Before your friends and family come over and gather around your table, there are a few tips and tricks that will take your party to the next level. Beyond what you’re serving, there are countless other items to take into consideration like your playlist, tablescape, lighting and more.

This year, don’t fall victim to the often-forgotten, but oh so important, elements that ensure you have the best holiday party of the year!

Here’s our guide of all of the things you shouldn’t overlook this year, curated by our party planning experts at Lettuce Parties and Gem Catering and Events plus design tips from our interior design team.

table enterpiece with candles and greenery

Table Decor

While the turkey is the star of the table, don’t overlook table decorations. Our interior design team has given their favorite table decor tips that don’t require purchasing a pricey centerpiece. Hint: you can buy your Giuliana Prosecco & centerpieces at Target.

table centerpiece for thanksgiving

Pumpkin Versatility

Flower Vase: Use a pumpkin or any other gourd as a flower vase. Cut a circle at the top around the stem base, hollow it out, wipe down the interior and let dry overnight — even paint it if you wish. Grab dried flowers and branches or fresh seasonal florals and arrange it inside for a unique and fun conversation piece.
Mini Pumpkin Place Cards
: Another fun project to keep the kids busy is creating hand-painted place cards. Grab one paint to draw the name, and another as a background color if you wish. Allow to dry overnight.
Centerpiece: Mix in mini pumpkins with not-too-floral flowers and greenery for an easy and bright table statement!

Golden Leaves
It is fall so why not get outside with the kids? Have the little ones help collect all of the best dried leaves on the ground and spray paint them with gold spray paint. Lay them across the table in place of a table runner, add some candelabras and votives and voilá!

White Candles, Fall Greenery
Grab a mix of different height candles — we like to stick to ivory to complement fresh greens, but you can use any color, just stick to one color palette — and pick your greens. Arrange the garland loosely around the candles. Always go for unscented candles and light them an hour before your guests arrive so you get a nice warm glow in the room. A few ideas for easy greenery from our design team:

Extra Herbs: have some extra rosemary, sage, basil, dill, thyme or parsley left over from cooking? Pick the best looking stems and tuck them into the napkins for an extra hint of green.

Backyard Greenery: first, head outside to see what mother nature has to offer. Grab a few fresh leaves from bushes or small branches, brush off the dirt and run them down the center of the table for the perfect fall touch.

Butcher Paper Table Runner
Head to the craft store and buy a roll of brown craft paper and make your own table runner! Use your favorite stamp on it or grab some paint and cut a potato in half to use as a stamp and make a fun, rustic runner. Grab some markers and make a faux placemat with everyone’s name. Put some crayons out on the table for the little ones to keep them entertained throughout the meal. Bonus: clean up is a breeze!


Around the Room

Now that you’ve set the table let’s take a look at the room. Kiran Pinto, Managing Partner of The Ivy RoomLettuce Parties and Special EventsGem Catering and Events and the Interior Design team gives us their top tips for setting the mood for your party, from lighting and scents to entertainment for your guests.

Mood Lighting
Say it with us: no harsh lighting. Everyone looks, and more importantly, feels better and more comfortable in a room with proper lighting. Experiment with different floor and table lamps, trying different combinations until you find your light. Avoid harsh halogen and LED lights by replacing with warm tone bulbs, like antique or Edison bulbs which are quite cost efficient (like this pack of six from Amazon).

Fall is in the Air
Mulling some spices for wine and have some extra? Throw them on the stove and steep them, allowing your home to fill up with the warm baking spices of the season.

Photo Booth
Create a make-shift photo booth station right in your living room! Grab some fun holiday props — hats, tinsel, oversized candy canes — and leave a Polaroid camera or throw out some old school disposable cameras.

santa eating cookies

Live Music & Entertainment
Really up the ante on your holiday party with live entertainment! Depending on the mood, have a piano player come in or set up karaoke with holiday tunes…and plenty of mulled wine. Or, have some upbeat carolers or a surprise visit from Santa for the kids. Get inspired by the interactive events our parties team curates!


The Takeaways

It is the season of giving, so encourage your guests to participate so everyone goes home with a little something!

Give Back
We’re lucky so let’s give back. Have guests bring old, untarnished winter wear (hats, mittens, scarves) or even space blankets and hand warmers, and donate them to a local homeless shelter or coat drive. Warm your soul while warming the community.

Gift Exchange
Have all guests bring over a gift within a reasonable price point and set them up on a table. Have a classic white elephant gift exchange or draw tickets raffle-style and each person gets to choose their gift or steal a gift — let the fun begin!!

cookies on a table with gift cards scattered throughout

Goodie Bags
Who doesn’t like an old-fashioned goodie bag full of holiday treats? Make some themed sugar cookies and trinkets for the kid and bottles of wine for the adults, and don’t forget the Lettuce Gift Cards! Pssst, get a FREE $25 Holiday Bonus for every $100 in Lettuce Gift Cards you buy – click here to purchase your gift cards.

The Tunes

The crux of any good party is music. Take a page from our restaurant’s book who tailor their music to the occasion.

Family coming into town? Put on this playlist inspired by the tunes from R.J. Grunts. Our first restaurant opened its doors on June 10, 1971 – when rock and roll and blue-eyed soul ruled the airwaves. This playlist is bound to bring back memories while you make new ones. All you’ve got to do is press play and let the good times roll.

Hosting something a little more formal? If your party planning involves welcome martinis and a dress code, try our playlist based on the music at il Porcellino, our Italian-American restaurant in River North. A mix of old school crooners and doo-wop hits from the 1950s, these tracks are also the perfect soundtrack for a romantic evening. Tip your hat to Frank and Dino for this one!

Now that you’ve got your tunes, takeaways and decor covered, take a peek at our Friendsgiving guide.