Based outside Tunbridge Wells, Kim Webb, is founder and director of My Little Tea Party ( Originally specialising in parties for children, she and her team now organise and style events from baby showers to Christmas parties, often with an emphasis on “tablescaping” – the trend for making your setting look as gorgeous as possible.

Says Kim: I think the most important thing with any party has got to be your guest list. Start by thinking about the sort of atmosphere you want to create – are you having a big bash with lots of people and dancing, a buffet, canapés and chat, or an intimate dinner party? Whatever, it can be lovely to invite a wide selection of people from different ages and backgrounds.’

While it’s great if your guests have things in common – especially if it’s a smaller party where they’ll be lots of conversation happening from the start – equally, a mix can work very well. It’s amazing what people can find to talk about, and it’s so satisfying to see people who didn’t know one another previously start to hit it off – all thanks to a party that you’ve thrown!

Once you’ve got your guest list sorted, music and lighting, says Kim, are also essential when it comes to creating an atmosphere, and what you choose will depend on your venue. ‘Again, you may want to host at home, depending on how much space you’ve got and how many you’re inviting, or if you’re planning something larger, consider a church or village hall as an affordable local venue. If you want dancing, think about what people are likely to get up and move to and plan your play list accordingly.’

There are so many Christmas Classics to choose from – who doesn’t want to hit the dance floor when they hear the opening chords of “Winter Wonderland” or “Merry Xmas Everybody”? For an intimate party, you could consider Christmas carols (even with a live singalong, if you have a piano and someone who can play it) or jazzy Christmas favourites – we love A Charlie Brown Christmas by The Vince Guaraldi Trio, for instance.

For food that looks as good as it tastes, again, think about what you want to serve and how you want to serve it. What cutlery, china and table linen have you already got and what will you need to start hunting down (perhaps in charity shops or online) now? Having a theme can be helpful. ‘Obviously at this time of year your theme is Christmas, but I think it helps to go for a colour scheme too – a simple palette of traditional green and burgundy can be really effective, or try metallic shades of copper, bronze and gold,’ says Kim. ‘I’ve also created a look for a Christmas table using amber-coloured glassware – anything in jewel-tones tends to look great. A runner down the table made from lots of festive foliage can look stunning. Head to a local flower market or florist and pick up some eucalyptus, mistletoe, berries or thistles - even greenery from your garden can work well. You could also tie a bunch with a big velvet bow and hang it above a fireplace.’

‘If you’re putting out food for a buffet, presenting it at different heights on one large table can be really effective – use old crates for rustic-style elevation and don’t forget that cake stands aren’t only for cakes – a pie or a heap of tangerines with a sprig of foliage could look very festive displayed on one.’

You really can be as imaginative as you like with decorating not only your table but your whole venue – whether at home or in a hired space. ‘These days, there are so many places to find inspiration,’ says Kim. ‘Flick through magazines and check online sources such as Instagram and Pinterest – they’re all brilliant sources of simple, achievable ideas.’

When it comes to sparkle, ‘Christmas just isn’t Christmas without fairy lights’, says Kim. ‘They’re easy to find, relatively affordable and you can use them en masse to create a curtain of light, weave them around foliage, or suspend them from a ceiling-hung wreath – you can’t have too many.’

Kim says she’s also always keen to use scent to conjure up a mood at parties. ‘If you’re mulling wine, your guest will immediately encounter that familiar, Christmassy smell - but you can also introduce scent via a diffuser or scented candle – for me, The White Company’s Winter fragrance is perfect for this time of year.’

Great British Life: Keep it simple when it comes to Christmas party food, advised Julie Friend. Crackers, cheese and charcuterie are all good choices. GETTYKeep it simple when it comes to Christmas party food, advised Julie Friend. Crackers, cheese and charcuterie are all good choices. GETTY

Feed a Crowd

Our own resident expert and former Masterchef, Julie Friend, advises the following when it comes to keeping hungry guests happy.

‘Don’t be frightened to keep things simple. Plan ahead and have a few things in your freezer that you can just defrost or cook in advance, so you can enjoy the night. Packet puff pastry can easily be turned into cheese straws or pesto pinwheels – simple and still with that homemade touch. Smoked salmon whizzed up with some cream cheese and a few chives makes a delicious instant pâté – just serve with local sourdough or crackers. If you’re serving canapés, a rough guide is to allow six per person over the course of the evening.

‘For a Christmas buffet, anything goes – you could either go for a hot favourite (oven space allowing), like lasagne and garlic bread, or aim for a selection of raised pies, which always look abundant, served with imaginative salads. If you’re pushed for time, there is no shame on relying on supermarket Christmas ranges – Waitrose, for instance, has a Japanese-inspired party selection this year and M&S is always reliable. And if you’re keeping it local, what could be nicer than a big platter of Kent cheeses, from Kingcott Blue to Winterdale Shaw. Add frozen black grapes and broken pieces of dark chocolate to the board for crunch and a sweet contrast.'

‘Drinks-wise, turn to bubbles from any of Kent’s great vineyards for a celebratory feel, or for something warm and different try Chegworth Valley’s spiced apple juice, or add mulling spices to pear or apple juice to create your own alcohol-free option. Ready-made cocktail mixers save time, too – you just need to add alcohol or sparkling water as required. Don’t forget ice – lots of shops see re-useable ice ‘cubes’ these days, so you could have these waiting in your freezer, along with bags of ice - or get ahead and freeze lemon and lime slices in advance of your party, ready to chill a drink or jugs of water.

‘Finally, don’t forget to supply small, cocktail-sized napkins for your guests – they’ll help prevent greasy finger marks on your furniture.’

Great British Life: Metallics and candelight are always a winning combination (never leave lit candles unattended, though) GettyMetallics and candelight are always a winning combination (never leave lit candles unattended, though) Getty

The Office Party

If you’re planning an event for work, what’s the most important thing in keeping groups of colleagues happy at a Christmas party? Says Jason Gouveia, Managing Director of Kent Event Packages (, ‘I think the interactive part of a seasonal event is vital. Being able to have fun with your colleagues, bonding over shots taken in a photo booth or playing a game of roulette at casino tables always creates some great memories. The music side is also very important. An entertainment package should not only include a DJ to run a disco, but ideally other live entertainment acts, too. We’ve found that a trio consisting of a vocalist, saxophone and bongo player makes for a really captivating musical experience – guests love it!’


Check list for party planning

Book venue if necessary

Send out invites, by post or email

Make a note of RSVPS

  • Start planning your decorative theme and scheme; take a note of what you’ve got and what you need to borrow or buy
  • How many will you be feeding? Start thinking about food and pre-prepare and freeze if you can.
  • Order any drinks and glasses for the occasion.
  • Don’t forget music – either start putting together a play list, or consider hiring a live band
  • If it’s a big bash, consider hiring staff to help you – friends’ teenage children may well be happy to help with serving food and clearing up.
  • Think about how you’ll record the event – perhaps prime a few friends to take plenty of photos on their phones and perhaps a video or two.
  • Think about yourself – relax and remember that while you may be responsible for laying on food, drink and entertainment, you’re not responsible for ensuring your guests have a good time – that bit’s up to them!