Written by Chris Galli, Dickson Realty

If you want to throw an unforgettable holiday party in Reno this season, then now is the time to start planning. But maybe you don’t know where to start or need some creative ideas.

Nancy Fennell Dickson Realty
Nancy Fennell, Dickson Realty

Well, you’re in luck. Our CEO, Nancy Fennell, is not only an extraordinary real estate leader and philanthropist, but she is well-known for her tasteful and delightful gatherings and parties. So, I asked Nancy to share some of her secrets to creating a memorable experience for guests and what she loves most about entertaining.

I also reached out to three-party planning professionals to learn more about the logistics of organizing a successful event:

We want to help you throw the best and safest holiday party in Reno this season to enjoy the company of your loved ones while supporting local businesses too. With CDC guidelines for small gatherings in mind, we’re sharing expert advice on the art of table setting, menu planning, luxury trends, and more.

7 Steps To Hosting An Unforgettable Holiday Party In Reno

We understand that planning a holiday party in Reno can be overwhelming, but now’s not the time to panic because we’re here to help take the stress off you. Keep reading to learn about the fundamentals of party planning from some of the region’s best.

Step One: Create An Invite List

The first step to planning your holiday party in Reno is to consider what type of occasion you’re celebrating and which guests you want to invite. As the hostess with the mostest, Nancy talked about the importance of determining the appropriate audience and shared a few tips on building the guest list.

“The first thing to consider is what type of party you want to throw,” Nancy said.

Ask yourself:

  • “What is the occasion?”
  • “Are children invited?”
  • “Will the party be formal or informal?”
  • “What time does the party start, and when will it end?”

You should also consider the type of floor plan you have and how many guests you can comfortably accommodate. As the president of the Reno/Tahoe Chapter of the National Association for Catering and EventsAndy emphasized the importance of maximizing your event space.

“You don’t want to create a bottleneck by placing your food and drinks in one place,” Andy said. “Guests should feel comfortable to spread out.”

He explained that you should have different stations for appetizers, drinks, and desserts if you’re planning an informal party. This will help ensure that guests can move around freely while maintaining social distance. If you want a formal experience, you need enough table space to sit and eat comfortably.

Keep in mind that you can rent various items from companies like Roundabout Catering & Party Rentals to create more space without the hassle of buying everything new.

“Don’t be afraid to move your holiday party in Reno outside,” Andy said. “You can rent patio heaters, tables, and tents to create a unique experience for guests during the cooler months.”

You’ll also promote a sense of safety, he added.

“Safety is the biggest trend right now.”

Step Two: Planning The Menu

For the next step, start thinking about your menu.

As the Director of Facilities and Special Events at the Nevada Museum of ArtNisha organizes some of the region’s premier social and business gatherings. However, she likes to keep the menu simple during her at-home holiday parties. She shared some of her favorite easy-to-cook menu items and tips for entertaining while in the kitchen.

“It’s best to choose menu items that don’t require your full attention in the kitchen,” Nisha said. “Some of my favorites include hearty stews, roasts, or slow-cooked meats.”

Stick with something you’re comfortable with, she added.

But there’s no need to stress over recipes if you’re not comfortable wearing an apron and chef hat. A local caterer or restaurant can help fill your table with delectable dishes.

Following the latest food and beverage trends will also help you create the perfect menu for your holiday party in Reno. Andy talked about the importance of following the seasonal produce guide and how The Club At Arrowcreek designs its menu using the freshest and highest quality ingredients.

“Elotes—Mexican corn slathered in spicy mayo and cotija cheese—was one of the biggest summer trends in the catering industry over the last several years,” Andy said. “People were all of a sudden crazy for street food.”

However, he added that it depends on where you live and what resources you have access to, especially if you’re offering a farm-to-table menu.

During the winter months, it’s all about comfort food. Andy suggested following cooking magazines like Bon Appetit and Food & Wine for the latest holiday recipes and trends.

“Food is the universal love language,” Andy said. “It’s all about the menu.”

As for beverages, don’t be a slave to the bar. Instead, consider bringing in a mixologist.

“You can offer guests delicious specialty cocktails and other drinks by hiring bartenders,” said Beth, the Director of Sales at Roundabout Catering & Party Rentals. “You are sure to impress your guests with seasonal libations from companies like Dusty Bottle and Petite Street.”

Holiday Party In Reno - Table Setting
Setting a proper table can be tricky. And, a Google search for “formal table setting” returns dozens of results, many with antiquated seafood forks and glasses for every beverage imaginable. While there are many ways to set a table, we’ll focus on how to set a formal dinner table beautifully. Here is an example of tableware for an intimate holiday celebration.

Step Three: Learn The Basics Of Table Setting

According to Food & Wine research, the biggest food and dining trends of 2021 include special occasion dining, individually served menu items, and at-home restaurant experiences. Although there are many ways to set a table, we’re sharing tips on how to set your formal dining table beautifully.

