How to Throw a Memorable Holiday Bash

From what to wear to what to serve, this guide delivers inspiration.


Published:

In many ways, entertaining is a numbers game.

How much room do you have? How many people do you want to invite? What’s your budget?

Before you start crunching numbers, come up with a vision of how you want your party to feel and function, says Cher Przelomski, CEO of Planning Factory International in Wilmington and Bermuda.

“It really goes to style,” she says. “How do you want to style your event?”

Ideally, begin planning your holiday bash three to six months in advance, she advises. Even in a pinch, it takes three to four weeks to put together a memorable party.

A formal, sit-down dinner requires more room than an event where people stand, mix and mingle.

“If you want to keep things moving, you might want to set up multiple bars and perhaps a few lounge areas,” she says.

Przelomski sees new life being infused into events as the economy recovers.

“People are dressing to the nines,” she says. “They are hiring musicians, magicians, comedians.”

Raise the bar a notch higher by using crystal and china rather than plastic and paper.

“Go for a great goblet and serve your wine in that, perhaps a bright ruby-red glass or black glasses,” she says. “If you are serving dinner, put out beautiful chargers and a great centerpiece.”

So how do you calculate what you need to stock the bar?

“You have to look at both how many people you are expecting and how long the party will last,” says Bob Kreston, owner of Kreston Wines and Spirits in Middletown and Wilmington. “That’s always important when you are trying to figure out total consumption.”

If you’re limiting the bar to wines, figure six glasses per bottle, or eight glasses for a toast. 

Cocktails have made a strong comeback, especially whiskey-based drinks.

“Bourbon, Scotch, ryes and Canadians are stronger than they have been in the past 30 years,” Kreston says. 

Hosts also are treating their guests to premium spirits.

“Tequila is an option as are single-malt Scotches, small-batch bourbons and craft spirits from very small distilleries,” he says.

Plan on offering at least two beers, a regular beer and a light beer for guests who are watching their waistlines. For large gatherings, consider ordering beer in half-kegs or quarter-kegs.

“Half a keg is seven cases of beer,” Kreston says. “It’s more economical, but you are limited to one type of beer, unless your party is so large that you need more than one keg.”

For aficionados of craft suds, consider growlers, which hold 64 ounces of beer.

“You can get a nice variety of draft beers that aren’t available in glass or cans,” he says. “It’s an expensive prospect for a large party but nice for a smaller get-together.”

 

Secrets of Event Planners

Think of holiday entertaining as an ice sculpture.

You want it to be sparkling, beautiful and perfectly shaped. You also want to avoid meltdowns. 

At Harry’s Savoy Ballroom in North Wilmington, Jenna Jackson, special events coordinator, helps hosts craft parties to suit the occasion and the guest list.

Should you reserve a large table at the restaurant? A private room? Or bring in a caterer to serve your guests at home? “We ask lots of questions,” she says. 

Your guest count, budget and enter-taining style will determine the answers.

“If you want to keep people mingling, if you want to keep people dancing, set up high tops,” Jackson recommends. “A buffet is very easy, and is great for picky eaters and people with dietary restrictions.”

That said, keep the preferences of your guests in mind. Senior citizens, for example, may have other expectations. “They want to sit down and have the food served to them,” Jackson says.

There’s more than one way to carve out a menu. Think prime rib at a sit-down event and beef tenderloin on a small sandwich roll for a mix-and-mingle party.

At the bar, many hosts are opting for a signature holiday drink, such as a poin-settia champagne cocktail or mulled wine. Other options include: a cash bar where the host pays for the bartender but not for the drinks; a bar where the host pays for beer, wine and sodas, but not spirits; an unlimited open bar; or an open bar, offering premium brand and deluxe options.

Harry’s also offers off-site catering services, an option that may or may not result in saving money.

“The hosts could provide their own alcohol and cheese trays, for example,” Jackson says. “Then again, there are additional fees the hosts will pay to cover the staff and equipment that are going off site.”

There’s also a trend toward mid-week holiday luncheons, says Kelly Connell, director of operations at Platinum Dining Group, the umbrella entity that oversees a catering division and four restaurants: Redfire Grill Steakhouse in Hockessin, Taverna in Newark and Capers & Lemons and Eclipse Bistro in Wilmington.

At the restaurants, the staff can put together selected menus for large dinner parties to accommodate friends, extended families and businesses groups.

“It might include two or three starters, three main courses and two desserts,” he says.

Catered events in private homes typ-ically involve one server for every 12-15 guests, chefs at various stations and a manager overseeing the staff.

“A lot of people like to do parties with heavy hors d’oeuvres and perhaps a few stations,” Connell says. “Artisanal cheese displays are a big trend, as are vegetarian options. Deviled eggs have become very popular.”

Increasingly, wish lists are including vegan options, such as tapas samplers, salads and flatbreads served buffet-style, says Polly Weir, director of conference services at University of Delaware Con-ference Services. 

“We’re also seeing more requests for gluten-free dishes,” she says.

UD offers four venues in three locations. Clayton Hall in Newark, the largest and most flexible space, can accommodate 400 guests and offers a piano for live music and sophisticated audio systems for recordings.

“If it’s a corporate party, they can pro-ject images of previous parties or people who work at the company,” she says.

In Wilmington, historic Goodstay Mansion can accommodate an average of 100 guests and Arsht Hall includes a theater in addition to meeting and entertainment space. Virden Retreat Center in Lewes offers various options for entertaining as well as 23 rooms for those who want to stay overnight.

Getting an early start is essential. 

“For a very large party, more than 200 people, it’s best to get your request in a year in advance because there are only three weekends in December and Friday is the most popular night,” Weir says. “We have professional event planners on staff who can get you exactly what you want.”

