Plan ahead for Christmas cheer

Make your festive season a breeze with these easy organisation tips

The Christmas holiday season is all about giving – and in an increasingly stressful and busy world, the best gift of all is being able to spend quality time with loved ones and friends. 

But it pays to have a solid plan in place first. It’s all too easy to generously volunteer to host a get-together for Christmas or New Year’s, or a summer “let’s reconnect” catch-up, only to end up feeling overheated and fervently wishing you hadn’t bothered.

Spicers Retreats designer and events planner Mel Allan  is an expert at ensuring special occasions go without a hitch. She’s full of practical tips to help guarantee your next gathering goes with a swing.  Like Santa Claus, she always has a comprehensive list in-hand and checks it more than twice.

The first crucial step, she says, is to set financial boundaries. “Look at the size or scale of the event and work out a budget,” Mel advises. “Setting a realistic budget helps determine how lavish the styling will be from the outset.”

Event styling at Spicers Retreats

Pre-planning is key to staying in control. It’s also what enables you to enlist the help of others, which helps take the pressure off. 

“You absolutely need a list,” Mel says. “A list will help you work out what you can delegate for others to help you with, whether it’s friends, family or outside suppliers. Put everything you can think of on your list, and then reorganise it based on a timeline of when things need to be booked, ordered and confirmed.”

Coordinating a summer party usually means you’ll be able to take revelries outside. It also means having a backup plan in place, in case a summer storm rolls in. 

Event styling at Spicers Retreats

The seductive combination of soaring temperatures and alcohol can also cause problems, so it’s crucial to ensure everyone stays hydrated. Mel suggests having fun with drinks but recommends also setting up a designated non-alcoholic drinks station so guests can help themselves. 

Starting out with a well-defined theme will keep everything on track, Mel says.  But keep it simple. “Establishing a theme will make all of your decisions much easier. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, a successful theme can be subtle, for example using vintage tableware, choosing a colour for your floral arrangements, or drawing food inspiration from a specific cuisine.”

Watch out for common pitfalls like overdoing the table décor. A successful event is about making guests feel cherished and comfortable, not showcasing your talent as a party designer. 

Christmas Lunch at The Peak

“Your table might be styled beautifully before guests arrive but leave enough space for the party to unfold – for food and drinks to be laid out and an area for guests to put their bags,” Allan says. “You will make a bigger impact with a few key hero pieces or grouped arrangements, rather than lots of small elements.”

The key to a memorable event lies in always putting guests’ wellbeing first. “Comfort is key to creating an atmosphere where people can enjoy themselves,” Mel says. “Make sure seating is comfortable so guests will want to linger.” 

As it’s summer, think creatively about ways to keep guests cool. Mel suggests gifting hand fans or setting up a shady chill-out area. Keep a few throws on-hand too, for when the sun dips and temperatures follow suit.

And because nobody wants the earth to suffer for their celebrations, keep sustainability front of mind from the start. 

“For us at Spicers Retreats, it’s about being green,” Mel says. “Reuse and repurpose where you can, borrow and make rather than buying new. This year we’re swapping traditional Christmas bon bons for lovely compostable packets of seeds that guests can take home with them. Wild and dried florals will be popular on the Christmas table this year.”

Seed packets instead of bon bons

Avoid anything that can only be used once, so opt for cloth napkins, for example. Mel says mismatched tableware can also look great if it’s done in a purposeful way. There are biodegradable options available if you can’t use crockery. 

Do your best to avoid having to send leftovers to landfill.  

“Confirm your numbers in advance so you don’t over-cater, and send guests home with leftovers. Think about how you will sort your waste in advance. Be prepared with different vessels so you can quickly separate out glass, hard and soft plastic, paper and organic waste to be recycled later on.”

And if it’s sounding a little too hard? Then professionals are ready and willing to take the strain instead, she says. 

“With our lives getting busier and the end of year rush, simplifying the end of year celebration will be a priority for many. 

Event styling at Spicers Tamarind Retreat

“Christmas is a special time at Spicers. Our guests are away from home on Christmas Day, so we focus on creating an environment where both our staff and guests can get involved in the excitement and feel comfortable in a home away from home.

“Our Spicers Retreats restaurants will be hosting a range of special dinners so you can leave the planning to others – and spend the night focusing on good food and wine and taking a pause with those you love.”