Hosting a holiday party? A Regis alumna is here to help

As a professional event planner, Regis alumna Jenny Maxwell was used to spending most of the holiday season planning office parties, fundraisers and destination events. Then came COVID.

As a result of the pandemic-related closures last year, business came screeching to a halt. After Maxwell was forced to temporarily close her business, Occasionally Fabulous Events, she decided to shift her attention to a project she had wanted to accomplish for more than 20 years: writing a recipe book and events how-to guide.

The end result, Entertaining with Purpose, was published in November. Inspired by her Jesuit education, Maxwell said 50 percent of proceeds from her book will support the Food Bank of the Rockies.

“That’s part of the Regis (values),” she said. “We’re taught to give back.”

Maxwell, who earned a communications degree, looks back at Regis as a transformative time.

"I have fond memories," she said. "I loved the community and I loved my small classes."

Maxwell went on to graduate with an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University. After Regis, she started her career in advertising, and later worked in communications at the Colorado State Capitol before starting a catering company. She also worked in travel tourism marketing and as a magazine food stylist.

But she was most passionate about planning and hosting events, inspired by her grandparents’ years of hosting successful events at home.

This holiday season, Maxwell is back in business and busier than ever. With the party season well underway, she shared tips for hosting:

Determine comfort levels. “Right now, people are very hesitant about gathering during COVID, and I think my number one tip is that you need to be sensitive to where people are at emotionally and mentally,” she said.

Instead of hosting a large gathering, consider scaling down.

“Maybe you normally have 25 people come over on Christmas Eve,” she said. “Be open-minded and understanding that maybe this year needs to just be 10 or eight. That can be for the office party, that can be for a family gathering, or for your friends. My number one tip is just be compassionate, sensitive and understanding to where people are at emotionally during COVID.”

Hosting a virtual party? Add structure to make it fun. “You can put together a really fun virtual party,” Maxwell said. “You can have a box and add your favorite wine or tiny champagnes … get everyone the same box, open it and have the same party virtual party experience together.”

During a virtual party, Maxwell recommends creating an agenda and selecting a moderator ahead of time.

“You need to have someone in charge, you to have a theme, you can do trivia,” she said. “There are so many different fun things that you can still do virtually.”

For in-person events, know how to organize your space. For home holiday parties, Maxwell encourages hosts to think about how many people they can comfortably entertain.

“If it's a five-course dinner, have the actual meal at the table, but maybe have appetizers in the other room so people can be moving their bodies not just sitting at a table not just all sitting in the living room,” she said. “Use the most of your space.” To help hosts plan ahead, Maxwell created a guide on her website.