Dressing for the Holiday Party

The holidays are a time to sparkle on the social scene. Here is advice on ways to look your best from Janice Venema, who owns Lady’s Image boutique in North Wilmington with her sister, Jane Strobel:

DT: I’m hosting a large party and can’t decide what to wear. Where do I start?
JV: Your No. 1 concern has to be comfort so that you can be the best that you can be for your guests. Hostesses are looking for easy. Layering is a safe choice. Leggings or skinny pants, then a tunic over that, with a jacket over that, either cropped or tunic length. A fur vest would be fun.

DT: There are so many cocktail parties during the holidays. What is the appropriate attire?
JV: I call cocktail attire “smile clothes.” Beautiful pants. Tunics and statement jewelry. Metallic dresses that are shorter in length. 

DT: What about colors?
JV: Navy blue is the new black. And charcoal. Accent colors in emerald green, sapphire blue, ruby red. We also love a beautiful pale blue with a silver tone.

DT: What’s new in fall and winter fashion?
JV: Prints and florals. Usually, we see florals in spring and summer. This year, there are fabulous tapestry prints in florals for fall. We’re also showing lots of lace and open netting that kick it up a notch for the holidays. And much less beading. It’s a sprinkling here, a sprinkling there, not the all-over beading.

DT: Skirts versus pants?
JV: We are selling a ton of skirts and dresses. It’s fresh.

DT: What are great finishing touches?
JV: We are seeing a lot of bling in jewelry, an 18-inch necklace at the throat, a cascade of bracelets, larger earrings and multiple rings. With tunics, we are seeing longer necklaces, 30 inch and 36 inch, and never just one. We do see some sets, but the jewelry doesn’t necessarily need to match. In special-occasion bags, the most important thing is that the handbag accommodates a cellphone. A cute purse is the bow on the package.

DT: What is a must-have item for the holiday fashionista?
JV: She should have a coat or jacket that is appropriate for evening wear. You shouldn’t put a trench coat over your gown or cocktail dress. 

DT: What is this season’s go-to piece?
JV: A little metallic top that says “this is a special occasion” that you wear with a skirt or pants. Separates tend to be more forgiving of where we are on the weight scale than a fitted dress. 

Lady’s Image | 3910 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-7921, www.ladysimagefashions.com

 

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Cost: free

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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

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Website »

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Alexi Natchev: Prints and Drawings will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from May 4-25, 2018. A free opening reception to meet the artist will be held on Friday, May 4 from 5-7 p.m. Alexi...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
2nd Floor, Carvel State Office Building
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8283
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Try practicing yoga in a beautiful garden setting, strengthening your body and spirit. Our yoga class is open to all levels. We will practice slow, easy motions to get into the rhythm of nature....

Cost: $10

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Story Time Thursdays 10:30 - 11 a.m. Enjoy fun animal stories read by our own zoo story-telling team! Story time takes place in the otter circle, in the main zoo, and may include a craft,...

Cost: $7 - $0

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Telephone: 302-571-7747
Website »

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Charity Golf Event to benefit Children's Beach House A great way to start your Memorial Day weekend a day early! Make sure to register as a single golfer or register your foursome ahead of...

Cost: $225 Single Golfer / $900 Foursome

Where:
Peninsula on Indian River Bay
26937 Bay Farm Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Sponsor: The Ocean Atlantic Companies
Website »

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Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
Website »

More information

Join us on The Patio, voted Best Outdoor Dining by Delaware Today readers! Happy hour 4PM - 6:30PM, live entertainment 6PM - 9PM, local craft beer, handcrafted cocktails, creative gastropub menu,...

Cost: menu items vary

Where:
Hilton Christiana
100 Continental Dr.
Newark, DE  19713
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Relax and unwind after a long day with the Museum’s popular Happy Hour series. Enjoy live music on the terrace with friends or tour the galleries indoors. Special themed nights will be scheduled...

Cost: Museum galleries are open with free admission every Thursday from 4–8 pm

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

More information

  Join Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant as they open their doors to the public on May 24, 2018!  

Cost: Free

Where:
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
19815 Coastal Hwy
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
View map »


Sponsor: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

More information

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Alexi Natchev: Prints and Drawings will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from May 4-25, 2018. A free opening reception to meet the artist will be held on Friday, May 4 from 5-7 p.m. Alexi...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
2nd Floor, Carvel State Office Building
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8283
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
Website »

More information

  Join Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant as they open their doors to the public on May 24, 2018!  

Cost: Free

Where:
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
19815 Coastal Hwy
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
View map »


Sponsor: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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Sixth annual St. Catherine of Siena Community Garage Sale held in Church parking lot. One-stop shopping! Approximately 25 homes gather in one location to make your garage sale shopping...

Cost: $25/Consignors ONLY

Where:
St. Catherine of Siena Parish Parking Lot
2503 Centerville Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
View map »


Sponsor: St. Catherine of Siena
Telephone: 302-239-1699
Contact Name: Mary Gispert
Website »

More information

The 11th annual Artisans Fair, featuring unique handcrafted art objects, will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at Lord Baltimore Elementary School on Route 26 in Ocean View, DE. ...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lord Baltimore Elementary School
Route 26
Ocean View, DE  19970
View map »


Sponsor: South Coastal DE AARP Chapter
Telephone: 302-732-6336
Contact Name: Ida Crist
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
Website »

More information

Science Saturday – River Rangers River Rangers learn how to gauge the health of our local waterways by observing the variety of critters living in it. Visitors of all ages are invited to...

Cost: Activities are included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
Website »

More information

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