FESTIVE ENTERTAINING: YOUR STYLE GUIDE
Festivities are well underway. We’ve enjoyed (and quickly tired of) heavy snow, indulged in Christmas Jumper Day and shamelessly eaten our body weight in Celebrations (or at least I have)! The tunes are playing on repeat in every department store, on every school run and every office party playlist. Lights are up. ‘Out of office’ notifications pending. Great moods all round!
GIRL ABOUT FESTIVE ENTERTAINING
I’m certainly in the spirit and have been enjoying my fair share of Christmas parties! Whilst I love to venture out and about at this time of year, these days I’m increasingly drawn to an evening in with good friends and great food. Staying in certainly is the new going out. Festive entertaining has become an absolute must for me – the styling potential alone is reason enough to get excited.
Opening the festive chocolate box – a dangerous game
Surely mince pies and mulled wine afternoons are the best kind?! Or a classic afternoon tea with a festive twist? Evening soirees with cocktails flowing and canapes aplenty are always a hit with the crowds and a great chance to catch up with friends, sans-children. Here’s my festive entertaining recipe to success from how to style to what to wear…
FESTIVE AFTERNOON TEA
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a huge fan of afternoon tea. The sheer concept fills me with delight! Whilst my aim is to visit every tea room in London (read about my experience of Palm Court and The Langham here), it’s always fun to host your own at home.
Here’s one I made earlier…
FESTIVE AFTERNOON TEA – INTERIOR STYLING
For my tea table, I like to mix and match vintage and contemporary pieces. I have my old-faithfuls; items that make an appearance at every social event which I combine with new accents each year to keep things fresh. I actually adopt this eclectic approach in all of my hosting endeavours. It means there isn’t a need to totally reinvent things each time, rather to make subtle changes and updates.
As with any form of styling, an overall look needs to be defined before the work can begin. Since afternoon tea is a heavily British tradition – steeped in history – I aim to bring a heritage flavour to the table (literally). Whilst I do love a clean, contemporary aesthetic in design, for tea it’s all about layering. More is more!
My great grandmother-in-law’s tea set (that has travelled from Britain to South Africa and back in its lifetime) often makes an appearance at my afternoon events. I also love to mix and match these gorgeous block colour with gold teacups (they belonged to my grandma) alongside other heirloom pieces for a pretty and eclectic combination. Decorative miniature baubles at Debenhams
To style your afternoon tea table (or coffee table), layering is key. I use trays, chargers and decorative flat plates to ground the collection of crockery, cutlery and sweet treats. Something homemade should ideally enter the fold although I’m also excellent at buying (would you believe)?! Fresh flowers and candles are non-negotiables for me, with glitzy baubles and crackers offering that festive touch. (See my festive gift guide here with some great pieces for styling your space).
AFTERNOON TEA: OUTFIT STYLING
For an afternoon occasion, I like to keep it fairly casual. I always think it’s best to be comfy in your own home as there are so many things to think about.
If in doubt, a classic knit and statement belt is always a winner for a relaxed afternoon
A cashmere knit or luxe chenille number is ideal paired with trusted blue-wash or black denim. I do like to introduce a little embellishment – given the time of year – and there are lots of options available from high street to high end. Pearl, sequin or beaded jumpers are always winners or spice up a plain knit with statement earrings, a belt or necklace. A little decorative flurry goes a long way.
I discovered these beauties from Designers at Debenhams – click here for more festive fancies
COCKTAILS & CANAPES: EVENING GLAMOUR
The evening offers an entirely different approach to festive entertaining. No children present means more sparkle, louder music and considerably more alcohol.
In my household, we like to make cocktails – they’re always a great idea for a party! Lychee martinis are firm favourites (of mine). If you’re looking to up the ante, add accents of edible gold leaf to the mix for some festive sparkle. What could be better?!
This original drinks cabinet belonged to my grandpa. Its timeless mirrored glass backing and internal lights create the ultimate party focal point and the ideal drinks station. I love to style it up with gold accents like this Deco Round Mirror tray from M&S and gorgeous pieces from Sainsbury’s Renaissance Boutique collection
I once had the seemingly ingenious idea of creating ‘blinged up Bellinis’ for our Boxing Day party. This essentially meant pouring lots of edible glitter into the cocktail shaker with a vision that the glitz would swirl around the glass and look AMAZING. The reality was a rather unattractive and oily film on the surface of the cocktails, which resulted in a disappointing surplus at the end of the night. The lesson – gold leaf all the way!
Add a dusting of cocoa or icing sugar to pretty-up your serveware
COCKTAILS & CANAPES: INTERIOR STYLING
I like to work to a specific theme or ‘look’ for such an event. And I have to confess that it often has a sparkly agenda in December. Last year silver accents ruled but this year it’s gold all the way. Use Deco-inspired mirrored glass with brass trays to serve that initial fizz and gold cocktail shakers for that Midas touch.
Sainsbury’s current range is perfect for this with its glamorous ’20s attitude
Whilst the drinks trolley has arguably been the hero piece of 2017 decor, its older cousin the drinks cabinet – which just oozes sophistication – is going to be hot property in 2018. Stock up your drinks cabinet with timeless tipples and don’t forget the ice! Serve alongside piping hot miniature treats. Refashioned mini-macaroni cheeses, luxe tiny burgers and melt-in-the-mouth brie and cranberry bites are always popular.
COCKTAILS & CANAPES: OUTFIT STYLING
For an evening event – whether it be in or out – I like to amp up the glam factor. That means more sparkle, a glossy mane and lashings of jet-black mascara. This season, I’m loving a form-fitting midi dress, sequin pencil skirt and cashmere sweater combo or trouser suit styled with lacy cami. For a denim devotee, this is quite the departure but I feel that a festive evening offers the perfect opportunity to dress up!
MINCE PIES & MULLED WINE: THE CASUAL INVITE
I love to get my glam on but – let’s face it – we all have days when only lounge-wear and a food marathon will do. These can often be my favourite festive days and they extend well into January.
Everyone enjoys this kind of afternoon at Christmas and so an invitation to a mulled wine and mince pie laze-fest is often well received by guests. Festive entertaining isn’t just about formality after all; it’s about togetherness, indulgence and enjoying a slightly slower pace. My hosting skills are certainly more relaxed in this environment. Everything is table top with a ‘help yourself’ attitude encouraged.
Coffee and biscuits – another winning combo
I don’t have a fireplace (sob) but if I did, it would be flickering for this occasion. Instead, groupings of candles add a warming quality to the space (although I would advise against this if there are adventurous, unsupervised toddlers present).
FESTIVE ENTERTAINING 101
I hope you’ve enjoyed my festive entertaining guide. I would love to hear your plans – are you heading out for Christmas and New Year or hosting at home? How will you be styling your parties? Drop a comment below…
Girl signing off,