HOLIDAY 2014

Setting the Tone: Tips and Tricks for Creating the Perfect Party Ambiance

When it comes to planning a memorable holiday soiree, success is all in the details

A classic pajama party makes the most of bedroom decor.
A classic pajama party makes the most of bedroom decor.
Photographed by Larry Harry/Express/Getty Images

There’s no better time than the holidays to light the fires, pour the drinks, and let the good times roll. But before you send off those invites, you’ve got some planning to do. Throwing the perfect party comes down to four basic elements: decor, food and drink, lighting, and sound. Skimp on any of these and your shindig doesn’t stand a chance. Read ahead for tips on how to be the ultimate host—this month or any other. 

Setting the Tone: Tips and Tricks for Creating the Perfect Party Ambiance

DECOR The first step in planning an event comes down to logistics—nailing the location, level of formality, and number of people who will be attending, all of which can affect the look of things. Will you need to bring in more seating or push furniture to the borders of the room? Put up removable wallpaper for a photo gallery or hang a garland from your mantel? Help streamline the process by choosing an overarching idea to tie all the party pieces together: it can center on a color palette (green and gold), a movie (It’s a Wonderful Life), or a style of gathering (wine and cheese), but it doesn’t have to be a full-on theme.

FOOD & DRINK So you’ve got people coming over for dinner but not enough table space for a comfortable fit? Serve something simple and bite-size, and arrange your food buffet-style so guests can help themselves. While crudités and charcuterie are surefire crowd-pleasers, you can take your spread to the next level with an assortment of ready-made crostini (we love these by Lonny fave Diana Yen). And set up a couple of bar stations—one in the middle of the room, one at the back—to avoid bottlenecks.

Setting the Tone: Tips and Tricks for Creating the Perfect Party Ambiance

LIGHTING There’s a reason it’s called mood lighting. Candles, whether in votives or candelabras, offer the most flattering glow for intimate fêtes, but they can also be a fire hazard. Opt instead for LED tea lights, which you can freely place throughout the room without worry. If you don’t already have fixtures with a dimmer switch, consider installing them; everyone looks better in soft light.

SOUND Nothing kills a party faster than music that screeches to a halt. How to ensure that doesn’t happen? Choose a sound system that integrates an endless stream of tunes from your personal library and online services. We’re big fans of the Sonos PLAY:1 for a few reasons: its compact design and mix-and-match speaker options make it versatile enough for any space without compromising its resonant sound. Plus you can play your music in multiple rooms, so there’s no need to blast it at one end of the party only to have it whisper at the other. Now, who’s ready to dance?

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