Throw a Holiday Bash

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Maria Lindsay

Local event planner Maria Lindsay shares the tricks of the trade. – By Somer Flaherty

For Laguna Beach event planner Maria Lindsay, who’s been busy planning weddings and other special events for more than 20 years, the keys to a successful holiday party are all about the entertainment—think celebrity impersonator, a fresh cigar roller and a live band—and, of course, good food and drinks. But Maria says creating an itinerary and timeline for your event will help the entire planning and day-of process go a lot more smoothly. Plus, efficient pre-planning will leave you more time to mingle with guests and enjoy the hard work that went into creating your bash.

LBM: What’s one thing people overlook when planning their own parties?

ML: I have found that people usually overlook and are unaware of the fact that they have not planned a complete, successful party. For example, a well-planned party should have a complete program of events, such as cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres for guests first, dining second and lastly, entertainment with dancing—and then the party concludes.

LBM: What items should people look into incorporating in their holiday event?

ML: Food stations, like a pasta station or raw bar station, are really popular, and so are martini luge ice sculptures. Late night snacks, like a vanilla and strawberry shake in a shot glass topped with whipped cream, are also really hot right now.

LBM: What other fun cocktail ideas do you have?

ML: Try serving a drink with a holiday theme, such as a candy cane Bellini. Have a tray of those passed around upon your guests’ arrival.

LBM: Any tips for creating a great holiday table-scape?

ML: Use lots and lots of candles, fresh florals and both high and low centerpieces for the tables.

LBM: What about holiday party invitations? How early should they go out?

ML: This depends on where the guests are coming from. For in-state, one month, and for out-of-state, six weeks. For out-of-country, give them at least two months notice.

LBM: Any tips on hiring good vendors?

ML: The vendors should have exceptional websites with well-executed, up-to-date blogs, so you can see their current work and styles. Have a list of questions for the vendors about the services you need them to provide. It’s also important that the vendors have a business license and carry million-dollar liability [insurance].

LBM: Do you have any tips on saving money in the process of planning and executing events?

ML: Use items you have at home instead of going out and purchasing them, like floral vases, votive candles, candlesticks and linens. Use existing furniture from your house, or decorate your mantel, and only rent what’s needed to supplement.

LBM: And if the budget allows for more?

ML: Create an outdoor landscape by renting specialty lighting to use outside, on the dance area and even on the walls, and rent specialty lounge furniture for the area, too. It is also wise to hire an event coordinator who can save you time and provide guidance in planning.

Stylish Holiday Hostess Gifts

Stay on the guest list with these top picks.- By Somer Flaherty 

If you want to be the perfect holiday guest (the kind that gets invited year after year), then bring the perfect holiday party gift. As a token of gratitude for the host’s hard planning and execution, presenting a small bouquet of flowers, a simple candle to help light the room or even more functional items like tea towels will be well appreciated and put to good use. LBM


Sotaroni olive oil, available at Sapphire Pantry (949-715-9889;
Square flower arrangement, available at Laguna Fine Florist (949-464-0509;
Nord tea towels, available at Vertigo Home (949-494-7547;

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