Mindy Weiss is the party planner to the stars, from the Kardashians and Ellen DeGeneres to Justin Beiber and Jenna Dewan. With more than 25 years of experience crafting unforgettable, high-profile celebrations (she and her team even planned a few Bachelor weddings!), Weiss is also the author of three best-selling books — The Wedding Book, The Wedding Planner and The Baby Keepsake Book and Planner — which help others create memorable events. So, yes, when it comes to planning and hosting the perfect, most seamless, and most festive Thanksgiving dinner party and/or get-together, of course we turned to her. And the Beverly Hills-based party planning expert didn’t hesitate to spill her Thanksgiving tips, tricks, and secrets with us, either.
This year, Weiss is all about making gorgeous, Instagram-friendly wall- and table-scapes for less.
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“The first mistake people make is they run out to buy things for their holiday entertaining or decorations,” Weiss tells us. Instead, she says, simply step outside and bring the outdoors inside. “So, things that remind you of fall on the outside, you’re bringing inside, whether it’s pinecones or fall leaves.”
And we’re just grazing the surface of Weiss’ Thanksgiving tips.
Create a photo moment with inexpensive décor
Currently, Weiss is obsessed with Command Adjustable Clips. (Yes, you read that right: those repositionable clips that stick to your wall and won’t leave any damage when you peel ’em off later.) Weiss’ easy, inexpensive Thanksgiving décor idea — and one that’ll create a photo opp for guests — is to clip the stems of the leaves you raked up from your front lawn into the Command Adjustables and create a fall-leaves backdrop on your wall.
“You can reposition them three times in 20 minutes, which is great for me because I never get the lines straight,” Weiss admits. “My client, their friends and families can take pictures in front of these fall leaves. You can also do the word ‘thankful.'”
Have leftover leaves? No problem. Weiss’ tip is to spread the leaves all over your buffet table and put the food on a multi-level display. “It’ll really make a big impact when you come in,” she adds.
You can also take acorns and either sprinkle them onto the table, use them as place cards, or create napkin rings with them. “Acorns also are really cute to write their names on it for place cards. You can also make them into napkin rings, which is such a simple process. If you don’t have anything, you glue the acorns onto ribbon and make a napkin ring out of it,” Weiss says.
Another one of Weiss’ decorating tricks is to create clusters.
“For instance, I just did a proposal for a client where she has tons of shelving. So, we’re going to outline her shelves and frame it completely with ornaments. It literally will be framed, even along the bottom of the shelf, with ornaments. It’s very inexpensive and a big bang for your buck,” Weiss says.
Mix & match
Let’s revisit this Weiss quote: “The first mistake people make is they run out to buy things for their holiday entertaining or decorations.” This applies to dinnerware, too.
“Open up your cabinets; you’ve forgotten about all the plates you got as wedding gifts,” Weiss says. “See what you have at home first; that is the best way to save money.”
Weiss assures that it’s perfectly OK to mix and match your dinnerware because, face it, it’s something you would do on any other day of the week. And by mixing and matching, this, in turn, helps make your guests feel much more at home.
What should you serve?
Vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free guests, and everyone in-between: It’s more difficult than ever to keep up with your friends and family’s dietary preferences, but by no means should you ignore it.
“You have to consider your guests,” Weiss says. “If you know they’re vegetarian, you need to have enough options. You also have to have enough gluten-free, vegan. Know your guest list. Don’t just invite people; actually look at your guest list. Ask them if they have any food issues.”
Weiss suggests creating a food buffet for your guests.
“Family-style food is very popular this year. People pass to each other. There’s conversation,” she says.
And you don’t have to stick to the classic, traditional dishes, either.
“I’m doing one table that’s a mezze table — all Mediterranean: Israeli salads, hummus, lots of crudités, fresh vegetables, eggplant salad,” she says.
Don’t forget the dessert buffet, either.
“By then, they’re going to be ready to get up and walk around and talk to other people,” Weiss says.
But before any food is served, before any guests arrive, have the place cards on the table. The guests shouldn’t have to think about where they should sit at the table.
Cute cocktails & punch bowls
Consider how you serve your cocktails, too. In addition to having a bar cart where guests can serve themselves, Weiss suggests serving cranberry martinis in hallowed-out mini pumpkins. Toss reusable straws in ’em, too.
“Mini pumpkins served with cranberry punch inside: It’s really cute,” Weiss says. “I think old-fashioned punch is coming back.”
‘Dress for no stress’
“I think that sometimes hosts don’t think about the whole evening. Maybe they just concentrated on the menu, but believe it or not, they should concentrate on the door where the guests are coming in,” Weiss says.
And the first thing guests will see when they walk in? You.
“Plan your outfit,” she says. “You don’t want your guests to feel the stress. So, if you open that door and you are all put together, it’s very impressive.”
What’s in your bathroom?
For the love of god, don’t forget to stock the bathroom with plenty of toilet paper.
“A lot of people, probably all your guests, are going to be in your bathroom,” Weiss says, adding that you shouldn’t forget about guest towels, and you most definitely should ensure the bathroom smells nice at all times. “Have something that smells pleasant in there, like a thing of pine,” she suggests.
Keep the guests entertained
You have your bar cart fully stocked and you have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks at the ready, but what about the music?
“It’s going to take a moment everyone to get there. So what are people going do until people get there? Plan your music,” Weiss says. “Obviously Christmas music or holiday music is easy to find, but after about an hour, it gets old. So, play some of your favorite music. Have a set list and put time into it because it doesn’t cost money.”
Good luck this Thanksgiving! Armed with Weiss’ tips and tricks, your holiday gathering should be a breeze.