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Some people are shocked — shocked! — when they see holiday decorations in stores before October ends. But those of us in the event industry have already been thinking about and planning end of the year holiday soirees by the time trick or treaters hit the streets.

So what are the big trends for 2013 holiday parties? Here are some common themes I’m seeing, reading about, and incorporating into some of my own work this holiday season. Think I missed a big one? Let me know! And be sure to tell me what you’re cooking up for the 2013 holiday season!

Mixing it Up

Formal and fixed assigned seating is out; more casual and flexible options are in, according to BizBash. A mix of seating choices, such as conversational sets, large tables, high tops, and sofas allows guests to choose the set-up they find most comfortable, and facilitates organic mingling and conversation.

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Into the Woods

The woodland aesthetic is huge right now, and it’s a perfect fit for holiday celebrations. (Think birch bark, pinecones, evergreen garlands, acorns, and more.) I also love woodland-inspired décor because it can be adapted to suit many moods, from cozy ski lodge, to enchanted forest, to a glam winter wonderland.

Going hand in hand with woodland décor is the rustic trend. This means natural textures like burlap, raw wood surfaces, farm-to-table (implied or in earnest) and yes, perhaps even a few cocktails served in mason jars!

“The Rustic aesthetic has been a popular choice for wedding and event décor for a few seasons now, and it isn’t going anywhere,” says Tommy Lei of Los Angeles furniture rental company FormDecor. “Lately, we’ve seen a lot of planners combine modern elements into their vintage rustic themed events.”

The gala dinner for 1,000 guests we designed for the Hudson River Trust featured an upside-down park scene where scaffolding was planted with flora native to the park, picnic vignettes, and bicycles overhead.


A Moveable Feast

The more relaxed seating style is the perfect companion to trends in 2013 holiday party food offerings. Seated dinners continue to be passed over in favor of less formal (and many would say, more fun) alternatives of portable, individual servings and interactive food stations.

“Small plates are very popular, or one bite dishes,” says Jamie Dumont, Director of Marketing at New York’s Creative Edge Parties

As far as what’s trending for holiday party food, Dumont reports a familiar favorite returns, with a bit of an upgrade. “It’s similar to what we’ve been seeing the past few years: comfort foods taken to another level — elegant and more sophisticated.”

Setting the Tone

Pantone’s influence is extending to 2013 holiday party décor. I suspect the color of the year, emerald, will find its way into more than a few seasonal celebrations. And Lei reports that at FormDecor, another Pantone selection is gaining popularity. “Dazzling Blue is the Pantone Color of Spring 2014, and we’re already seeing it incorporated into holiday décor,” he says. “It’s the perfect shade of blue for winter.”

The blue lighting of this sophisticated holiday party we designed for Hearst a few years ago, is a great example!


Getting in on the Action

Clients are opting for multiple, interactive entertainment options over a single budget-busting headliner, according to BizBash

That means anything from tarot card readers, to photo booths, to DIY crafts to take home at the end of the evening. (Sounds better than a partial view from the back row to me!)