An amazing Christmas table and elegantly wrapped presents don't have to blow your budget. With expert tips from a stylist and a party planner, we show you how to be stylish on a shoestring...
Follow stylist Jennifer Haslam’s top tips and your dining table will impress guests almost as much as the delicious food you serve.
• Use different height decorations across your dining table for a layered look. Slimline pieces such as tall candles and narrow tree ornaments won’t obstruct your guests’ view.
• For a simple festive arrangement, use fresh eucalyptus as a runner – intertwine with battery-operated fairy lights for added sparkle. Get ahead by arranging it the night before – eucalyptus stays fresh for days.
• Continue the greenery theme with place settings – tie cutlery together with a few eucalyptus leaves and natural string.
• Add a further natural touch by using slices of wood as rustic place mats. You can buy them readymade; no need to get out the chainsaw unless you want to.
• There’s always room for flowers on the table, even if you have to move them before you eat. DIY with red roses, berries and gold-sprayed leaves, or look for seasonal offers and buy a ready made bouquet.
Brown paper packages are among our favourite things, especially when they look this good! Photography: David Cleveland. Styling: Jennifer Haslam.
Three ways to make the humblest present look boutique gift-wrapped
1 Use brown paper
It never goes out of style and can be dressed up in so many ways.
2 The details make a difference
Use ribbon, string and coloured twine to add texture or colour. Tie in fresh eucalyptus, just a sprig or two, to make your presents smell wonderful as well as look great. A sprig of rosemary works well, too.
3 Look for creative alternatives
Use old music scores as wrapping paper (or print off a Christmas carol score from the internet) and finish with a big, swanky bow.
Bargain wines for Christmas
More present wrapping ideas
• Tartan is big this year – mix 'n' match tartan prints on paper and ribbon in red, green and white.
• Use festive masking tape to make your own criss-cross or other designs on brown paper.
• Upcycle free or out-of-date road maps and secure with red cord, then thread through a pretty button and knot to secure it.
• Buy an ink stamp pad in a festive design from Hobbycraft (hobbycraft.co.uk) – or use a white chalk pen on black paper - and create your own unique wrapping paper. Add ribbon in a complementary colour.
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Tips for planning a party
Party planner Rachel Day of Day Productions, has some great ideas for creating a fun, festive occasions.
• 'Putting any nibble or canapé on a Christmas or festive plate will make them look fantastic,' says Rachel. 'Display everything on your table with lots of candles and you’ll have a gorgeous spread.'
• Make the Christmas tree the focal point where your guests will gather. Decorate with swags of fairy lights and gorgeous baubles.
• No space for a tree? Create a twig installation over an island or a table. Use invisible fishing wire to hang up the branches, then add baubles.
• Spray paint twigs and branches gold or silver, put in a vase and decorate with baubles and clear fairy lights to create a mini Christmas tree.
• Decorate mantelpieces and window ledges with holly branches and ivy.
• Fill blank spaces on walls with large, fold-out foil decorations and fat tinsel – it's colourful, fun and screams Christmas party.
• Play your favourite Christmas songs and everyone will have a ball!