Jill Bowman is the manager of the Out of Hand Boutique in Mt. Pleasant's Old Village neighborhood

As we head into the holiday season, parties are ubiquitous. An influx of invitations clutters our mailboxes and our day planners, but it's the ones planned with your close and intimate friends that you really want to attend. Take some tips from those ooh! ladies in Charleston on a holiday party that will serve as a reprieve in a busy season!

Below, read advice from Jill Bowman, manager at Out of Hand and SOUTH in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina's charming Old Village neighborhood!

Jill: Before the holiday season gets too hectic, it's nice to plan a low-key, laid-back evening with your friends. An intimate dinner party does not have to be formal to be fun! My friends and I are an eclectic mix of personalities, but we sure do like to eat, drink, and be merry together. When we need some quality time, I turn to sangria and tapas.

Take the party outside: There's something soothing about being surrounded by nature and breathing in the fresh, cool autumn air. In case it gets too chilly, keep a blanket or two around for guests to grab.


Keep it casual: Try unconventional seating – place your table in front of a porch swing, and scatter extra chairs around. Leave some plates with the table setting, and stack others; by doing so, your guests have the option to sit wherever they please! After all, with a group of friends, you can use the porch, patio, or front lawn, and still take part in lively conversation.

Simple, but mindful: Keep your main elements simple with clean lines and neutral colors (think white square plates and white seating covers). Then, add punches of rich jewel tones with throw pillows, mixed-up glassware, and extra seating. Even your food can serve as a pop of color. Get creative!


Juxtaposition is key: I love mixing elements: old with new, rugged with refined, masculine with feminine. For example, I use a hand-hewn wooden farm table and add velvet chairs, white-linen napkins, contemporary square plates, and vintage silverware. For extra dimension, I place rough-cut branches of berries in the chandelier, and bring out a white vase full of pretty flowers for splashes of color.

Fun and easy menu: Keep things light-hearted and fun with sangria and tapas! I like to offer red and white sangria. Both compliment the mix of tapas served and give guests some variety. For the food: include a nice cheese, charcuterie and fruit platter; a vegetable plate or salad; one or two hot dips (I love a good artichoke or crab dip); and one cold dip (try a fresh salsa). End the meal with hearty main bites like lollipop lamb chops and skewered-grilled shrimp.