The Ultimate Guide To Holiday Entertaining

It’s not every day you can get an incredible interior designer’s take on all things holiday entertaining. We chatted with Bronson Van Wyck on everything that’ll get you holiday-hosting-ready, from greeting your guests at the start of the evening to seeing them off at the end of the night. Looking to entertain this weekend? You came to the right place.

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Three essential tips for throwing a holiday dinner party…

1. Greet your guests with a warm smile and a stiff drink. If budget allows, place a server or pitcher of brandy punch at your door to quench your guest’s thirst upon arrival.

2. Stock your bar and set it up deep within the space and far from the entrance. It’s also helpful if the host positions himself away from the door. You want to draw your guests in and avoid a bottleneck at the entrance.

3. Keep it natural. Invest in some fresh greenery that looks festive and gives your home some color and a fresh fragrance of the season. I love lining tables and mantles with garlands of cedar, eucalyptus, juniper and pine. Don’t be intimidated by floral arrangements and go with greens instead. Store bought potted amaryllis will also do the trick.

What are three perfect numbers of guests? 

In order: 1, 18 (the most I can fit around my table), and 350.

The ultimate faux pas as a host/hostess…

Never let them see you sweat. The most important element of a good party is a host who’s enjoying himself. Your friends are there to see you having fun. If you’re not, it shows. If you are, everything else can be forgiven.

The ultimate faux pas as a guest…

No one likes a tardy guest. Never be more than fifteen minutes late.

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Tips for seating your guests…

Oscar Wilde always said he liked men with a future and women with a past. This is a very good place to start. And because most people are either talkers or listeners (only the rarest individual is both, and they get invited everywhere), it’s good to think about that ratio as well.

For an intimate dinner, what’s the ideal flower and candle arrangement? 

Keep arrangements low, so your guests can see each other across the table. Use candles at different heights – low votives and eye level taper candles so the table glows at every glance.

How can one spice up their centerpieces? 

Incorporate some of your family traditions or a collection. The table is the perfect place to showcase a collection of Christmas bells or a group of arrowheads found over the years on my farm in Arkansas.

What are some easy go-to appetizers to put out? 

Candied bacon, spicy nuts, ham biscuits – anything salty. It inspires your guests to drink more and that always starts the party off right.

What are good gifts for each guest?

Send your guests home with some mistletoe. This time of year is all about love, and maybe a little mischief.

What’s a good gift for your hostess? 

I love to give the host a Bloody Mary basket complete with everything you need to whip up a strong one the morning after. Don’t forget to include your favorite vodka and pickled garnishes with a bottle of your favorite mix (mine is Arrowhead Farms Hellfire Bloody Mary). There is no better way to start Christmas morning.

If you could host a dinner party with any five people living or dead who would you invite? What would you cook?

Madonna, Winston Churchill, Cleopatra, Anna Wintour and my mother. I would make them our old family recipe for Fried Chicken, although I doubt we would eat much, as I anticipate there would be many drinks and lots of chatting.

*Bronson Van Wyck, photographed at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann.