How To Throw A Great Christmas Dinner Party

SLIDESHOW: Gloria Starr: “At the centre of this most festive occasion is the Christmas table. I always decorate my Christmas table to liven the heart while rejoicing in the holiday and the spirit of gift giving."

Three wise experts share the secret to throwing the most memorable celebration of the festive season.

The festive season is here, which means one thing: parties. If you are hosting, you may be anticipating and dreading this in equal measure.

Formal entertaining can be a minefield, particularly at Christmas. How do you discourage guests turning up in Christmas jumpers, and what colour scheme is appropriate without being cliché?

Help is at hand. Billionaire has called on three expert party planners from Asia, Europe and the US, to provide their essential tips for the ultimate Yuletime shindig.

Grace Leo, A Touch of Grace, London/New York

Leo is a renowned hotelier and design expert who this year launched ‘A Touch of Grace’, a Hong Kong-based lifestyle platform to bring European savoir faire to an Asian audience.

“At the centre of this most festive occasion is the Christmas table.

“To decorate ahead of a party, a colour theme is essential. For me, the colours of Christmas are snowy whites, shimmering golds, or the deep, sensuous reds of an antique Christmas tree ornament on a real fir tree. Christmas colours and smells make some of my most nostalgic childhood memories.

“To lay the table, first I spread a golden-threaded tablecloth laden with gold-plated forks and knives, and pairs of latticework golden chopsticks for culinary and cultural diversities. These are placed beside lusciously red French dinner plates. Dotting my table here and there, you will find all kinds of bangles and baubles made from gemstones, platinum or gold. And, at the table’s centre, what could be more symbolic than the most ordinary but eternal of Christmas flowers: big and beautiful deep-red poinsettias, in a studied cluster?

“But my Christmas table is only complete when there are some small and refined presents waiting to be discovered by each one of my guests. Placed in the centre of each person’s plate is a small golden gift box beautifully wrapped; I offer a little trinket for each man or woman invited for this special occasion. I offer this little present as an expression of my appreciation of being surrounded by loved ones and cherished friends.

Gloria Starr, gloriastarr.com, California

Gloria Starr is an etiquette coach who runs modern-day finishing schools around the world. As a specialist in table manners and savvy social skills, she has advised Royal Family members and blue-chip CEOs from the Middle East and Far East.

‘To host a memorable party, pre-planning is key. I always hire one or two waiting staff to serve beverages, food and tidy up after the party. Be fully prepared and ready for guests 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled time. But I like to do most of the party details personally, as I take great pleasure from creating magic in the décor and food.

“The first step is to design and send invitations. The anticipation of the party begins the moment the guests receive the invitation. Create a beautiful invitation and, if possible, send it by post. Mailing an invitation has a wonderful effect on the guests as so few people send out written invitations. (Yes, an email invitation with graphics to set the tone is acceptable as your second choice.) Request an RSVP from your guests by email, phone or post. Always specify the suggested attire in your invitations. Most people love to dress up, so create your festive party with a memorable theme.

“As for guests, I like to select an eclectic group with a few new faces and personalities, which makes for great conversation.

“Second, create a theme and colour scheme for the party. I believe in understated elegance, incorporating all five senses — visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory — to wow your guests.

“My personal colour choice for the holiday festive party is gold or turquoise and purple with white candles. Tableware is usually a white tablecloth and white napkins with a sheer layer of turquoise fabric, alternating with a white napkin with a purple sheer fabric for each guest and a gold napkin ring. I use white China with gold trim.

“I always use flowers, but there are two things to bear in mind. Table décor arrangements should either be low or very high, so the guests can see each other to interact effectively, and table flowers should not be fragrant. The smells should be from the food while dining. Other flower arrangements can be fragrant in other areas of the home. I personally like to decorate the outside entrance of my home from the area where guests will park their cars, up the walkway and at the front door. I also use a candlelight effect in lanterns along the walkway leading to the front door.

“It is the small details that will make you and your party the most memorable of the season.”

Elaine Kim, Milk and Honey Event Design, Singapore

A palliative doctor by day, and an event planner extraordinaire by night, Elaine Kim is known for her stunning dinner parties and whimsical events. After having two children, her passion for parties led her to start Milk and Honey, an event-design company.

‘The secret behind a good party is to think about the people, so the guest list is very important. You need to create a mix of individuals who have synergy and whom you think will get along with one another.

“Don’t stress about the party and enjoy the process. For example, if you enjoy cooking then do it by all means but, if you don’t, there’s nothing wrong with working with a caterer. Choose the elements of the planning that you enjoy and concentrate on those. You don’t have to do everything yourself.

“When it comes to creating a festive party, choose foods that are associated with Christmas. Personally, I tend to go with traditional Christmas food such as roast turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce, or roast lamb or beef served with truffle mash and vegetables. Décor-wise, putting holly and mistletoe on each plate instantly gives it a festive feel. I always have a beautiful Christmas tree in the dining room too. One of my favourite things to do is to have a hot cocoa bar with marshmallows, silver baubles and little candy canes in each mug. Alcohol is key at a good party, so have eggnog with plenty of rum on standby. Champagne is always a good fallback.”

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SLIDESHOW: Gloria Starr: “At the centre of this most festive occasion is the Christmas table. I always decorate my Christmas table to liven the heart while rejoicing in the holiday and the spirit of gift giving."

Party People

Dinner setting by Gloria Starr, gloriastarr.com, California

Dinner setting by Gloria Starr, gloriastarr.com, California

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Party People

Grace Leo, A Touch of Grace, London/New York

Grace Leo, A Touch of Grace, London/New York

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Party People

Elaine Kim, Milk and Honey Event Design, Singapore

Elaine Kim, Milk and Honey Event Design, Singapore

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