Now that Thanksgiving is here, we will need all of the entertaining help we can get. After all, who wants to host a gathering that is bland and forgettable? As December approaches, more and more opportunities will surface to have people over for the holidays. Colin Cowie is a world-renowned lifestyle specialist and event planner whose resume includes posh parties for Oprah Winfrey, the Atlantis Dubai and much more. The South African raised specialist has also offered his expertise to the CBS Early Show, Today Show and other media outlets. Now you too can incorporate his tips and tricks as he sits down with ELLE Decor to discuss foolproof entertaining ideas for the upcoming holidays.
Holiday (Decor)ating Tips
• Start with a color theme: red, brown and gold, white and silver, or purple with turquoise and lime. Use the colors for your invitation and decorations. Create vignettes—groupings of candles, ornaments, and flowers.
• For a dinner party, I set my table to the nines. One Thanksgiving, my theme was a secret garden, with moss and twigs at each place setting; or I’ll go contemporary, with glass, manzanita branches, and miniature white pumpkins.
• The artificial trees of today look so real, and you can reuse them next year. If you miss the scent, you can get fragrant candles that smell like pine. A tree should have at least 100 lights per foot. Try fresh flowers on a Christmas tree: Put red roses in test tubes and nestle them in the branches. Last year I did a turquoise tree and used green spider mums.
Five Entertaining Essentials
1. Serve a signature cocktail. Set up a drinks station with glasses and a beverage dispenser so guests can serve themselves. Or hire a mixologist—they’re rock stars these days.
2. Play great music. Don’t make it all about Santa. Take your best cocktail playlist and mix in about 20 percent holiday songs.
3. Set up food stations. I like charcuterie, smoked salmon and rye bread (with frozen vodka or aquavit), and one warm dish like turkey stew, chicken pot pie, or risotto. To serve, have a tray of espresso cups and spoons at the ready so people can have a taste.
4. Assemble a colorful guest list. Don’t always invite the same people. Mix it up.
5. Good lighting is a must. Not too bright; use dimmers. There’s no such thing as too many candles. Votives, pillars, tapers—use them everywhere.
• Today, we live in a much more casual society: Some people text, e-mail, or use Cocodot.com or Paperless Post to send out invitations, and all are fine. If you e-mail an invite, send it two weeks in advance so people can plan. As long as good taste prevails, you can do anything.
• At a seated dinner, I don’t do well with unexpected guests. I am to tabletop what Imelda Marcos is to shoes: I can’t resist buying a good plate. But even I don’t have 16 of everything.
• A guest makes an effort—dressing up, arriving on time, having something to say. So keep politics and religion out of it. Afterward, a timely flower arrangement, handwritten thank you, or phone call to the host gets big points.
Want to see more tips? Check out the ELLE Decor article, “Colin Cowie on Holiday Entertaining.”
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