There are an infinite number of ways to celebrate the season, whether you’re a traditionalist with stockings hung by the chimney with care, or a maximalist with a neon-colored tree with flair. We asked six of our favorite tastemakers for their personal tips—and how they keep it stylish every year.
BRONSON VAN WYCK
The event planner extraordinaire shares how to create an unforgettable holiday party
“Above all, the key ingredients are graciousness, warm hospitality, and remembering to treat holiday parties as an honored ritual to enjoy with loved ones in closing out the year. This means preparing so you can spend quality time with your guests. Create dishes, batched cocktails, or DIY cocktail stations in advance, rather than striving for perfection and spending the whole night in the kitchen or playing bartender.
And of course, don’t forget to go all out with festive textures, colors, and garnishes at your holiday party. This is no time to play it safe! If all else fails, light dimmers and candlelight are your best friends in creating a cozy ambience. Pro tip: Buy three times as many candles as you think you’ll need—your guests will thank you for the soft, flattering lighting afterwards.”
The fashion designer and lifestyle maven on crafting the perfect holiday look
“Over the years, my celebrations have ranged from huge holiday parties to small intimate gatherings, but there is a consistent style. I always have a coordinated theme for the Christmas tree, table settings, and gift wrap. I like to aim for an integration of elements—colors, fabrics, textures, and menu—that reflect my setting for the holiday, whether city, country, the Rockies, or Charleston. And the most important ingredient, of course, is the right mix of people.
I also like to ensure that guests feel welcomed right upon arrival. The driveway gate is hung with wreaths, the lanterns are brightly lit, and the front door is flanked by evergreen-filled urns. Indoors, there is a fire in the hearth, candlelight, lovely music, and—of course—a selection of holiday cocktails.”
LAUREN HARWELL GODFREY
The jewelry designer on winter style and throwing a fashionable fête every holiday season
“I think a great pair of earrings are a must for chic holiday looks—we are typically covering up more with turtlenecks, long sleeves, and gloves, so a great pair of earrings is the best way to add sparkle. I also love a dress with boots. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and we don’t see snow at my house, but it does get chilly so knee-high boots are a stylish way to stay warm. And in terms of things never to wear? I never say never!
As for throwing the actual party—and I’m not sure if it’s ‘fashionable,’ but it’s a must—the key is to set things up so you have time with your guests. Do as much as possible in advance. I truly believe your guests will have fun if you’re having fun.”
MARY CELESTE BEALL
The proprietor of the legendary Blackberry Farm on family, food, and festive gatherings
“The holidays are all about gathering with family, which in ours means a lot of time in the kitchen and at the table! It has been so special to watch as my children get more and more involved and have their favorite items to make. Two favorites are carrot souffle and creamed spinach, especially when enjoyed with our large extended family—though there are always apple and pecan pies on the table as well.
Once someone is out of the high chair, we try to include them at the table, even if just for the beginning of our meal. It’s fun to go around and all answer the same questions, to hear everyone’s different perspectives. And having the kids help prepare and serve dessert is always a treat—they want to be involved, and I think they thrive with some responsibility.”
“My holiday table is generally pretty simple: Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted dinnerware, simple handblown glasses, linen napkins, Ted Muehling candlesticks, and a forest of colorful bottle brush trees from John Derian as decoration.
When it comes to the tree, however… I am a Christmas ornament addict. Every year I spend a king’s ransom on beautiful glass ornaments, so I’ve accumulated quite a collection. Holiday decorations are so personal, so if it brings you joy, do it—this is the season of joy, after all. I always get a 10-foot tree and pack every branch with over a thousand lights. In fact, other than the Christmas tree lights, we only use candles on Christmas Eve. It’s magical.”
The Chairish Podcast host and renowned editor on creative decorating for the season
“In terms of color schemes, I think it is best to stick to a set palette—but it doesn’t have to be red and green. Try gold and silver, silver and blue, emerald and teal, ruby and gold. Restricting the colors allows you to go overboard but never cross the line to chaos.
As for memorable holiday spaces, I was able to see the late Nan Kempner’s Christmas Eve dinner table—a few hours before the festivities began—when I was an editor at The New York Times Magazine. She was a renowned hostess as well as a style icon and she went all out with a mix of china patterns, endless arrays of crystal glasses, and shiny foil Christmas crackers laid on a seemingly endless dining table festooned with candles. And all of this within a formal, old-school Park Avenue apartment. It was both lofty and joyous, fantastical and down-to-earth. I could never replicate anything close to it, but it was a reminder that no matter how grand the occasion, it should also be festive and fun.”
Lead image: Photography by Ted + Chelsea Cavanaugh; Styled by Jeffrey Miller.