Photography by Abigail Malone Photography
Florals by Colby West Design
Styling by Whitney Bowman Events
Venue Marblegate Farm
I love the holiday season! I revel in planning every detail. Christmas cards, decorations and gift wrap, party attire, menus and entertaining are a few of my favorite things to obsess over. Needless to say, I am all in and know preparing for the holidays can quickly go from thrilling to stressful. As an event planner, I have learned that preparation and organization are the keys to not only surviving, but actually enjoying the festivities. Read on to see my Top Ten preparations for hosting my friends and family during the most wonderful time of the year.
The Perfect Card
Ideally, start thinking about your holiday card prior to November. Do you already have a photo you love or do you need to hire a photographer and plan outfits? If hiring a photographer, share a card design that you have in mind to establish the orientation of the photos and where the text needs to fall. Thelen Wright takes our pictures annually and this helps our kids to be more relaxed as they know her and how she works. Abigail Malone is another favorite family photographer. As for cards, The Happy Envelope and Wallace Paper Company have excellent options and you can support our local businesses. If the speed of online ordering is more your style, Minted and Shutterfly never disappoint.
Mark Your Calendar
Put on your calendar as soon as you know which holiday events you will host and which you will attend, as well as those that require your assistance.
Make a List. . .
As November begins, gather family recipes, make a shopping list for gifts, decorations and events. Contact your baker or caterer if you need to order appetizers or desserts. Simon Hall Private Chef and Nancy Kendrick with Creative Catering have the most delicious appetizers you can just pick up and serve. Our family loves Ham’N Goodys’ five flavor pound cake for Thanksgiving and Christmas morning breakfasts.
Bring Out the Old and New
Go through your decorations and discard what is no longer usable or outdated. Remember local charities gratefully accept unused décor, gifts and attire. I try to add an item or two to my collection and purchase a few new ornaments each year. HomeGoods and Hobby Lobby have great ornaments and decorations. If you are looking for a collectible or a high-end piece, consider shopping at The Glass Bazaar here in Knoxville. They also have the best hostess gifts and holiday scented candles!
***Neatly label and store crates to make clean-up more efficient after the holiday***
Faux Christmas Tree. . .or the Real Thing
I place my artificial décor over Thanksgiving weekend and live décor the second week of December so it will last throughout the season. Purchasing artificial trees, wreaths and garlands prior to Thanksgiving allows you to put up your decorations over the long weekend and are often discounted at Lowes and Target. If you wish to use fresh decorations, plan to set them up around events you are hosting. Mayo’s Garden Center has two locations with trees, wreaths and garlands in every size and shape. Sweet Pea is another great choice for live greenery. Don’t forget to look in your own yard. Magnolia and holly berry can be a girl’s best friend when making garlands, enhancing your manger scene or arranging a table centerpiece. Many people love the look of decorations, but hate the hassle. Samuel Franklin Florist and Colby West Designs will come to your home and decorate so that you can pass on the dirty work. They book up quickly, so call well in advance.
Use this opportunity to repair that sticky door jamb or a leaky faucet in the kitchen. Schedule home repairs and refreshing early on so your home will be in tip-top shape for your guests.
. . .And Check It Twice
As December approaches, make a detailed list of what you have not yet accomplished and set a goal date to complete. I try to have all shopping done, or at least planned due to a sale, by the first week in December. Place any orders with bakers and caterers.
Begin wrapping when all your gifts are purchased. I set aside a whole day to wrap as it is arduous and time-consuming. It makes for a long day, but that sense of completion and seeing the fruits of my labor is amazing. My family loves to help place the gifts under our tree and guess what is inside. Beautiful gift wrap that matches your theme and décor helps to enhance holiday spirit.
By mid-December, make your grocery and spirits run. I am always amazed how quickly basic items sell out, such as sausage, pie shells and stuffing mix. Don’t forget to buy extra trash bags and paper goods.
Think about old and new family traditions you wish to incorporate this year. Some of ours include baking family recipes handed down from generation to generation. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, my daughter and I make our family dressing recipe and trust me, it is divine! (See recipe below.) On Wednesday, we make Grandmother Louise’s chocolate and pumpkin pie recipe. As for Christmas, we celebrate Christmas Eve at my house and Christmas Brunch is at my parents’. We look forward to the same menu every year. By December 23rd, I recommend preparing any dishes that can be refrigerated and heated later to decrease your workload and allow you to enjoy your guests more come Christmas. In our house everyone has a job, which they actually look forward to, so that all of us can say we participated in making the celebration great. My mother, my daughter and myself, along with our lifelong friends Judy and Ella, cook at the same time and place every year. The gentlemen set up the bar, prepare and serve cocktails. Siblings and children help clear the table and with clean up. Establishing duties helps make the flow of your celebration seamless and more enjoyable for all.
The magic of the season really can remain with you throughout with the proper organization and planning. I wish each of you many blessings and the most enjoyable holiday season ever!