The art of the last-minute holiday party with Mr. Boddington’s Studio’s Rebecca Ruebensaal

The last few months of the year have a well-documented habit of absolutely flying by. One minute December is months away, and the next, Thanksgiving’s but a memory. Before you know it, you might be feeling like it’s too late to get all your best friends together for a holly-jolly evening of fairy light-filled merriment. But you’d be wrong! With a bit of creativity and a whole lot of calm, it’s more than possible to do some truly incredible holiday party entertaining on little more than a moment’s notice.

We chatted with Rebecca Ruebensaal, proprietor of our beloved design partner Mr. Boddington’s Studio and a last-minute party planner herself, about her last-minute party ideas and how to turn an almost-unplanned holiday shindig into the party of the season.

A to-do list reading “Make a list, check it twice” on what appears to be a desk belonging to Santa Claus, surrounded by cookies, a North Pole delivery tag, small wrapped gifts, and a red typewriter.Image courtesy Mr. Boddington’s Studio.

What’s your #1 advice for planning a holiday get-together on one or two weeks’ notice?

Please, do yourself a favor and avoid anything that requires cooking. Pop into your local provisioner to pick up forest mushroom tarts or a salmon-dill tapenade, then hop over to the baker for a pair of spectacular holiday cakes or tarts.

left: Childlike drawings of three different red dessert cakes on green stands with the labels “chocolate,” “very red, very velvet,” and “Juniper’s tart.” Right: A white holiday party invitation with simplified illustrations of pink and red floral bouquets tied with bows around the borderIllustration courtesy Mr. Boddington’s Studio; “Bouquets of Cheer” by Mr. Boddington’s Studio for Paperless Post.

What’s the quickest way to make a party feel extravagant?

In the winter I host friends in my library, packed to the brim with books. It magically makes the party feel more personal or charming. Polishing the house during the holidays is a simple task—gobs of pine garlands, candles in glass, and wreaths. Oh, and of course, a perfectly trimmed Christmas tree!

Do you have any last-minute party ideas for holiday food and drink recipes?

I like Ina Garten’s whipped feta on crostini. And I’ve never made a pitcher of Negronis that wasn’t gone by the second hour. Right now, I’m also on the hunt for a classic holiday punch so that I may use my Nan’s recently-found bowl from the late 1880s.

left: A cocktail party invitation with a painting of a hand wearing red nail polish and colorful jewelry holding an engraved coupe glass with a cherry garnish. Right: A hand-drawn menu featuring multiple courses of one meal with a border of painterly greenery and red flowers

Raised Glass” by Mr. Boddington’s Studio for Paperless Post; illustration courtesy Mr. Boddington’s Studio.

Are kids invited? If so, what are some activities or games to keep them entertained?

I think the tiniest tots are completely happy to stay at home with a loving nanny. For older children, after fielding the required amount of awkward adult questions and raiding the dessert table, they may trot down to the basement couch to watch “Home Alone.” I love to take a break from the upstairs action and bring down trays of food and blankets.

What’s on your cheese or charcuterie board?

Whatever my dear friend Pam Hitchman, owner of Hawes Fine Foods in Providence, Rhode Island, tells me is the most delicious. Pam travels the world finding the best nibbles and there is no one else I know who curates fine food with such ease and elegance.

A flat lay photo of six red and green Christmas tree bulb ornaments with hand-written notes below each one about their origin and hanging instructions.Image courtesy Mr. Boddington’s Studio.

Do you have a party signature that your guests look forward to?

Years ago, I created a book of Proustian questions: who do you most admire, where is your favorite place in the world, what do you wish for you in your stocking… so on and so forth. It’s curious to read what people wrote in the past, and inevitably creates some boisterous chatter.

Do you usually have a dress code or theme for your guests?

I stay away from themes but am tickled pink when my friends land on my doorstep with a red lip or festive frock. Men in tailored blazers always look more dapper.

left: A white holiday cocktail party invitation with an illustration of a pink house with wreaths and a Christmas tree in the windows and people going about wintertime activities in front. Right: A black and white photo of a woman (Rebecca Ruebensaal) posing in front of a window with white curtainsThe House is Open” by Mr. Boddington’s Studio for Paperless Post; image courtesy Mr. Boddington’s Studio.

The party’s about to begin. What music are you playing?

Talking Heads, and then on to holiday classics by [Louis] Armstrong, Nina Simone, and [Frank] Sinatra. They never get old!

What’s your stance on gift exchanges?

Absolutely not. Too much pressure.

Do you clean up the night of or the morning after?

Ideally, that night. I pour myself a nightcap, put on some Stevie Nicks, and devour the chocolate gateau I’ve been eyeing all evening. But if I’ve had too many Negronis, I might fall face first into bed with a smile and start cleaning in the morning (after coffee and a croissant… I am not a beast, after all). What a charmed life!

Now that you’re ready to do some holiday party entertaining, why not see (and send!) all of Mr. Boddington’s Studio’s charming Costwoldian holiday Card designs, inspired by “snowy Scots pines, Billie Holiday on the record player, twinkly lights, and parlor rooms filled with friends holding cocktails and laughing,” right here

 

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