A Boston Event Designer Shares His Secrets to an Unforgettable Holiday Party
November 29, 2022
Text by Maria LaPiana
David DiCicco has been in full holiday mode since the summer. But not in a jolly sort of way. As one of Boston’s premier event producers, DiCicco has been hatching ideas, reaching out to creative partners, and orchestrating a wide array of holiday parties, both grand and intimate. “It’s really never too soon to start planning your holiday party,” according to DiCicco, founder and creative director of DiCicco Design. “With so many elements to consider—from food, florals, and lighting to entertainment and attire—it gives new meaning to the expression ‘Christmas in July!’ ”
The good news: it’s not too late to pull off a memorable party. You may not be able to get the venue or the caterer you want, but if you’re creative and willing to manage expectations, you can still host a holiday soiree for the ages. We recently talked with DiCicco, who estimates that over the last ten years, he’s been involved in some 1,000+ events in Boston and nationwide, and in all facets of party production. He was kind enough to share some of his holiday party tricks of the trade.
“When it comes to the holidays, a successful party is more than the sum of its parts,” says DiCicco. “You’re not just decking the halls; you’re designing an experience, which means considering not only the tangibles but also the feeling you want your guests to have both during the party and after they leave.”
Think Big Picture
No matter how much time you have, take a few steps back to square one. “This means walking the venue, looking at logistics and flow, and deciding how to transition from one space to the next,” says DiCicco. If you are home for the holidays, ask yourself how your guests will arrive, where they’ll mingle and dine (if you’re serving a sit-down dinner), and if there will be dancing. “Your venue—and its capacity—will dictate the scope and aesthetics of the experience you create,” says DiCicco, “and we’ll help make the movement of the night as seamless as the design process!”
Create a Good Look
The nice thing about event design when entertaining at home is how adaptable it is, says DiCicco. Your decor can be grand or subdued, simple, or simply extravagant. Most people style their home for the holidays anyway, so in most cases you won’t have to start from scratch. “If you typically put up a tree, decorate a mantel, or create a tablescape—just take it from there,” says the designer.
It’s important to choose a palette and a theme. “It’s the holidays…what are your options? Many prefer mixed metallics, like gold and silver,” he says. “Some like blues and snowy whites for a winter wonderland. Just add greens!”
DiCicco’s design themes have included an Aspen inspired après ski meets modern club vibe, a Crimson & Cream Havana Nights party with gold-gilded tropical palms, a traditional Bostonian Christmas, and a striking modern/minimalist affair. In every case, he says, “nothing elevates a party like fresh flowers and the right lighting to make them shine!”
Make a Menu
Decide how substantive your food and drink will be, and if you’re calling in a caterer, do it sooner rather than later. From nibbles to nightcaps, most people know what they can handle. You need to be practical, however much you may like to cook. If you can, choose foods that are compatible with your theme. “And if you indulge in an extravagant tablescape, consider heavy passed hors d’oeuvres to balance out the space,” says DiCicco. He highly recommends serving a memorable signature beverage— a holiday spiced old fashion (or anything with bourdon) to a Champagne cocktail to start the night.
Let There Be Light—and Sound
DiCicco says he can’t overestimate the importance of a fire element. “You have to have candles, ideally everywhere, and a lit fireplace,” he says. And while there’s nothing like fire to add drama and elegance to an event, he says music is essential, too—whether you’re setting up for a string quartet, hiring a DJ, or just planning your holiday playlist.
The holidays are all about tradition, so DiCicco recommends you add something meaningful—your grandmother’s crystal or an heirloom tablecloth—to give your affair a personal touch. While an event design firm can do pretty much everything, only you can honor a family memory, “we simply help present it” says DiCicco. “Tying in meaningful moments always elevates the occasion!”
Dress the Part
As a host you want to stand out—but not too much. In the same way that refreshments should be compatible with your theme and palette, you’ll want to dress like the theme. Be creative and have fun with it! Going all classic red and green? Maybe set aside that sapphire dress for another occasion.
Do the Math
While we all want to make a good impression and create a luxury atmosphere, it’s a good idea to set a budget. Cutting back in some areas won’t show much, but some missteps can make or break an event. Again, be practical: is renting dinnerware really necessary? It depends on how much you don’t mind doing dishes. There are countless ways to decrease the pressure of planning a party, but remember, says DiCicco, “less pressure comes at a price.”
With so much to do, it’s easy to see why an event producer is in such high demand. DiCicco says keeping a checklist is a good way to manage your production…er, party. Finally, how do you know if you’re going overboard? “Overboard? There’s no such thing as overboard,” says the designer. It’s for you to figure out the experience you want to have and for us to create it.”
DiCicco Design, diciccodesign.com