‘Life is a party. Dress for it.’ So said Audrey Hepburn, quite possibly the most glamorous woman ever to have graced the silver screen. We’re embracing her mantra this month, tossing other more polemical issues aside to do what human beings do best – getting together, sharing experiences and having fun.

Here we bring you the ultimate guide to party season, including a selection of festive recipes, and some expert hosting tips. Alongside this, we have advice on everything from the best party venues to makeup and outfits. We’ve also got decorating ideas from Katharine Pooley, and how to make your party swing tips from ‘the party architect’ Johnny Roxburgh.

1 Choose a venue that is slightly too small – the best parties are always crammed.

2 Parties should smell wonderful. I am a big fan of Parisian maison Cire Trudon. It has delicious room sprays and scented candles.

3 Do spend money on your invitations. Make them from thick, aspirational card and make them fun. I am a big believer in the posted invitation; it makes it all feel much more special.

4 Keep food luxe and simple. A great New York caterer makes canapé finger rings from fine pastry and the ‘stone’ is beluga caviar! A very chic way to eat a canapé.

5 Never run out of food or drink. It may sound simple, but it’s a total must. I also never serve drippy food or dips – double dipping is a horror.

6 I find that guests love their own individual little bottle of a Martini cocktail – I get the bottles blinged up with glitter at Christmas and then put a short gold paper straw in them.

7 In the colder months, have handsome and beautiful staff pass round trays of little gems of liquid fire. These are especially effective if the staff are not wearing much except a frosted costume!

8 I love an open outdoor fire. This summer I surrounded crackling log fires with Adirondack chairs lined with soft chocolate brown sheepskin. The setting was a ruined cathedral outside Madrid – cool, glamorous and romantic – but it would work very well on a fine starlit December evening.

9 Nothing makes a Christmas party go better than a grotto – Santa Claus can take on all kinds of exotic roles with a little imagination! And I do love a Christmas cabaret – think the Merry Marys!

10 The most important thing is to invite fun, interesting people. If some friends are a bit heavy weather, take great care to look after them especially well. You can create the most amazing space and experiences, but you need great guests to make it truly memorable.


‘Tis the season for sparkles and glitz, and we’re all for it. We’ve partnered with womenswear brand Sassi Holford to bring you some ideas for outfits that will ensure you stand out at Christmas parties this season. To see the full collection, head to the newly opened store on Brompton Road in London, which showcases the brand’s sophisticated, timeless pieces which are designed to last.

Photo 1 of

How should we best prep our skin to keep up with the weather and the partying?

Hydration is essential. Colder weather, heating, alcohol, and parties can all contribute to skin feeling dry, flaky and tight. Add an oil-based serum into your routine to keep the skin barrier nourished and skin feeling soft. The Dr Sebagh Rose de Vie Serum is a winter-must have, it’s incredibly replenishing and hydrating. Formulated with cold-pressed, triple filtered Rosehip Seed Oil, it’s non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores.

What treatments would you recommend around this time of year?

Facials are a great way to maintain your glow throughout the party season. The Dr Sebagh Ultralift Facial combines cutting-edge ultrasound technology with a bespoke application of Dr Sebagh Advanced Ageing-Maintenance Skin Care products for a truly lifted, sculpted and tightened visage. With no downtime, it’s the perfect treatment to keep the face and neck looking youthful and plump and is ideal for this busy time of year.

Best kinds of products to use before putting on party make up?

Exfoliation is key for prepping the skin and ensuring a smooth canvas to apply make up onto. Make up doesn’t look good if it’s sitting on a build-up of dead skin cells. Using a chemical exfoliant will create a clean, fresh base, allowing makeup to adhere better and stay in place throughout the day or evening. The Dr Sebagh Deep Exfoliating Mask contains Lactic Acid and Azelaic Acid which eliminates dull, dead skin cells and has powerful antibacterial properties to prevent breakouts and acne. 

How to revive tired eyes?

To de-puff and wake up tired looking eyes, a facial massage will stimulate the lymphatic system, helping to drain a build-up of toxins and reduce fluid retention around the eyes. The Dr Sebagh Supreme Eye Serum and De-Puff Eye Treatment combat puffy eyes and dark circles. Both have a cooling metal roller-ball applicator which feels incredibly refreshing. Top tip: keep them in the fridge for extra coolness.

What’s your morning skin pick me up after a late night?

I always reach for the Dr Sebagh Two-Step Skin Prep – it completely resets skin after a late night. The first step is the Deep Exfoliating Mask, which perfectly primes skin for the Skin Perfecting Mask, a clay-based mask nicknamed the ‘vacuum cleaner.’ It withdraws all dirt and impurities from deep within the pores, whilst evening out skin tone and brightening the complexion.

Book The Ultralift Facial from £350 at drsebagh.com

‘There are so many ways to make Christmas personal. When I plan my Christmas scheme, I choose a luxurious mix of textures to give the tree a level of depth. I like to combine reflective glass baubles with matte velvet ribbons, feathered decorations and just the right amount of sparkle – after all it wouldn’t be Christmas without a little sparkle.

‘When choosing my scheme, I pick a colour, then use a tonal range to add interest. This year I’m going with rose pink through to claret. Without this variation in tone, your tree/dining table or even gift wrapping will look flat and uninteresting.

