The do’s and don’ts of holiday entertaining

Susan Vang-Xiong, owner of Circle of Events, an event planning business in Fresno, sits in her showroom, which features examples of items her company rents out to clients.
Susan Vang-Xiong, owner of Circle of Events, an event planning business in Fresno, sits in her showroom, which features examples of items her company rents out to clients. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Everyone enjoys a great holiday party. Festive music, delicious food and a chance to enjoy the company of friends and family. But ask anyone who has ever thrown a successful party and they will tell you: It takes thought, patience and planning.

So to help you make the most of your holiday party plans, we consulted several experts to come up with a list of do’s and don’ts for creating a memorable event.


First and foremost, event planners say, select a date that won’t conflict with people’s holiday family plans. The closer you get to the holidays, the harder it is for people to attend, says Susan Vang-Xiong, owner of Circle of Events in Fresno. “You don’t want people to feel pressured,” Vang-Xiong said.

Pick a theme, or colors that you want to be part of your decor and even your invitation. “There are so many holiday theme options, from holiday glam to ugly Christmas sweater,” said Nicole Ashjian, partner at Plush Events in Fresno.

For a fancier dinner party, paper invitations are almost a must. It helps set the tone for your event, says Annie Foreman, author the lifestyle blog The Real Housewife of Fresno. If it’s a more casual get-together, an online invitation is fine.

Create a guest list. How many people you invite will determine whether you will need the services of a caterer or personal chef. And while lots of people enjoy cooking, be careful about spending too much time in the kitchen and not with your friends or family.

Figure out what type of food you will serve and note it on the invitation. Tiffanie Lords Jensen, owner of Your Inspired Event in Fresno, says there are several options, including heavy appetizers, sit-down dinner, dessert and drinks, or a potluck. “Tailor the start time of your party to the type of food you will be serving,” Jensen said.

Serve beverages people will enjoy. If your guests enjoy a cocktail, wine or beer, then serve it. Creating one or two signature drinks is also a fun idea, says Ashjian. And it gives you a chance to tie it into your theme.

Be willing to ask for help, including asking guests to bring a special dessert or appetizer. “Friends and family always want to know how they can help,” Vang-Xiong said. “Let them know what they can bring.”

Party games are a good idea to help break the ice. And no, beer pong is not an acceptable holiday party game.

Create a cool playlist on sites like Spotify, a digital music service, to get your guests in the holiday spirit.


Do not send a mass text. An electronic invitation is appropriate for casual events.

Don’t be distracted by technology, Ashjian says. Put your phone away, socialize, network and be in the moment.

Don’t forget to mention what is proper attire for the occasion.

Don’t invite guests at dinner time and only serve appetizers.

At an office party, don’t drink too much, stick with your office dress code policy, and be mindful of what you post on social media. “It’s always best to ask someone’s permission before taking a picture of them,” said Tiffany Smith Nielsen, a business etiquette expert. “Be thoughtful of other people and what they are comfortable with.”

Nielsen also suggests avoiding discussions on hot-button topics such as politics, religion or sex. “It’s best to leave that for another time,” she said.

If you can avoid it, no red Solo cups. “No,” said Vang-Xiong. “Just no.” There are much better choices at party stores.

Don’t break the bank by trying to make your home look like something out of a magazine. To cut costs on decor, Vang-Xiong says you can uses candles of varying sizes and group them together. If you have a wall mirror, place it on a table and put the candles on it for an added effect.

And don’t lose sight of the reason of why you are gathering. “Don’t worry so much about the colors and if everything goes together,” Vang-Xiong said. “The holidays are for getting together with friends and loved ones.”

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob