How to Host a Holiday Party Like Aerin Lauder

Beth Stebner
aerin lauder home decor

Aerin Lauder knows a thing or two about hosting. (Photo: Courtesy of AERIN)

Want to plan the most stylish holiday party you’ve ever thrown? You’ll need some help, and who better to turn to than impossibly elegant lifestyle and beauty guru Aerin Lauder. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that the 45-year-old founder of AERIN grew up learning from her grandmother, the legendary Estée Lauder, but this scion and mom of two has her own foolproof tips and tricks to make sure your holiday will be not only merry and bright, but an event to remember.

We caught up with her to find out what her tried-and-true secrets are. Hint? Always have a healthy amount of potato chips on hand.

First off, what’s so special about the holidays for you? What do you love about this time of year?
The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year. I love seeing all the festive decorations and celebrating with family and friends.

How would you describe your decorating style for the holidays? Are there any special touches that you’d say are specifically yours?
My style is classic and elegant, with a modern twist. I love making my home festive by placing berry branches and dahlias throughout the house and wrapping garlands around staircases and fireplace mantles.

What’s your most prized decorating possession?
I wouldn’t say that I have one favorite, but I love decorating my home with red and gold festive candies, bowls, and flowers.

A room feels empty if it doesn’t have ______.
Photographs of my family. I have picture frames all throughout my home. Personal photos bring life to any space.

Your grandmother was legendary for her entertaining. What memories do you have of her hosting parties? Are there any traditions of hers that you still adhere to?
She taught me the secret to entertaining is to make guests comfortable. She used to serve gourmet potato chips in beautiful bowls, which I still do today and guests love. She also loved sending her guests home with a small gift. I love to incorporate a little something for each guest into the place setting.

What are your favorite colors to decorate with during the holidays?
My holiday decorating inspiration comes from my winters in Vienna, Austria, where I lived as a teenager. There’s an amazing sense of style and tradition there, and I love using touches of red and gold for the holidays.

Would you rather be the host or the guest at a holiday party?
I’d rather host. I love to entertain and have guests over for dinner, drinks, and conversation. Good friends are an extension of my family.

How do you go about prepping for holiday entertaining—picking out a menu, cocktails, and music?
Personally, I like wine or tequila—but for the holidays, there’s nothing more festive than a beautiful flute of champagne. For music, I love all old classic holiday songs. Anything by icons like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Ella Fitzgerald.

What’s the one thing everyone should have on hand in case surprise company drops in?
Candles can instantly transform the feeling of a space. This season, I’ll be lighting the new AERIN Beauty Rose de Grasse Candle for guests. I also recommend keeping a stocked bar and some snacks like mixed nuts, potato chips, and chocolate-covered almonds.

MORE: How to Host a Party Like Rachel Zoe

What’s the worst thing you can do as a host?
Stress out—guests know when you’re not prepared or worried. Entertaining should feel effortless, so you as a host can also enjoy the party. Even if everything’s not perfect, the most important thing is that guests feel welcome and have fun.

What’s the worst thing you can do as a guest?
Guests should try not to show up unannounced or too late. Otherwise, I just want everyone to feel welcome and not too pressured to enjoy themselves.

What are some of your top gifts for a host that aren’t cliché?
In a technological world, there’s something even more special about illustrated books. I love giving a great coffee table book that’s tailored to the interests of my hosts. Whether they’re passionate about design, fashion, travel, food, or art, there are so many wonderful books to choose from. Two of my friends—Clinton Smith and Kelly Klein—released books this fall, and both are on my gifting list. The new AERIN Soap Coffret is nice as well. It’s a beautiful package and nice way to incorporate fragrance into a home.”