“You need first to consider what you’re going to serve and how you plan on serving it,” Andy said. “So, if you’re going to offer soup, then you need a soup spoon, and if you’re going to have salad, you need a salad fork.”

Once you understand the logic of table setting, then everything should start to make more sense, he explained. It’s like Molly Brown from the Titanic said to Jack, “just start from the outside and work your way in.”

You also want to ensure the silverware and glassware are on the correct sides of the charger or dinner plate. Andy shared a tip to remember what goes where:

“Make the ‘OK’ symbol with your thumb and pointer finger. Your left hand will make a lowercase ‘b for bread, and your right hand will make a lowercase ‘d’ for drinks.”

So, if you’re ever in doubt, just know that it will be OK. Here is an example of what tableware you will typically need for an intimate holiday party in Reno this season.

The Basics: What You Need

  • One soup bowl
  • Three spoons (soup, dinner, dessert)
  • Three knives (salad, butter, dessert)
  • Three plates (salad, bread, dinner)
  • Three glasses (water, red wine, white wine)
  • Four forks (salad, fish, dinner, dessert)
  • Coffee cup and saucer
  • Napkin
  • Placemat or tablecloth
  • Place card
  • Salt and Pepper shakers

Remember, these are general instructions for setting a formal dining table, but it largely depends on what you plan on serving during your holiday party in Reno. We suggest starting with this example and seeing what works best for you.

Wedding bouquets on table at reception dinner party

Step 4: Follow The Latest Decor And Dining Trends

You don’t need to be an interior designer to throw an unforgettable holiday party in Reno this season. By following the latest home decor and luxury trends, you can turn your dining room into a luxurious five-star resort.

“Holiday-themed parties aren’t red and green anymore,” Andy said. “People are attracted to more intricate color palettes now.”

Nowadays, it’s all about cozy textiles, natural textures, and warmer colors. So, throw those Santa-colored red and green cocktail napkins in the trash and spice up your party with earthly elements of wood, crystal, and mixed metals. Nisha suggested adding color and seasonal florals to the areas that guests are most likely to see first.

“Your front door and porch is the first location that the guests will experience,” Nisha said. “Setting the stage is key for a successful party.”

Make sure that you don’t use heavily fragranced decor because it could take away from the experience and cause guests’ allergies, she added.

Nancy also likes to use fresh greenery and floral arrangements on her dining-room tables and pairs them with some of her most cherished holiday decorations.

“I have generations of decorations and handmade ornaments by my son that bring me an abundant amount of joy,” Nancy said. “I love unwrapping them and sharing them with others at my holiday parties.”

Step 5: Know Which Local Businesses Can Help

I asked the party planning experts which local businesses can help you throw the best holiday party in Reno this season, and they came up with this detailed list. From cakes to seasonal flowers to world-class whiskey products, you can find just what you need for the perfect celebration.


  1. Cake You Happy

With customized cakes for special occasions, Cake You Happy can make all your cake dreams come true.

  1. Franz’s Backstube Bakery

Austrian pastries, cakes, pies, sandwiches, salads, soups, quiche—should we go on? This award-winning bakery has you covered for all your menu needs.

  1. Nothing Bundt Cakes

Pumpkin spice and everything nice, Nothing Bundt Cakes offers delicious cakes made with warmth and nostalgia of its home-kitchen roots.

Catering Companies

  1. Celebrations Party Rentals

If you’re on a budget or have limited space, this full-service rental and production company can provide you with fine china, chairs, tents, and more.

  1. Liberty Food & Wine Exchange

Are you looking for stress-free party planning options? Liberty Food & Wine Exchange can provide customized catering services to suit your unique needs.

  1. Roundabout Catering & Party Rentals

If you want to create an unforgettable holiday party in Reno, this catering and party rental company can be your all-in-one resource for all your menu and rental planning needs.

Charcuterie Companies

  1. Hosted Charcuterie

This local charcuterie business has turned charcuterie platters into an art form. Have you ever heard of charcuterie cones? Neither have we, before now.

  1. The Cheese Board

As a full-service bistro and catering company, this cheese and wine boutique is sure to have everything you need for the perfect appetizer and more.

Chocolate Shops

  1. Dorinda’s Chocolates

As one of Reno’s finest chocolate shops, Dorinda’s Chocolates offers seasonal treats and sweets for every special occasion out there.

  1. Chocolate Nugget Candy Factory

With more than three generations’ experience, the Chocolate Nugget Candy Factory has just what you need to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Fabrics & Linens

  1. Creative Coverings

Need help putting your vision to life? Creative Coverings has an endless array of unique table linens that are moody, modern, and perfect for any occasion.


  1. Amy’s Flowers

This full-service florist has more than 20 years of experience serving the greater Northern Nevada region and artistically arranges and hand-delivers every order.

  1. Devonwoods Florist

From specialty soaps to gourmet chocolates to a wide selection of flowers, this Reno florist has everything you need to stimulate your senses.

