Can you believe it’s that time of year again? Stores are full of holiday decorations and preparations, and my mind is racing to come up with my seasonal themes in time to make them happen.
So often, parties don’t venture far beyond the table. A well-prepared table is welcoming for guests, puts them at ease, and captures the essence of what your event will be celebrating.
That’s why I’m really into interactive centerpieces this season. An interactive centerpiece has a few key functions. One, it’s pretty. Regardless of it’s other purposes, it’s still a centerpiece and that should speak for itself and represent your table. Two, it will be a conversation starter. In order to be interactive, you’ll need your guests to actually interact with said centerpiece, and in turn, with each other. And lastly, it’ll be a nice keepsake for you. At the end of your event, you’ll have something nice and different to remember your event by.
Thanksgiving: Tree of Thanks
Step 1: Anywhere you go, you can find fake autumnal leaves. Honestly, you can use real ones if you’d like, but in my opinion, they’re a little dirty to have in the center of your table. Anyway, buy a bunch of these pretty leaves and put them in a vase, as if they were a bouquet of flowers. Depending on how many guests you have/the set-up of your table, one big bushel in the middle works, or a few smaller bundles placed separately works too. I personally love the way they look in emptied milk bottles – kind of vintage!
Step 2: Place a new gift tag on each person’s plate. You know the ones I mean? They’re usually what you’d attach to gift bags. You can also get these wherever you find the leaves. Instruct all guests to write something they’re thankful for on their card, and then hang it on the centerpiece tree.
Step 3: Enjoy a meal surrounded by friends and family, with all of your thanks in the middle. Throughout the night, these may spar conversations between guests, depending on what everyone writes!
Christmas: Deck the Halls
This one may take a little more time, but I feel like Christmas festivities are usually more drawn out anyway.
Step 1: Find a bunch of pinecones – real or fake – I prefer real in this instance, and fill wide bowls with these, cinnamon sticks (for aroma) and pine (also real or fake). Again, you can make one huge centerpiece, or smaller ones around the table. Because these are in wider bowls, you may run out of table space and have to place them elsewhere, such as on the bar, dessert table, or mantle.
Step 2: Provide each guest with a solid white ornament ball. You can get these at most craft stores and at the dollar store. Also provide everyone with a few colorful Sharpies.
Step 3: During cocktail hour, or when people are still arriving, really anytime before the sit-down meal, encourage guests to decorate their ornament with something they love about the holiday season. All completed ornaments can be placed in the pinecone-cinnamon stick medley, and will again, leave you will great memorabilia and your guests with much to talk about.
While this activity is child-friendly, if you need something a little less permanent (Sharpies) for kids in a holiday setting, you can simply share this activity with the younger guests.
Paper Ring Napkin Holders
Step 1: Provide each child with one or two pre-cut paper rings. Make sure all of the kids have enough paper rings to cover the adults. Leave them with a bunch of colored pencils and the instructions to decorate each ring with something they love about the holiday season.
Step 2: When they’re finished, they can bring their rings to the adults to use as napkin holders. This will definitely start conversations with the kids about what they love about the holidays and why. They’ll feel all grown up and contributive, and everyone will be happy.
New Year’s Eve: Well Wishes Flute
Step 1: Just like with Thanksgiving, provide each guest with a small piece of paper. You want this to be small so they are forced to only write a word or phrase – not a whole sentiment.
Step 2: Encourage guests to think about something they’ll be striving to achieve in the upcoming year; something they’re hopeful for. And along the lines of New Year’s and toasting, have empty, decorated champagne flutes as part of your centerpieces. Your guests are then encouraged to drop their wishes into the flutes, and cheer each other (with their actual champagne flutes) for the New Year.
Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, see you on the other side!
Jessica Sorentino is from Yonkers, New York. She lives and works in New York City, as the prepress coordinator at the international publishing house, Simon & Schuster. In her free time, Jessica plans and hosts many social events for friends and family and likes to make each one creative and unique. She is also an avid reader, city traveler and professional dancer with DanceWorks NYC. Jessica holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications with minors in journalism and dance education from the University of Delaware, and a master’s degree in dance therapy/education from Lesley University. Stay up-to-date with Jessica by following her on social media and by subscribing to her city lifestyle blog,