Clinton Kelly’s Tips to a Freakin’ Fabulous Holiday Party

Always send an invitation that has been personalized — either write a guest’s name on the envelope or send an email with a message that you typed yourself.

Always Plan Ahead

The key to a great holiday party is to plan ahead. Do as much as you possibly can before guests arrive so you can enjoy your friends. I will designate a No. 2 who’s going to help before and during the meal. I’ll ask my husband to be my wingman. If you’re single, ask a friend. People don’t
mind helping.

You Set the Tone
Make your guests feel at home by setting a relaxed tone for the party. The more effortless your attitude, the more comfortable your guests will be. You can also make guests feel at ease by pointing out things they have in common and sparking conversation between them.

Let Guests Help Themselves
Set out appetizers that guests can help themselves to easily. Try a cheese plate, an antipasto platter and a shrimp dish. I always have a shrimp dish at my parties and now you can too with my Lemon Shrimp! Label everything because people like to know what they’re eating. Also, be sure to create a signature drink to be served during the cocktail hour(s) like a Kir or Kir Royale aperitif. Mix a big pitcher and set it out for guests to serve themselves while you work on the meal or mingle.

Dress for Success
I would never wear white cross-trainers, dad jeans and a holiday sweater. You shouldn’t either. The holidays are the time to wear the clothes that make you feel best about yourself, and you should absolutely incorporate colour, pattern, texture and shine into your wardrobe.

Never be a DRIP
This is my acronym to help you avoid holiday meltdown. For the love of everything good, don’t talk about Dieting, Religion, Illness or Politics. Anytime you hear conversation veering toward one of those topics, immediately steer it in a different direction.

Ditch the Tchotchkes
Clear the clutter in your home. Clutter is a pet peeve of mine overall, but it’s especially true during the holidays. Think of your decorations as curated collections and rotate them in and out of storage seasonally. During the holidays, I like to bring the outside in and decorate with natural elements like pine cones, branches, nuts and acorns, to name a few.

When I was working as an editor for a famous magazine based in New York City, my co-worker and I competed in a karaoke competition at the company-wide holiday party. We sang “Islands in the Stream” and we won $500! The editor-in-chief of the magazine at the time was a British woman who loved to party. After the victory, she shouted, “Clinton, I’ll give you 50 more dollars if you take off your shirt!” And I said, “No way!” She upped the ante, “I’ll give you 100 dollars!” And I said, “Nope!” She then shouted, “I’ll give you 250 dollars!” And my shirt came right off.

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Amanda Storey

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