If you’re new here, I’m Brenna Gilbert, your cruise director. I throw events for a living. I’ve spent the last 15 years traveling the world, planning events and unreal brand experiences in 15 countries across 4 continents— bringing brands to life for customers in wild and immersive ways.
I run Feste and Champers Social Club, bringing together the best of hospitality under one roof. From full-service event design and product to luxury party products to custom florals, Feste offers a one-stop solution for the modern host, No Occasion Necessary. Champers Social Club is a Champagne Bar, All-Day Café, and boutique event space, located in the heart of Soho.
I’ve spent the last few months helping our guests plan and execute great holiday events, and I wanted to share some of our best (Feste?) practices with you for a flawless, effortless holiday season.
Top Five Tips for Easy Holiday Hosting:
Embrace what makes this time of year unique.
I usually spend the holiday season as a bon vivant. Entertaining. Traveling. Hosting. Dining out. Staying out. I’ve never liked the idea that winter was a season of deprivation. It has always seemed incredibly antithetical to me that in the darkest, longest days, the days where we most need contact, comfort, connection, that we should go into hibernation. This is my prime dinner party season. This is peak game night period. Book club? Check. Movie night? I’m ready. Trudge in the snow with hot apple cider? Cook paella by the open fire while dressed in our vintage furs? I’m there. Holiday soirée? Sign me up.
I like to focus on comfort while entertaining this season. Thinking about what really feeds the soul and encourages lingering over the table and conversations with glasses of wine.
Consider the elements.
Entertaining in the winter as all about the details. Double check that the timers on your exterior lights have been adjusted for daylight savings time (I know I just changed mine over, one month late), so that everything is lit when guests arrive to navigate your path.
If it’s icy, make sure you salt, but not so much that party shoes are at risk of ruin. A discrete matt and some easily available salt wipes when people enter will protect your floors (and their dressy shoes!) and encourage people to kick off any excess.
Always make sure you have somewhere designated for coats. It’s nice to clear space and hangers in your own coat closet or coat rack so it’s easy for guests to grab them on their own. Don’t have the space? Designate an area they can leave them, but make sure it’s clear where they are. Sometimes people need to grab personal items, and they prefer not to always ask the host.
The extra mile? If you’re in a chilly climate, as guests are grabbing their things, pop out and start their cars for them so it will be nice and toasty when they get in.
Embrace the activity.
While I love a boozy soirée—Hello, we own a champagne bar—I love to get people together around an activity. One of my favorites? Get people involved in the decorating. Making orange pomanders is an easy, inexpensive seasonal activity that can be done around a coffee table. A few oranges, some cloves, and you’re ready to go. Your home will smell divine afterwards.
Take the party outside!
So many of us saw restaurants innovate with moving to outdoor dining in chilly months last year, but some really missed the mark on true comfort or style. I like to think first that you’re not trying to replicate the indoor experience. Celebrate what makes dining al fresco fun! Innovate with playful seating—think faux fur throws for a glamping tail gate or rustic benches around the fire. Make sure there’s a basket handy with extra hats, gloves, and scarves for your friends who under-dressed.
I love an afternoon event to take advantage of the soft winter light. A few lanterns or hurricanes with oversized candles give great ambiance at all times of day. Quickly knock out your décor with easy large cut evergreen branches in a couple large vessels or tuck some flowering branches in your outdoor urns. I also love to style a few unexpected early spring’s forced bulbs to my table top—snow drops are my favorite for centerpiece scale and you can tuck them in your beds for next year.
For my menu? A showpiece dish cooked a la Francis Mallmann is a crowd pleaser. I love to do easy bacon wrapped scallops in a cast iron pan or hot toddy’s heated directly over the flames. Anything that gets people gathering round and warming their hands is great. I also think about food that will fill you up and keep your hands warm while dining al fresco. Everyone is happy with a hearty bowl of stew and a glass of white Burgundy.
Pro-tip, chill your champagne and cocktails in the snow. I like a whole martini bar just styled in the snowbank.
Lean into easy.
There’s a lot to do at the holidays. The biggest mistake I see people make is overthinking the holiday table. I think the impulse to buy all new or to do something wildly elaborate is wrong. My approach? Layering a few seasonal accents or holiday favorites into classic and heirloom pieces I have and love. Focus on textures and unexpected pops of color to keep it from feeling too traditional. Function is important—your goal is a space that people can still gather and linger.
Shop a few of our favorites for easy holiday style below.
Some colorful glasses from our friends at Estelle are the perfect addition to your holiday table top. Their evergreen colors ensure that you'll love them year round.
A team favorite, these oversized brass candles, hand poured and in seasonal scents from Lodestone, make both a perfect hostess gift and a holiday accent. One for them, one for you.
Surprise balls! A perfect addition to a table, to a stocking, to a gift bag. Unwrap the fun.
We love this collection of taper holders from Sir/Madam. Soft turned wood and in a great variety of heights—mix and match to build your perfect table scape.