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The Ultimate Festive Season Party Planning Guide

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a festive season in the offing must be in want of a comprehensive hosting guide. And this most joyous of times in the Indian calendar certainly proves the rule. As a spate of festivities segues into wedding season, followed by Christmas and New Year, you find yourself caught up in a social whirl, with several groups of guests, from all your different circles, needing to be hosted for at least an informal festive get-together if not a formal sit-down dinner. Now we've gone over various aspects of hosting know-how on previous occasions, but this guide is a one-stop destination: within these paragraphs, you'll find tips on how to truly channel the festive spirit in your spirits (sorry, we couldn't resist!), your decor, your events, your menus, and of course gifts! Ready? Let's begin! 

Sajao, Phir Manao

Whether it's close friends and family who've seen the insides of your apartment a million times before, or a set of colleagues or teammates from your Sunday football game you're inviting home for the very first time, there is no scenario where festive decor wouldn't be worth a little extra time and effort. 

football game cocktails and food

Say It With Flowers

Imagine strings of fresh marigold bringing their deep saffron and bright yellow hues to the corners of your living room… a long garland twined artistically by the window, or strung along the length of your drapes, or even (as long as it's safe) dangled under your chandelier, immediately lends the festive vibe to your environs. While marigolds are definitely synonymous with the festive season, we must admit to having a weak spot for gorgeous pink roses or white lilies as well. A few bunches arranged where your guests can enjoy the beauty and the fragrance of the blooms would spell elegance itself. 

Lights, Camera, Traction 

You know how a string of twinkling fairy lights makes even the most mundane of settings seem enchanted? Well use that power and multiply it by 10 for the festive season. We love bunching up a whole line of these lights in clear glass holders, then placing the container in an ornate platter amid a lush smattering of petals. Bring out any beautiful brass jaali lanterns and place them around the house so the tiny flame of the wick within casts mysterious and intricate panels of light and shadow along your floor and walls. Candles — scented and artsy or plain — can provide a warm and relaxing undertone to the evening. And this may be the simplest, but there's nothing like a classic earthen diya bearing aloft its flickering light to signal new beginnings, joy, peace and hope. 

festive party lights

Baroque Brocade 

(Okay, maybe we're just taking the alliteration to places where it won't naturally go.) If you have your nani's rich zari sari lying in your cupboard for the 15th year running, now is the time to take it out and put it to use. If you have a curtain rod by your window, then make a few loops of the sari and drape it by the rod. You could also use a sari (provided it's not too delicate or prone to rips) as the spread for your divan. If you use lamps in your house — floor or desk lamps — a sari placed over the light source instantaneously creates a sense of exotic magic. Depending on how attached you are to the sari, do ensure you don't position in a spot where damage is guaranteed. Brocade cushions and table runners are a shoo-in this season. Similarly, we love leaving out long ropes of fake pearls as a decor accessory during the festive season.  

Cocktails & Khana 

Even if you're serving classic cocktails and mocktails at your festive gatherings, rather than something that deliberately incorporates a nod to the season (like a whole mithai-inspired mixology marvel), you can make up for it by customising your garnishes. Slender wooden stirrers can be spruced up with a strip of gota or sequinned lace. A circlet of mogra or jasmine around your guests' chilled glasses, a halved kaju katli with a small incision that lets it perch prettily on the rim of your glass, dried apricots skewered on a toothpick — there are so many ways to bring the festive theme into the drinks you serve. 

As for the drinks themselves, check out this comprehensive list of festive cocktail recipes we've put together just for you! 

5 Indian Cocktails You Must Try This Festive Season

For nibbles, may we recommend setting up a DIY chaat counter at home?

 festive party sweets

Sweet Talk

What's the festive season without all manner of savoury and sweet goodies! While trays of the stuff that requires refrigeration or storage in an airtight container can obviously be brought out when the guests arrive, a few cut crystal jars can be filled with dry fruits and the more non-perishable kinds of sweets to serve as appropriate (and edible!) decor accents.

Masti Aur Maza

What's a festive party without lots of fun and games? Bring out your collection of board games, and put a festive spin on it. Try Festive Scrabble or good old Monopoly; Jenga is always a hoot and gets everyone involved, while playing Charades or Festive Pictionary might need a little more persuasion on your part to ensure no one is left out. Having festive gifts for the winners of these games, from small hampers of mini bar accessories to customised puzzles and/or cocktail art to artisanal chocolates infused with spirits — these are some ideas you could explore for making your guests' time even more memorable. 

festive party games

Picture Abhi Baaki Hai 

Make sure you have mementoes of all the memorable moments you create in your festive gatherings! Get a Polaroid camera that your guests can use to create instant keepsakes, or you can even go all out and set up a photo booth where they can strike their goofiest poses! Remember, there's just one 'rule' when it comes to festive parties: spend the season in the company of people you enjoy being around, doing things you love, and embracing your inner light! 
 

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