Sarah Tivel is the very definition of an entertaining expert. As the founder & CEO of GATHER Events, she creates fresh, elevated designs that make an impact — truly putting the whole “design is in the details” thing to practice with each party she plans. GATHER has also had some growth recently, bringing their expertise north to Seattle. (Plus, Portland and San Francisco teams are coming soon!) With an impending holiday party on the calendar, we knew we needed to tap Sarah for her expertise. Below, she shares her TOP tips for hosting with ease. We’re relieved to say that, in Sarah’s perspective, less is definitely more:

1. Get your guests involved! The easiest way to ensure a great party with minimal planning is to ask your guests to bring food/activities. You can host a cookie decorating party where you just provide simple sugar cookies and guests bring toppings or asks your guests to bring gifts and have a secret santa or white elephant gift exchange!

2. Simplify your life by narrowing the food and drinks you offer and giving the party a theme. Instead of an open bar, come up with one or two signature cocktails, pre-mix them and serve them punch bowl style! Instead of a sit down dinner, set up a few app stations and put out delicious (and easy to make!) treats like bacon wrapped dates or fruit salad with spiced whip!

3. Minimize the decorations! Just because it’s a holiday party does’t mean every surface needs to be covered in tinsel. To keep things tasteful, and less time consuming, limit your decor to the areas that matter. Create a fun bar sign or food menu or make a garland out of greenery and pine cones to hang in your entry way.

4. Have fun with it! Pick a theme or color palette that is unconventional. This will get the creative juices flowing and can inspire everything from decorations to menu items. The most successful parties are the ones that provide a unique experience for your guests! This year, ditch the mistletoe and surprise your guests with a tropical themed “Christmas on the beach” extravaganza.

5. Create a playlist that is conducive to conversation. Everybody loves a little Bing Crosby, but no one wants to shout over The Rat Pack to catch up with friends and family. This year, opt for holiday tunes that don’t have lyrics so the talking (and maybe even singing) can be left to your guests!