12/13/2011 12:25 EST

Holiday Party Planning: Pull Off A Swanky Seasonal Bash With These Tips From CANDICE&ALISON


'Tis the season to throw or go to holiday parties. And it's a pretty safe bet, once you're at your friend's/boss's/aunt's house, you'll see and experience the same seasonal things: carols, cocktails, holiday cards, tinsel.

So when it comes to throwing your own holiday soiree, why settle for, well, average? Break with tradition and make your fete stand out and above the rest. For some tips and tricks, we chatted with CANDICE&ALISON. As luxury event planners in Toronto -- handling bashes for Chanel and Dior, to name only a couple -- the pair know a thing or two about adding a flair to a festive event.

What Not To Do

One of the biggest mistakes anyone can do when pulling together a holiday party is to plan it last-minute. "Everyone is busy at this time of year," say the pair. "And without making a solid guest list and sending out the invitation soon enough, you could wind up with a lot of planning and effort and few people to enjoy the fruits of your labour."

To avoid such a catastrophe -- and to keep party planning stress-free -- the pair suggest keeping your fete relaxed and casual.

"Being flexible with your guests by making it a "drop-in" or cocktail instead of a seated dinner will make it more accommodating to everyone."

Have Fun With Trends

Planning your party around seasonal trends can also help make party planning easy and of-the-moment, say Candice and Alison. The pair suggests, for 2011, you use, "Non-traditional colour schemes -- be brave and try alternative colour palettes such as deep plum purples mixed with jewel-toned turquoises and silver or rich chocolate browns highlighted by glossy black and bright fuchsia."

Make Your Bash Unique

Be Creative. "Draw inspiration from trends in fashion, interior design, cuisine and beverages to make your party fresh, relevant and memorable. Look to a detail in a fashion magazine or the newest hotel interiors for ideas in colour schemes or table-top decor." Or try creating a signature beverage that suits the theme of the night -- one that would go well with the food pairings you've selected.

Surprise Your Guests "Don’t do the same ol' thing every year, reinterpret your theme, colour, decor and style so it's new and exciting. Try mixing in something unexpected that's individual to your taste and personality. For example, mix pop art with a modern baroque colour scheme."

Activity Is Key. "Add an interactive element such as a holiday inspired "do-it-yourself hot chocolate bar" or a "decorate your own gingerbread man" craft bar with an adult-friendly twist." This will help keep guests entertained and will ensure your event is the one they find most memorable.

Set The Mood. "Ensure the lighting is warm, soft and dim. Incorporate candlelight, scent your home with fragrant essential oils and play lounge music that is low-key enough for the background while still adding a chic vibe."

Seek Help. "If your budget allows, bringing in some outside help, such as service staff or a caterer, will not only allow you to enjoy yourself it will also free up your time to spend with guests. Industry experts have insider tips and creative ideas that will add polish and intrigue to the evening, too."