Tips for Throwing an Unforgettable Holiday Party

Tips and trends from event planner extraordinaire, Tanya Matthews, The Newbury Boston’s Director of Catering.

November 18, 2021

The holiday season, my favorite time of year.

I have been looking forward to this since I reopened my doors, dreaming of donning my finest party attire, the first snow fall, and the twinkle of lights sparkling throughout out my beloved city.

Red noses and cheeks, familiar and new faces, rushing in to warm up in The Street Bar, frosted windows and festive cocktails greeting family, friends, neighbors and colleagues celebrating togetherness. 

What better way to commemorate the year than a holiday party to bring everyone together for perhaps the first time in two years? No pressure, of course…

Well, thanks to our very talented team of event planners, I can put your mind at ease and share some trends and tips, courtesy of Director of Catering Tanya Matthews, for creating that special evening.



Throwing a holiday event can be daunting, what does it really take to throw a memorable holiday party?

When planning your holiday party, think of the ambiance you want to create, the mood and emotional tone you want your guests to feel, as everything – from décor, music, food and beverage – will be guided by this factor. Think of ambiance as your theme. As a rule, you certainly want to create an inviting environment that allows guests to relax and feel well taken care of. To create this ambiance, entertainment is key, whether a background trio, DJ, or a full dance band…the music you select will play an integral part in the transition and energy of the room. Essential as well to any party is of course unique and visual stimulating food and beverage pairings that excite your guests – think smoking cocktails or tequila bars.

The past two years have been a blur, let’s look forward together. What trends are you seeing this year and going into 2022?

Groups that are gathering have a lot of anticipation of being able to talk and network with each other, but there still remains a caution from the past two years. So, having interactive beverage and chef attended stations that feed the theatrical element of the programming but also allows service of individual portions is a trend that I think will continue into 2022.

Trends are also showing that top tier, luxury upgrades have become essential to elevate décor and create the right story. People have been holding back throwing events since 2019 and have been building their budgets waiting for the opportunity bring their company, friends or family together. Now, they have the opportunity to create a fun experience that can almost make up for lost time. Instead of roses, we are starting to see more vivid and extravagant orchid centerpieces, and finer wines at dinner receptions, with people opting to splurge a little more this time around.

And if you’re looking to spend a little extra, perhaps pocket seating that stays on theme is a good way to create dimension to your event, as we see guests leave the main area of a party to look for a quite space to connect with other attendees. Creating a space that still feels like the party but where people can have a moment to connect is important right now.

Sometime it’s easy to forget the simple touches that make a party a party, what do you think should absolutely be at a holiday party?

I think that sometimes there is a desire to do something new, but it is key to also have a nod to tradition when it comes to holiday parties. People are looking for familiar and nostalgic dishes of the past, especially around Thanksgiving. But there are ways to elevate even a traditional meal with a newer presentation that remains on trend or feels like you are moving forward, like a mini turkey pot pie. Everyone knows what it is but by shrinking it into bit size pieces it feels some what new.

Morning, noon…Is there a time of day that is best for a holiday party?

I would say usually evenings tend to lend itself for holiday parties. People like to get dressed up and see their colleagues or friends in a celebratory fashion. A lot of us having been looking for an excuse to bring out an outfit that doesn’t involve our yoga pants and a reason to use our lipstick that’s been sitting on the vanity too long. The evening also provides better ambiance with festive décor, entertainment, food and drink.

And what gets you excited about the holidays?

I love the sense of community that seems to permeate the air during this time of year. It feels as if the whole city comes together in decorating and that everyone is contributing a tradition to the overall sense of celebration throughout. I also love how this season incorporates children, from holiday teas to ice skating on the Frog Pond, everyone is happy to be spending time together.

There is a lot of anticipation for my seasonal debut, what can people expect about celebrating the holidays at The Newbury?

We are so excited to be decorating The Newbury Boston for our first holiday after our dramatic transformation. Our team, some of whom have been here for generations, are looking forward to welcoming back familiar faces as we deck the halls with traditional holiday décor, and pair together with exquisite food and beverage offerings from our collaboration with Major Food Group. This includes our holiday packages with Contessa, our rooftop restaurant.

Complementing our holiday décor will of course be the views from our event spaces, guestrooms, and restaurants that overlook the lights of Commonwealth Avenue, The Public Garden, and Newbury Street. I know we all look forward to the first dusting of snow as we stay warm from inside The Newbury looking out.

But, perhaps the biggest surprise and delight is that we will be launching our Afternoon Tea with a special Holiday Tea that will debut Friday, November 26. What a wonderful way to reimagine an iconic tradition!

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