  1. Galena Forest Flowers

With a same-day delivery service, this boutique floral design studio can bring color and plant-inspired living products to your home in no time.

  1. Helianthus Floral

With an exceptional eye for detail, this Reno florist can design the perfect vintage-inspired flower arrangement for your holiday party in Reno.

Meat & Seafood Companies

  1. Blue Ribbon Meat & Butcher Shop

Not your average meat deli—you can have your big game meats processed for you or order specialty items like Korean short ribs and handmade sausages.

  1. Butcher Boys Meat Market

This butcher shop has served the Reno community for more than 80 years and offers a wide variety of high-quality meat and seafood.

  1. Sierra Gold Seafood Market

This family-owned and operated market is your one-stop shop for fresh and quality seafood, offering wholesale prices for your menu needs.

Mobile Bars

  1. Dusty Bottle

Add some flair to your holiday party in Reno with this 1972 Airstream trailer that has been converted into a one-of-a-kind bartending and photo booth service.

  1. Petite Street

Who says you need to go out for drinks? Petite Street offers full-service vintage trailer bars that will come to you with cocktails and good times.

Spirits & Wine

  1. Bently Heritage Estate Distillery

Nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this one-of-a-kind distillery offers ultra-premium spirits sourced from the Nevada grain.

  1. Frey Ranch Distillery

With over 165 years of generational farming and distilling expertise, Frey Ranch Distillery offers whiskey products to make any occasion special.

  1. Whispering Vine Wine Co.

If you need ideas about food and wine pairing or want to offer your guests the finest libations, then Whispering Vine Wine Co. is the place for you.

Step 6: Don’t Forget About The Small Details

Do small details count? You bet your bottom dollar. When it comes to party planning, it’s about going the extra mile. We asked Andy, Beth, Nancy, and Nisha to share a few of their favorite ways to make guests feel special. Here’s what they said.

Andy says: I recommend having individual hand sanitizer bottles by the food or placed by any high-touch areas. Whether it’s a public or private event at your home, you always want to make sure that you’re promoting safe hygiene.

Beth says: My favorite small detail about party planning is sending guests home with gifts. At past events, I have gifted bags of homemade toffee candies, mini coffee cakes, and local coffee for guests to enjoy the following day. These gestures will label your event as the “party of the year.”

Nancy says: The small details start with the guest invitation list and the purpose of the party. You want to ensure you’re taking into account everyone involved. So, if more than 20 guests are attending, I will send a postcard to my neighbors to inform them of the event. When the day comes, I introduce guests to other guests and spend time with everyone to let them know how much I appreciate their attendance and catch up with them. I also love sending guests home with gifts from my garden or something like spices and olive oil that they will use every day.

Nisha says: You should always make your guests feel welcome. I like to give each guest a homemade or handmade parting gift such as a box of local artisan note cards from The Nevada Museum of Art Shop or a pouch of locally harvested juniper and lavender.  Every time the guests use the note cards or smell the lavender satchel, the memory of your party will come flooding back.

Step 7: Remember That Community Matters

What do you love most about holiday parties? Whether it’s the food, drinks, entertainment, or all of the above, it wouldn’t be the same without our community. Here’s what Northern Nevada’s party planning pros had to say about what they love about events and community members working together during the holidays.

Andy says: I love connecting and building relationships with people. I’m like that weird cousin that knows everything about everyone. It’s also incredibly gratifying to see all your hard work come together. No event is the same—it keeps you on your toes and helps you become an excellent problem-solver.

Beth says: It’s always encouraging to see people give back to the community during holiday events. I recommend sponsoring a family or two at Christmas through the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows holiday program if you’re looking for an organization to support. At Roundabout, we buy gifts based on each family member’s wish list and then take them to the club together to give to the family.

Nancy says: If you’re looking for engaging activities to have at your party, then there are many resources at your fingertips. You could invite Dr. Dennis Dworkin, a Historian at the University of Nevada, Reno. My friend Stephanie Kruse and I frequently introduce new community members to other well-known organizations like the Nevada Museum of Art,  Renown Regional Medical Center, and Truckee Meadows Community College. I always try to include some aspect of our community at my events because I love where I live, and I love the generosity of the people here. In the past, I have invited the Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus to sing holiday carols and the Reno Chamber Orchestra to perform in my garden. I love entertaining guests by welcoming them into my home and community.

Nisha says: The holidays are about spending time with friends and family members while sharing good-quality laughs, recipes, and spirits.  I love to support local small businesses.  The last two years have been extremely hard for our community, especially our hospitality and small business owners. An easy way to support the community is by purchasing local ingredients for your party. If you appreciate a good cocktail, then I recommend Bently Heritage Ranch Distillery. For the freshest seafood, Sierra Gold Seafood Market is a must. For a sweet party treat, Dorinda’s sea salt caramels are one of my favorites.

Posted by Jeff Sallan on
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