’s my favorite! I’m not usually a huge cider fan because it’s usually too sweet and hurts my stomach, but this one isn’t! It’s so good, light, with just the right amount of sweetness, and it doesn’t have that sour after-taste that a lot of ciders do, either.
4. Serve a signature cocktail
Rather than playing bartender all night, make a fun, seasonal cocktail instead. Try this Stella Cidre Spiced Toddy at your next party.
Hot Cidre Spiced Toddy:
1 bottle of Stella Artois Cidre per person (unchilled is best, you’ll be warming it up!)
3/4 oz Chinese 5 Spice syrup (it’s super easy to whip up! Read below!)
2-3 dashes of orange bitters
An orange twist (or orange slice, like I opted for, if you want more juice in there!)
For the Chinese 5-Spice Syrup:
2 TBSP Chinese 5 Spice Powder
1 BSP Orange Zest
1 Cup Brown Sugar
3 Cups Water
Warm three cups of water and one cup brown sugar over medium-high heat until sugar is totally dissolved. Add 5 spice powder and orange zest, lowering heat to prevent boiling. (You don’t want it to boil or it will get too thick!) As soon as it comes to a simmer, remove from heat. Let cool, and strain if you wish. Keep up to one week in the fridge.
To make the cocktail:
Combine syrup with a large orange peel swath (or orange slice) in the bottom of a glass. Muddle. Top with one bottle of Stella Cidre and add hot water to taste. Finish with 2-3 dashes of orange bitters.
5. Throw some games into the mix
Party games are ALWAYS a must in our book! I pulled out a hysterical card game called “Utter Nonsense”–I purchased it years ago and it has been SUCH a hit ever since.
It’s an “accent” game where everyone is dealt 7 cards, all with absurd phrases or sentences on them. Then, each person takes a turn being the judge, and draws an “accent” card. Each person has to go around and pick the most hilarious sentence to read in that accent, and the funniest one wins!
At one point Kelly had to read in a Canadian accent and sounded like Forest Gump. We were all on the floor crying laughing. Neal was the dark horse and KILLED at every accent which is something I NEVER expected in a million years. Like, WHO ARE YOU!? Since when can he do all these impressions!? it was hilarious! 😂😂😂
Other favorites: Cards Against Humanity (obviously) and What Do You Meme are always classics.
What are your favorite tips for throwing an easy holiday party?
In partnership with Stella Artois, a brand we love and drink often! Opinions are 100% our own.