Dig deep, think big and put on a super seasonal spectacle that your guests will never forget

You can spend all of December bemoaning the fact that you just can’t get into the spirit of things, or you can take the reindeer by the antlers and organise an unforgettable Christmas party that is guaranteed to banish your inner Scrooge once and for all. It will dent the wallet and it might go on so late that your guests only start leaving when the sun comes up, but if you want to do it properly, our experts will show you how...

Setting the Scene

“I’m not a fan of trends,” says leading London event planner Mark Niemierko, “and I think the best party you’ll have will reflect your personality and your space. So start by asking yourself how you can showcase your home.” Essentials, he says, are an abundance of candles, and paying close attention to lighting. Next: think how your home could be broken down into different areas. “What might work in an amazing Victorian Chelsea house would be a baby grand piano in the living room with someone playing White Christmas; it would be quite mellow and lovely,” says Mark. “And then you could go through into a marquee with a huge, long table and a kind of industrial feel you might see in Hoxton, mixed with a woodland, rustic look. So it has a cool, city edge to it, rather than trying do a whimsical Somerset thing in the middle of Chelsea.” From there, he suggests, guests could go into another room with an over-the-top glitter ball theme.

Flowers are naturally going to feature, and in-demand London florist Nikki Tibbles at Wild At Heart says that as well as anemones (“a gorgeous winter flower which comes in a beautiful array of colours to suit any home”), and the delightfully-scented paperwhite, seasonal foliage is a winner. “You can easily create a festive mantelpiece using pine branches and then layering holly, preserved eucalyptus, cinnamon sticks, pine cones and other Christmas foliage,” she says.

Wild At Heart – whose flagship store on Pimlico Road looks after clients including Apple and the National Gallery – will make a bespoke one for you if you’re pressed for time. For the extra wow factor, why not plump for a gorgeous bespoke garland running down the staircase? “We love to create these with lots of naturally-scented things, such as star anise, lavender and dried orange slices,” says Nikki. “They help create the perfect Christmas atmosphere.”

If you’re set on having a specific Christmas theme, Mark reckons that a period vibe (and the obligatory fancy dress it inspires) is always a fun option, while Ruth Lawton-Owen at luxury London party planners The Admirable Crichton has a more off-the-wall suggestion: Scandinavian geek chic. “Ask guests to wear traditional Scandinavian knits and give everyone a reindeer lolly when they arrive. Whatever you do, if you’re going to theme your party, be brave and go all-out.”

A final thought on planning: build expectation on social media, says Mark: “Give your event a hashtag and tell people about your flower appointment, then take a subtle, suggestive shot of the tree and put it on Instagram. You can use all the Instagrams and make a thank-you card afterwards.”

Food & Drink

Mulled wine and a spicy punch are definitely worth investigating – neither have quite descended into naffness just yet – though Mark reckons that you could do things differently by serving well-presented mulled wine shots. “Just make sure you use great wine,” adds Fabrizio Russo, food and beverage manager at five-star Kensington hotel, The Milestone. “The better the wine, the better the end product.” Alternatively, he suggests greeting your guests with Champagne – not one of the lighter summery ones, but something bold and spicier, like a vintage Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame, which is Fabrizio’s personal recommendation for a Christmas soirée. “It’s also good with food, which some people will appreciate as they can continue with it throughout the night,” he points out.

For the ultimate in showmanship, learn how to slice the top off your Champagne bottles with a sword.

It’s an ancient art called ‘sabrage’ and The Milestone runs classes to show people how to do it.

When it comes to food, if you want to start with canapés, Ruth at The Admirable Crichton recommends something classic like duck and orange parfait with cranberry jelly and a crispy sage leaf or, for those with a sweet tooth, a molecular Christmas pudding spoon with a Grand Marnier sphere. Yuda Galis, founder of London-based personal chef service Galor, suggests spinach and ricotta filo with tzatziki sauce, or pumpkin soup served in espresso cups. Guests love nibbles at the start of a party, so be creative.

When it comes to the sit-down meal, Yuda likes to add a little twist to the traditional. “Our clients generally want our chefs to design menus that have the ‘usual suspects’ but with that extra bit of flare to make it special,” he says. “So we use a lot of fresh herbs as well as spices like paprika, turmeric and cumin seeds that go well with turkey.” A winning sample menu, he suggests, could be:

To start: Hot foie gras with confit of peach and Marsala sauce

Main course: Crispy duck with caramelised orange sauce, beetroot purée, chestnuts and confit of shallots

Dessert: Figs cooked in red wine and cloves with a vanilla ice cream

One tip of Yuda’s is to keep things on the lighter side by adding very small, elegant salads between courses. If you want to turn the traditional sit-down meal on its head, Mark advises on a grazing table. “Not a buffet – definitely not a buffet!” he exclaims. “It’s more a place where you can go back and try different dishes, each served with its own little fork, rather than lining up with a tray.” If you’re getting a chef in to cook expect to pay around £30-£50 per head to cover food, plus an additional £600-£1,000 or so for chefs for a party of 25 guests.

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