Cher Przelomski has been a trendsetter in entertaining for more than 30 years, designing dazzling table settings, fanciful themes and game plans that ensure parties progress flawlessly.
The founder and CEO of the Planning Factory in Wilmington, Delaware, Przelomski takes the guesswork and scut work out of hosting. She and her daughter Lindsay Barnett are experts in creating memorable celebrations, offering tips to those who want to rev up their party prowess at home for the holidays.
“We are getting back to what we knew before COVID, that you can have a table for 10 or less that is wonderful, as long as you include all the important elements,” she says.
For this pro, that includes creating an aura of abundance with multiple items as centerpieces.
“It could be a combination of florals and candlesticks of varying shapes and sizes, layered with gold- or silver-sprayed fruit or vegetables, with twigs,” she says. “Artichokes make great candle holders, especially when set on a farm table.”
Bring out the best silver, china and crystal. Set out multiple glasses for sparkling, red and white wines.
“Always have something unexpected, such as a Lucite cutout of each guest’s name on a cardholder set at the top of a plate. It’s a nice keepsake your guests can take home,” she says.
For a spectacularly sparkling table, Przelomski suggests covering the top with a huge mirror.
“If you can’t do a full mirror tabletop, you can get a similar effect by using smaller mirrored tiles to create a large center area, or, for a twist, get 6-inch mirrors and use them as bread plates,” she says.
Even before the pandemic, Tonda Parks enjoyed entertaining outdoors during the winter months.
She and her husband Joe are accomplished hosts who have transformed their 1-acre yard in Dover, Delaware, into an open-air party venue. Over the years, the Parks home has been the setting for several large-scale celebrations and fundraisers, including an al fresco soirée to benefit the CenDel Foundation, which fosters philanthropy in Central Delaware.
For a New Year’s Eve party, they filled a clawfoot tub with bottles of Champagne and white wine. On nippy nights, heating towers are stationed on the patio. Because it gets dark outside early during the winter holidays, lighting is important. Parks stations table lamps outdoors, many of which she finds at Goodwill. She places a clear glass plate inside each shade to protect the bulb and socket from snow and sleet. She recently added a solar-powered chandelier to her outdoor entertaining area.
“I can’t wait to see it in the snow,” she says.
Parks also sets big baskets of blankets out on the deck so guests can bundle up as they gather around a fire table and make s’mores.
When interior designer Mike Dodson of Wilmington, Delaware, plans a party, he looks for opportunities to free up room for guests to mingle. On chilly December nights, he encourages hosts to keep stocks of beer and wine on a deck or back porch, where it stays cold without the need for large coolers that require lots of ice and gobble up floor space.
“I like to place a signature service bar in a prominent spot. For one party, we brought in a machine than made ice snowballs, which we doused with limoncello for a fun signature cocktail,” he says.
For a holiday event in Trolley Square, he pulled together textured and natural elements—pine cones, burlap, wooden platters and evergreens—to create rustic vignettes illuminated by twinkling white lights and lots of candles.
Mother Nature didn’t provide a natural dusting of white, so Dodson used spray-on snow to frost a sled, skis and snow shovel stationed by the front door.
Interior designer Kate FitzGerald-Wilks of Timeless Design in Landenberg, Pennsylvania, suggests taking inspiration from your existing color scheme in decking the halls for your holiday party.
“Incorporating seasonal décor that supports your home rather than sticking with the traditional—and often clashing— red-and-green theme will lend an air of sophistication,” she says. “Shimmery metallics and twinkly fairy lights are great choices, as they are both eye-catching and festive. Bring in fresh greens for the mantel and tabletops for a natural, classic touch.”
FitzGerald-Wilks’ vision of the perfect tree is simple, elegant and cohesive.
“If you love the outdoors, large pine cones and feathers are great,” she says. “If you love the beach, jewel-encrusted shells, beachy colors and sand dollars are great accents. Just keep in mind that these themes would be difficult to merge. Don’t leave out the sentimental pieces, but also remember that the more dissimilar pieces you try to incorporate, the less cohesive your tree becomes.”