With Christmas and New Year’s Eve right around the corner, and Hanukkah already begun, we find ourselves both rejoicing and trying to navigate the frenzied hoopla of the holiday season. Yes, the plethora of dinners, cocktail parties and family get-togethers can be joyous, but, as anyone who has played host to one of these events knows, they can also be the root cause of a 12-day headache.

So, what’s the trick to avoiding party planning pains? Proper planning, silly.

When it comes to all things proper and the do’s and don’ts of social functions—party planning very much included—the local expert in our neck of the woods is Toronto’s own, Lisa Orr, chief etiquette and protocol consultant of Orr Etiquette.

Since 2013, Orr has quickly become one of Canada’s leading and most recognized (she’s a regular guest on The Social) etiquette experts, with a knowledge bank that lends itself to everything from instilling quality modern manners in little ones to sharing pregnancy faux pas, with those not warming a bun in the oven. (Watch this for more on the latter.)

As for her advice on creating a holiday event your guests are sure to be looking forward to again, come next December, that, she says, depends on “balancing form with function” when preparing your house and of course, “being partially psychic” when dealing with guests. It is also crucial to remember your role as a host. “In theory, the host is the only person who knows everyone, and it is the host’s responsibility to help their guests feel more at ease,” affirms the pro.

From Orr (whose consummate grace is the perfect accessory to her impeccable style) to you, we present a beginners guide to hosting the perfect holiday party.

All Photography Courtesy George Pimentel

Form & Function: Limit the setting to votive candle holders, informative place cards (hand scribed for a custom touch) and a small flower arrangement, that does not obscure the view of guests on the other side of the table. Opt to serve the food buffet style to keep the table clear and avoid having to fuss with removing centrepieces. Bonus: guests are able to eat uninterrupted and unbothered by passing the potatoes…again.



Form & Function: Be creative and put your own spin on timeless decorating ideas. Try placing garlands and evergreens around the fireplace for a warm and welcoming environment, dressed up in your personal favorite colours and themes. Go red flannel, winter wonderland, glitzy gold, or sleek ice blue. The choice is yours, but remember, stay consistent; a theme is a theme for a reason!



Form & Function: When you’re not playing host, show you’re appreciation with a perfectly wrapped hostess gift! Be mindful to package your gift with a tag saying who it is from, but try not to call attention to the gift itself, meaning, never ask the host to open your gift upon arrival. Also, it is best not to give fresh cut flowers; the host’s search for a vase can easily interfere with party duties, thereby interrupting the flow of the event. If you want to gift flowers, have them delivered the afternoon of the event instead, so the host has time to fit them into the party décor.



Form & Function: Feel free to enforce a no phone policy at the dinner table, or at the party as a whole. Place a few instant cameras (we recommend the Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 70) around the party to keep your guests off their phones, but still snap happy, and help everyone stay in the moment, while interacting with friends at the party, rather than faraway Instagram “likers.” Encourage your guests to mingle.


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