Mindy Weiss has been the mastermind behind some of Hollywood A-listers’ biggest celebrations, from Eva Longoria and Heidi Klum to Katy Perry and Jessica Simpson. As founder of Mindy Weiss Party Consultants, Weiss has been planning weddings, birthday parties, baby showers, and other events for more than 20 years, lending her distinctive touch to food and decor that create a mood while establishing a space. Gear up for a season of hosting with Weiss’ expert tips for crowd-pleasing menus and party-perfect music, plus her top five must-have items for the ultimate, stress-free soirée.
Gourmet Live: What is the best way to set the mood for a holiday party?
Mindy Weiss: Your home should feel warm and fuzzy. You don’t need to fill the entire space with tinsel, but you should introduce the “feeling” of celebrating. Whether it’s with candles, delicious holiday treats, or a festive holiday mix on your iPod, the holidays carry memories and you are responsible for creating new ones for yourself and your guests. Answer your door and greet your company with a smile and a warm welcome. Your mood will fill the room and spread like wildfire.
GL: If you’re doing the cooking, what sort of food is best to serve?
MW: It totally depends on everyone you’ve invited. This is a time where your guests will tell you what they can and cannot eat. For example, a guest who is vegan has very specific food constraints, so you should design a menu that will be pleasing to all invited. Make a timeline so you remember what time you have to put your food in the oven and get it out on the table, and make sure you have more than enough to feed your guests. I prefer family-style or a buffet for holiday entertaining.
GL: What are the five must-have items for a holiday party of any size?
MW: The first is a great invitation! Even if it is an email or a phone call, it’s nice to start off the experience with a taste of what the party will be like. The second is plenty of delicious food. A successful party is one in which your guests are talking about how fabulous your event was, not about how they had to stop at a drive-through before they got home. The third is wonderful music. Start off with holiday tunes and then mix in some of your nonseasonal favorites. After a few peppermint Martinis, your guests may feel like dancing! The fourth is a well-planned guest list that features a combination of people with varying interests (and people who all get along). No party should have any sort of negative energy, especially during the holidays. Use place cards so you can arrange the seating the way you like. Finally, the fifth must-have item is someone assigned to take pictures. The best memories should be documented, and if budget allows, hire a professional photographer.
GL: What advice would you give for setting a budget for holiday parties?
MW: Get creative! If you’re willing to put in the time it takes to find good deals, you’ll find them. Try to buy year-round since there are always fabulous deals on off-season items that you may not necessarily need now or for your next event. But those items are a pleasant surprise when you find just the right thing in your own closet for the next season. You should set your budget early, and take note of anything you already have at home before you start purchasing anything.
GL: What are the three essential wines to serve at a holiday party? And why do those three make the short list?
MW: The three essentials are a red, a white, and a choice of Champagne. The white wine should always be crisp, such as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with hints of citrus and pear. Because you don’t know everyone’s taste in red wine, opt for a fabulous lighter choice such as a Pinot Noir, which is easy on the palette. For Champagne, I love serving Nicolas Feuillatte.
GL: What is your best tip for keeping stress at bay when hosting a holiday party?
MW: If you can afford it, hire someone to help you in the kitchen so you can enjoy the evening. Always remember to set your table the evening before your party. You should open your door to welcome your guests looking like you didn’t lift a finger all day. Your outfit should be thought out, and if you time things right, you should be able to offer your guests a cocktail and hold a conversation. If you are entertaining at home outdoors and there is the possibility it will be cold, you must have heaters. Always have a rain plan, especially for fall and winter parties.