Party-planning powerhouses Matt Poley and Tara Maxey of Heirloom LA serve up their go-to hosting moves for the season.

By Betsy Goldberg
Updated November 30, 2015
Crostini Station by Heirloom LA
Credit: Heirloom LA

Create a Crostini Station

“It’s one of our signature low-cost moves. Pile a platter with meats, cheeses, olives, fruits, and pickled vegetables along with the crostini. Fancy it up by folding the meat into fourths, like flowers.”

Give Prepared Foods a Garnish

“Some of our favorite ways to dress up store-bought items are topping lentil salad with orange zest and sliced toasted almonds, or drizzling olive oil over hummus and sprinkling with parsley or paprika.”

Simplify the Main Dish

“Choose meat you can cook ahead and then just leave it sitting on the back of the stove to stay warm (like braised short ribs or a hearty stew). Not only are these dishes less expensive than lamb or steak, but they’re easier to pull off at the party—all you have to do is scoop and serve.”

Stretch Out Your Wine Stash

“Holiday sangria is a way to perk up (and water down) wine. Just add whatever seasonal fruits you have (apples, citrus, pomegranate) to the wine, along with some port or orange liqueur to give it a little depth. It looks so pretty served in a big punch bowl.”

Mix in Metallics

“Don’t buy tablecloths; just pick up some gold fabric (cut it; don’t bother hemming it) and lay it across the table as a runner. The light plays off of it, and the shimmery material screams holiday. You could also play it up by adding gold flatware or goblets from a thrift shop.”

Try an Ice-breaker

“It costs nothing but has a big payoff at the party. One of our clients has her group of family and friends pass around a candle or an ornament and give one highlight from that year. It anchors the party and leaves everyone with warm feelings at a time when there can be stress.”

Make Your Own Serving Pieces

“Instead of buying pricey platters, pick up 12-by-12-inch white porcelain tiles from the hardware store and set the food on a sheet of parchment paper on top. Soften the look by adding fresh or flowering herbs.”

Have a Plan for Replenishing

“Keep backup platters in the kitchen so you can just swap them out with the empty ones instead of taking time to replenish each item.”