socialite savvy: have yourself an ugly Christmas sweater party

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c/o Martha Dahl at Essence Photography by Martha

I hope you had yourself a very merry holiday this year filled with all sorts of festivities.  We always make a point to celebrate with our close friends before family comes into town.  It is quickly becoming a tradition of ours to do a small gift exchange rather than stress over affording every friend a gift.  Greg’s parents host & we get to enjoy Christmas in our own quirky way.

The “white elephant” gift exchange is a simple gift-giving tactic that packs a whole lot of fun.  Choose a low dollar amount & have each guest purchase one item to bring wrapped to the party.  Suggest a gift anyone can appreciate like gloves designed to be used on smart phones.  …Or you could opt for our route: picking something funny & unexpected.  This year, we all knocked the white elephant tradition out of the park.

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Our friend, Aaron (above), landed our contribution to the party: a bag full of unknown books, which turned out to be all mystery books!  Martha (lower right) won our other gift, a disc shooter in the shape of a spaceship that shoots out foam discs at rapid-fire speed.  Casey (lower left) was clearly thrilled to unwrap The Best Cat Book Ever full of comical cat portraits.  Others brought zany games & gag gifts, including a velcro helmet to throw fabric doo-doo at & poo-tanium to leave a more pleasant smell in the restroom.

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The key to hosting a white elephant gift party is to make the exchange a game.  There are multiple ways to play it, but make your guests gamble for their presents before a single one is unwrapped because that is where the real fun happens.  We play with dice and pass them around the table.  Whoever rolls doubles gets to grab a present from the middle of the table.  If you roll doubles multiple times, you can grab another gift from the pot or steal from another guest.  Set a timer somewhere in the ballpark of fifteen minutes, & once the time is up, the game is over.  It’s a smart move on the host’s part to keep some extra gifts available (like an elf hat or candy cane headbands) so everyone will undoubtedly receive one at the end of the night.

This year, we added a dress code to our holiday party.  Everyone came wearing a colorful, overly decorated holiday sweater to encourage the festive mood.  From a Home Alone inspired shirt to a hand-crafted mini-elf sweater, our friends got creative with their attire.  Some even decorated their clothes with duct-tape & package bows!  Looks like we’ll be bringing the ugly Christmas sweater theme back next year.  What holiday traditions do you have with friends & family?  Don’t forget to stop in on Friday for my latest muse moments!

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socialite savvy: 3 tips for hosting a Halloween party

Four years ago, Greg & I hosted our first Halloween party. We had just gotten a new apartment, & as I had made the move across the Missouri state, I wanted to make new friends & catch up with old ones. I found cheap decorations & sent out e-vites, & much to my surprise, the party was a smash! Every year since then, we’ve continued to host Halloween & I’ve learned quite a few things along the way. Here are my top tips for hosting your own Halloween party:

1. Put thought into your costume.
If you expect others to show up in costume, then you had best deliver on your own disguise. Share creative ideas with your guests to take the stress off of finding something. Some guests will surely impress with their own creations, but others will lack the inspiration & need a nudge in the right direction. Seeing you & others have fun playing the part will only encourage everyone to get in the spirit of Halloween.

2. Set the mood with good, lively music.
Everyone has different music tastes & this can be even more true amongst friends. There is no way to please every palate, so focus instead on sharing popular songs from different genres that your guests appreciate & that the majority is likely to accept. The key to any good party playlist is to feature rhythmic & energetic tunes to keep the flow of the event going. Create a cool playlist using apps & sites like iTunes or Spotify. If you aren’t even sure where to start, plug a couple of good songs into Pandora & be sure to “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” songs to get a good groove started. & if you are wondering what songs I chose for my perfect Halloween playlist, I included the likes of Black Keys “Howlin’ for You” & Iggy Azalea’s “Black Widow” alongside throwbacks like Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping.”

3. Create photo ops to capture the fun.
Find or make a good backdrop at whatever location you host so you can easily capture your guests at an opportune moment. Be careful not to post any potentially embarrassing photos later because you want your guests to feel comfortable in front of the camera & at your Halloween party. Photos are worth the hassle though because capturing the fantastic costumes & great friendships on camera bring back memories for your guests of all the good times they shared with you at your shindig.

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Of course, the biggest ingredient to hosting a successful Halloween party is relaxing & enjoying the festivities yourself!  Make time to partake in the fun & enjoy celebrating this holiday with your friends.