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As a world-renowned event producer and the creative force behind Target’s Best.Party.Ever., there’s a lot you can learn from David Stark. We sat down with the designer extraordinaire to hear firsthand what it takes to throw that fabulous, festive holiday party you’ve always dreamed of.

1. Think big.
“I always suggest that people think about the big picture first. People have a tendency to want to focus on the little details, like striped straws in drinks or font choice on napkins. But you need to create a foundation first. Once you build the house, you can pick out the sofa that goes inside. Think about what your party goals are, and then add in those special little touches.”

2. A thoughtful host reigns supreme. 
“Being a great host is about being thoughtful and relating to the people you’ve invited—for example, thinking ahead to where your guests sit at the dining table. I believe very much in the place card. Sometimes people think place cards are too rigid but, the truth is, a host that goes through the extra effort to think strategically about who guests sit next to is the best type of host. Guests could leave making a new friend, falling in love or getting a new job. Either way, your guests will leave with a new person in their world. That doesn’t take money, that just takes a little thoughtfulness.”

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3. There’s no such thing as a perfect party.
“Special events are special because they are real. It’s live theater! Whether you plan two days or two years in advance, there’s no such thing as a perfect party. I never go into an event thinking that everything is gong to go exactly as planned, and that’s okay. The sign of a good party thrower is how you think on your feet. The happy accidents happen because you’re reacting to real life issues; maybe it rains or the salad is served with chicken instead of salmon. If the plan shifts, so be it. Just put on a happy face, and act like it was always supposed to be that way. Those are the moments people remember.”

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4. Be open to fluid design.
“Don’t be afraid to experiment with your party design. Design is fluid, so be innovative but also be open to changes along the way. Maybe you envisioned bubbles floating throughout the entire space, but you eventually opt for white balloons instead. It’ll still be magical.”

5. Set the soundtrack.
“Most importantly, narrate your event with great music. The soundtrack of your special event will create a good vibe for your guests.”

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