Houston Chronicle Sunday

GO FOR ‘WOW’

The holidays brings parties and more parties, but what will make yours stand out? You don’t have to have an extensive budget or a huge venue; it’s all about the special touches that can make your event be unique, clever and memorable. and plan stand-out h

- By Valerie Sweeten | CORRESPOND­ENT

A photo booth is always a nice touch. It gives your guests an option to put down their phones and get creative with themed props.” - Tiffany Halik, Carpe Diem PR

Deborah Elias with Elias Events recently marked a 20-year anniversar­y in planning events. If a theme is preferred, the season is perfect for a winter wonderland, Elias said.

She added that this is easily done with white linens, a pretty silver sparkle overlay, and centerpiec­e filled with white and silver Christmas balls in clear vases. Add an ice sculpture in the shape of a snowflake with a luge for drinks to flow through, and a waitress dressed as an ice queen for more impact.

Bigger budgets mean bigger parties with an extra level of the “wow” factor. Photo booths and selfie stations are not only fun, but great for social media postings and a take-home party favor.

Elias said that the company, My event is the bomb, has a relatively cheap photo booth option for around $2,000. With this, you get the backdrop, photo printouts and the option of instant social media posting.

Cypress Photo Camper, recommende­d by Tiffany Halik, Carpe Diem PR, has vintage campers converted to photo booths.

“A photo booth is always a nice touch,” Halik said. “It gives your guests an option to put down their phones and get creative with themed props.”

Going over the top is easy to do with so many options, said Elias.

Indoor sparklers, a nitro ice cream or popcorn station, a Lite Brite drink wall and even a live painting are taking over in larger high-end functions.

Cool cocktails can be taken to the next level with the company, Grand Bevy, which is able to transfer sugar images and pictures to cocktails.

J and D Entertainm­ent has not only a living wall backdrop, but also a living flowerpot.

“The living wall backdrop is incorporat­ed into your photo backdrop and is a fun way for people to get photos. The person is painted to match the backdrop and almost disappears into it. A living flowerpot makes for a cool photo-op, adding ambience to the event,” Elias said.

Have a small budget, but big ideas? No problem, as balloons are trending in new shapes and forms.

“They are making a comeback in the form of sculptures. They are inexpensiv­e decor elements and serve as great Instagram moments,” Elias said. Halik has recommenda­tions for cocktail fun with a twist.

Start with a specialty themed cocktail or even a themed bar cart to save on hiring catering staff to serve drinks.

“Bubbly and the holidays go hand in hand, but why not put a unique twist on it? With the bar cart, hosts create festive signage with the recipes and let (guests) build their own holiday-themed cocktails,” Halik said.

Halik has worked with Toast from the Host for numerous events for specialty cocktails, which also adds an extra splash of creativity with Twirl Cotton Candy that can be paired with whisky and vodka.

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