‘I love to take time to pick the perfect gifts for my loved ones, part of this is also wrapping the present in a way that will excite the recipient. This year I will use foliage from my garden with feathers and ribbons to give each present that personal touch. Matching your wrapping colours and style into your scheme keeps the colours consistent and makes for more of an impactful room.’


Christmas: the spiritual home of the canapé, the Christmas pudding and the champagne-hangover (if you’re not careful).

From vol-au-vents to vegan pudding, here’s the best party food to have even to trickiest of your party guests opting for an elasticated waistline. Bon Appetit.

Photo 1 of

You’re done with turkey basting and Himalayan heaps of washing up, but there’s no time to rest – you need to prep for 2023’s big event. Perhaps you’re looking for a place to deposit teenagers for drunken revels? Or searching for a tea-and-scones vibe for Auntie Flo’s 80th sleepover? Maybe you’re shooting for the ultimate corporate jolly (clay pigeons, anyone?), or seeking a top venue for a big wedding, snug family get-together or festive extravaganza. We’ve ceilidh-ed in Scottish castles, gotten swept up on Pink Floyd’s beach and nursed sore heads in stately homes to bring you the six best party pads for exclusive hire. If you’re hunting for a house to host the ultimate bash, read on… and party.

Photo 1 of
  • Artistocratic Antics: Beaverbrook

    For an impeccable knees-up, in the suave style of old-school press barons and politicians, bag Beaverbrook, the late Lord Beaverbrook’s Victorian mansion, now country house hotel. It’s nestled in 470 glorious Surrey acres, just 20 miles from London. After a One Night Stand (cocktail) in Sir Frank’s bar, dine on sublime Japanese food at a sit-down for 50. Solicitous staff – some in lavender waistcoats – will tend to your every whim. Afterwards, brandy in hand, you’ll loll on plump sofas overlooking the Italianate garden, or snug up for movies in the art deco cinema, where Churchill watched war newsreels. You may even sleep in his erstwhile bedroom.

    BOOK IT: beaverbrook.co.uk

  • Medieval Magic: Borthwick Castle

    Mary Queen of Scots hid from Cromwell at Borthwick Castle (the huge dent left by his cannonballs serves as a reminder) but these days you don’t have to battle your way here – it’s just 30 minutes’ drive from Edinburgh. The dining room has a hearth so large you could roast a whole hog in it, but you won’t need to because the feasts laid on by the first Masterchef winner, Derek Johnstone, are superb. For up to 26 guests – bagsy Mary’s old digs to rest your partied-out head.

    BOOK IT: borthwickcastle.com

  • Highland Fling: Farr Estate

    Take over the Farr Estate in Inverness for bracing rambles, treasure hunts, paintballing and wild swimming in the loch. Set in 12,000 ancient acres, the star property is Farr House, a converted tenants’ hall incorporating a 19th-century chapel turned elegant party space. Chill in front of its roaring log fire playing jigsaws and sipping single malts among wood panelling and book-lined walls. In the dining room, beneath venerable portraits of the Mackenzie family owners, feast on estate-reared rare breed piggies, venison and just-picked veg. The prize bedroom is the powder blue Victorian Room, with chandelier and freestanding claw bath.

    BOOK IT: farrestate.co.uk

  • Contemporary Coastal: Chalet Saunton

    It has the view to beat all views, of sand dunes, cliffs and three golden miles of Saunton Sands beach in North Devon. (It’s that Pink Floyd seashore album cover… but without the chambermaid and 700 beds.) This quirkily dubbed ‘chalet’ has six three-bed apartments plus an airy two-bed penthouse with a living space (picture windows and surround- sound hi fi) big enough for you to dance as if nobody’s looking. After the party, sit on the balcony – as Jodie Kidd did – with a glass of vino and breathe in the salty air. A mere minute down the footpath (overnight pooch guests welcome) an Atlantic surfer’s paradise beckons. If you’re into coasteering, this is the place for your coastal-cool event.

    BOOK IT: chaletsaunton.com

  • Gardens Galore: Bressingham Hall

    Calling all garden lovers – this glorious Georgian gem, Bressingham Hall in Norfolk, is perfect for weddings. With its own marquee and barn, your family can stay in the house (seven bedrooms accommodate 18 guests), but what really knocks your socks off is the setting. Planted, designed and tended by the owners (suitably named Bloom) the gardens really are a wonder to behold. Bloom Senior lived in the States and returned with seeds in his knapsack, which have now grown into towering, 100ft-high, 55-year- old redwoods.

    BOOK IT: bressinghamhall.co.uk

  • Arty Party: The Fife Arms

    This is the hottest, wittiest hotel in Scotland, boasting a Lucian Freud, a Picasso and a stuffed stag with swan’s wings, among other objets d’art. Queen Victoria (of whom there’s a waxwork) would have been amused. Take over all 46 bedrooms and dance ceilidhs in sight of Louise Bourgeois’ Spider. Drink Shocking Pink cocktails (in tribute to Schiaparelli) and sit beneath Subodh Gupta’s stainless steel chandelier to feast on wood fire-seared deer haunch. Sleep in a Victorian suffragist-style bedroom with William Morris wallpaper and theatrical Russell Sage decor. Even nursing a post-party hangover, don’t miss deer stalking in the Cairngorms.

    BOOK IT: thefifearms.com