When it comes to hosting the perfect dinner party—and looking effortlessly chic while doing it—French women have got it all figured out. From the perfectly curated cheese plates to the wine (and, let’s face it, champagne) that flows well past midnight, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the way les Parisiennes entertain, especially around the holidays.
“The holidays are a special time to gather together family and friends and enjoy each other’s company while celebrating the season,” says Elisa Marshall, founding partner and event planner at Maman, which just launched a pop-up in Paris. “A lot of times when you are hosting a party in the United States, you end up being in the kitchen for most of the evening preparing the meal, however in French culture, we try to prepare ahead of time so when guests arrive we can really enjoy the meal and time spent with them.”
French women have a knack for making all of their gatherings feel extra cozy and special, two pillars of the perfect holiday party. Read on for how to take a page from their book at your next event—and yes, wine and cheese are involved.
Keep scrolling for French-girl approved holiday party tips.
Keep the decor “Parisienne chic”
When it comes to decorating, there’s no need to bring all of the glitz and glamour from the entertaining store home with you. Actually, to the contrary: The simpler, the better. “The standard for French fashion also applies to French holiday decorating—keep things simple, classic, and elegant,” says Marshall. “Stick to a limited color palette, and don’t overdo the décor and color schemes.” Pick two colors—like grey and white, or blue and white—and throw in a vintage element for a bit of elegance. DIY floral arrangements (looking at you, Bodega daisies) and small candles will help create an ambiance that will definitely give your guests good vibes.
Make cooking collaborative
The meal is just as much about the journey as it is the destination. “Instead of one host fixing everything for the whole meal, in French culture everyone helps the host prepare and make the meal,” says Marshall. “It’s a lot less stress on the host and it makes the dinner fun and interactive.” AKA: Make everyone at the table feel like they’re an integral part of the dinner.
Serve up courses and conversations
Take time to pause between courses—and just when you think you’re finished, something else can come out. “In France, people love to sit with friends around a table to discuss love, life, and everything else,” says Agathe Lerolle, founder of the superfood, gluten-free granola She is French. “They take the time in between dishes and might even pause before moving on to dessert.” She suggests starting with a soup or velouté, which is easily prepped in advance. Then, move on to the next course, where she serves something such as a velouté boeuf bourguignon or a chicken served with either rice or baked potatoes. After the main course comes a green salad, followed by cheese, and finally (but not before a long pause for more wine and conversation) dessert. It sounds like a lot of prep, but remember your guests will lend a hand, too.
Treat your guests like family
What better way to help your guests relax than by treating them like family? Serve up family-style dishes that will help spark sharing—both with food and conversation. “I love starting with an assortment of delicious breads, crudité, and charcuterie followed by a family style meal that involves the guests and is a bit more interactive as opposed to formal,” says Marshall. “My favorites are fondue or raclette as it keeps the meal dynamic and keeps your guests talking and making the food together!” Any excuse to serve as much French cheese as possible.