Festive Haus owner Jessie Gillham gives a book club gathering a themed style upgrade and offers tips for your own soirée
Meet the Party Planner: A background in large-scale event planning (she was formerly director of events at the local Susan G. Komen chapter) led Little Rock native Jessie Gillham to discover how much she loved the details of everyday occasions. “I was always the one in my friend group who planned the bridal and baby showers, and I loved it,” she says.
In January she went full time with her passion, launching Festive Haus, an event planning company dedicated to curating celebrations—whether it’s a birthday party for 3-year-olds, a bridal shower, a dinner party, or any other event. And while she’s used to handling everything from invitations to menus to greeting guests at the door (yes, she’ll attend, so you can enjoy your party!), she’s sharing a few items to have on hand that will ensure you’ll be ready for a gathering at the drop of a hat.
Serving meals family style encourages conversation and togetherness. “I love doing dinner parties and seated, more intimate gatherings. I grew up with my mom always entertaining, so there’s something that I feel so passionate about and that I love about people gathering together over a meal,” Jessie says.
Jessie’s Essentials for Easy Entertaining
1 Music. Good tunes set the tone of every celebration. Compile a playlist or set a favorite music station in advance.
2 Flowers and candles. Nothing adds warmth to a space quite like fresh flowers and the glow of candlelight. And don’t limit yourself to just flowers. Have fun incorporating fruit, fresh herbs, and plants in your centerpieces.
3 A go-to menu. For last-minute entertaining, have a recipe in your back pocket. Whether it’s roast chicken or pizza on the grill, keep it simple and delicious.
4 A signature cocktail. Every good host should know how to mix one cocktail from memory. Make it easy on yourself and serve batch cocktails in a pitcher. Guests will feel free to help themselves, and you’ll be able to enjoy your guests.
5 Carafes. Set out a couple carafes of infused water on the bar or table for your guests. You won’t feel obligated to refill glasses throughout the night.
6 A large serving tray. You don’t need a bar cart to set up a proper bar. Use a serving tray to organize your glasses, cocktail napkins, and mixers in a stylish fashion.
7 Wooden serving board. These versatile pieces are a chic and casual way to serve everything from charcuterie and cheese plates to brunch spreads and even fondue.
8 Basic white dishes. Or, if you want to skip dishwashing duty, serve on disposable bamboo plates.
9 Napkins. Not every celebration needs folded napkins. For casual gatherings, use linen-feel paper guest towels.
10 A cocktail in your hand. It’s just more fun that way—and when you’re enjoying yourself, your guests will have fun, too!
Book Club Details
1 Placecards with each guest’s name and a nod to the lemon theme make attendees feel special. 2 Mix-and-match glasses hold the evening’s cocktail, a Limoncello Collins. 3 “We went with a tapas/shared plates menu for the food. I think it always looks beautiful and is an easy way to start if it’s your first time hosting,” Jessie says. 4 Small blue plates were the inspiration for the party’s palette. 5 The club’s book of the month, Among the Lemon Trees, is set in Greece. The planner ran with this idea, opting for a lemon theme and Mediterranean food. 6 Jessie’s parents’ backyard, which she says they have transformed into “a little French courtyard,” served as the setting for the gathering of friends. 7 “I like mixing old and new, so here there are antique copper pieces with a tablecloth from H&M,” Jessie says. “I want everything to be approachable—nothing overwhelming.” 8 Fresh hydrangeas were clipped from nearby bushes for easy-to-assemble, no-cost arrangements. 9 Custom digital calligraphy menu cards from Paper Supply Co. are a thoughtful way to let guests know what to expect throughout the dinner.
Limoncello Collins Recipe
Makes 8 Cocktails
16 ounces limoncello
12 ounces gin
8 ounces fresh lemon juice
16 ounces club soda, chilled
Mint sprigs, blueberries, and/or fresh lavender, for garnish
In a pitcher, combine the limoncello, gin, and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. When guests arrive, pour the limoncello mixture into glasses over ice and top with 2 ounces of club soda. Garnish with your choice of mint, blueberries, or fresh lavender. Cheers!
Event design and styling Jessie Gillham, Festive Haus Cake Sweet Lavender Bakeshop Catering Boulevard Bread Co. Paper Goods Paper Supply Co. Rentals (tableware) Eventology