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10 Simple Ways to Make Holiday Gatherings Feel Extra Special

Party Ideas

December 8, 2021


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 Welcome to the Soiree 99 blog, a journal about all things hosting, design, wedding planning and anything else that makes my heart flutter.



Plan This Year’s Festivities in a Whole New Way

Holiday Gatherings

It’s that time of year—yes, that most magical time of year—full of dancing, twinkling lights, hot chocolate by the fire, cozy sweaters, and… the absolute madness of trying to plan holiday gatherings.

I’d guess that about 80% of the people I talk to dread the idea of planning this year’s holiday hoopla. And I hate that for them, I really do because planning holiday gatherings should not be painful. It should not be stressful. And it should certainly not make you want to start drinking adult eggnog at 9am.

You-all know I am ALL about the personal and special touches. And as someone who plans events for a living, I realize that it is easy for me to say this. But I have found that this is also the part of party planning that creates a lot of stress for people—coming up with those memorable, little details that just pull the whole event together.

So, to get you started planning this year’s festivities, here are:

10 Simple Ways to Make Holiday Gatherings Feel Extra Special

1- Give the Party a Theme

By theme, I don’t necessarily mean anything elaborate with dress requirements or difficult-to-find decor. I mean more like – how do you want your party to feel. It could feel rustic, classy, vintage, sparkly, whimsical….you get the idea.

When you start with a feeling, it not only becomes easier to decorate but creating a feeling for your guests will make your gathering so much more special.

Holiday gathering

Pro-Tip: Use a service like The Wild Tables to have a beautifully curated table decor sent straight to your door—like I did with this shoot!

2 – Circulate the Meal Around the Room

Instead of a sit-down meal, consider having circulating foods like appetizers and snacks, kind of like you were at the cocktail hour of a wedding. A setup like this creates more flow in the room, allowing for casual conversation and more interaction among guests.

And, before you start calling catering companies, you don’t necessarily need to hire attendants to serve the food. You can always just place the appetizers around the room in noticeable places.

holiday gatherings

3 – Always Offer a Fancy Drink

Let me say this again. Always offer a fancy drink.

It can be a creative cocktail, some fancy bubbles, or even an aptly-named drink. Just make it fancy.

And it doesn’t need to be alcoholic to be fancy. Some sparkling cider, yummy fizzy water, or an elaborate mocktail can be just as memorable.

But in this planner’s opinion, bubbles make every occasion feel special.

4 – Personalized Place Settings

Personalized place settings are one of my favorite ways to make holiday gatherings special. You can easily get so creative with these. But even if you keep it simple, it will still be memorable.

Tie in your theme, party vibe, or holiday motif and watch your guests react with excitement.

For instance, if you are throwing a Christmas party, consider buying little ornaments as place settings (or even make them!) and hiring a calligrapher to write your guests’ names on them.

For more ideas on this, visit the blog post for my harvest-styled table. I used slate chalkboards and apples as place settings and it was a hit!

5 – You Can Never Go Wrong With a Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie boards are always a hit.

I mean, think back to a time when you saw a charcuterie board and it didn’t bring you joy?

Charcuterie boards don’t have to be the typical cheese and meat trays that we are used to (although they ARE super yummy). You can get creative and do a themed charcuterie board too. What about a Christmas cookie board? Or a s’more board? Or, as I have here, a hot chocolate board?

Another way to design charcuterie boards is to create individual boards for each guest.

The possibilities are endless.

6 – Coordinate, Coordinate, Coordinate

Did you catch this one?

Coordinate your decor.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate but coordinate as much as possible.

Even something as simple as cute disposable napkins and matching cups can take a simple meal to significant.

Holiday desert setup

7 – Gifts For Your Guests

The key, again, is simple.

Whether it be a festive treat, a dish towel, or a seasonally scented candle, a small token of gratitude for your guest makes holiday gatherings extra special.

festive place setting

8 – Don’t Forget the Music!

A fun playlist helps set the vibe for your holiday gathering. Think about how you want your party to feel and go from there.

Create your own playlist or do a search for one that is already made!

9 – Light a Scented Candle or Run a Diffuser

Remember the 5 senses that you learned about in grade school—taste, touch, smell, see, hear? As hosts, we put so much emphasis on how things look or taste, but what about how they smell? I feel like this is a sense that is often overlooked and it can make such a massive impact.

So again, think back to how you want your gathering to feel and pick a scent that fits that feeling.

10 – Satisfy That Sweet Tooth

And now we get to my favorite part of the planning process, the dessert.

Dessert is almost everyone’s favorite part of the meal and it is an easy one to make impressive. Keep it easy on yourself by going to a local bakery and selecting a few of their most recommended treats. You’ll be supporting local and supporting your mental health by taking one thing off of your to-do list.


So, tell me: What special touches are YOU adding to this year’s holiday gathering?


Planner: Soiree 99 Events

Bakery: Cakes In The Zoo

Photography: Stella K Photography

Decor: The Wild Tables

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I'm Brittany and I'm so happy you're here. This blog is a journal about all things hosting, design, wedding planning and anything else that makes my heart flutter.

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