In Partnership WithDecoy®

This Holiday Party Idea Is Relaxed and Heartfelt — and It’s Our Lifestyle Director’s Favorite Modern Tradition

published Dec 4, 2023
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Credit: Photo: Christopher Broe; Prop Stylist: Margaret Ward; Food Stylist: Tyna Hoang

At the risk of sounding cliché, the holidays really are about who you spend them with. We love to get into the festive spirit with sparkly decor, seasonal recipes, and holiday tunes, but the most important thing is celebrating with the people you love.

As Apartment Therapy’s Executive Lifestyle Director, Charli is a nonstop source of creativity, from home decor and hosting tips to gift ideas. That’s the spirit behind Charli Penn’s “holiday wishes” party. It began with Charli and her husband gifting each other a handwritten list of wishes that they hoped would come true for the other in the coming year. Charli has since extended this tradition to family and friends — and having everyone over to receive their wishes is one of the highlights of her holiday season.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Broe; Prop Stylist: Margaret Ward; Food Stylist: Tyna Hoang

“I love that it’s something that can bring positivity, hope, and joy to someone you love, and you don’t have to spend much, if anything, to give it,” Charli says. “It’s what the season’s all about to me.” Here’s how she hosts a party worthy of such a special tradition.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Broe; Prop Stylist: Margaret Ward; Food Stylist: Tyna Hoang

Keep the Menu Simple But Stellar

For this laid-back gathering, Charli keeps food prep to a minimum. She sets up a “grazing table” with charcuterie boards and cookie assortments, so guests can help themselves throughout the evening. All you have to do is choose a few memorable selections you know your guests will love: artisan cheeses, gourmet cookies, and first-rate wine.

Decoy wines hit that sweet spot of luxurious and relaxed, with varietals that elevate any occasion. Established more than 30 years ago by legendary vintners Dan and Margaret Duckhorn, these wines are crafted to the highest standards with grapes from exceptional vineyards. Charli chose two bottles special enough for the evening’s festivities, both from the Decoy Limited series, which showcases grapes from some of the Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast’s most acclaimed vineyards. The 2021 Decoy Limited Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is complex and supple, with juicy layers of dark berries and chocolate, and a hint of white pepper. The 2020 Decoy Limited Sonoma Coast Chardonnay offers a fragrant and lush mix of green apple, nectarine, and roasted nuts, all wrapped in a silky finish.

“Because it’s a special moment, picking the right wine for the occasion is a must,” Charli says. “When it comes to hosting any event — big or small — a great bottle of wine is always worth it. I know I can’t go wrong if I grab a bottle of Decoy.”

Take Time on What Counts

The holiday wishes are the star of the show, so that’s where Charli focuses the most effort. Charli and her husband write a wish for each guest, then lovingly wrap them in adorned gift boxes, just like they would larger gifts. Bonus: The boxes double as place cards! Then, they toast each guest in turn during the evening, sharing all of their wishes aloud.

“I like to spend extra time and money on the little details that make our guests feel at home and welcome,” Charli says. “Like custom gifts, seating cards, or playlists.”

Credit: Photo: Christopher Broe; Prop Stylist: Margaret Ward; Food Stylist: Tyna Hoang

Host Intentionally — and Celebrate Your Guests!

“Keeping the intent pure is the best way to ensure that holiday traditions resonate with others and don’t lose their meaning,” Charli says. And it starts by simply making time to host in the first place. “A gathering like this ensures that people will hold a spot in their schedules to come together, and I use the opportunity to let the people I love know how much they mean to me. I don’t hold back on sharing the love and compliments!”

By keeping the hosting stakes low — and relying on easy wins like delicious store-bought shortcuts and stellar bottles of wine — you can host an impressive party without driving yourself crazy or going over the top. Think of it like the entertaining version of cozy minimalism: not austere, just mindfully curated. All the better to focus on the people you’re celebrating.

Must be 21+. Please enjoy responsibly.