Tips For The Perfect Party

Yes, that’s a self-assuming (but SEO rich) title for this blog post, cause, when the McNultys do a shindig, it’s anything but perfect and a whole lot of fun. I should really do a blog on everything that goes wrong which you hope nobody sees, but that’s another day. Today, let’s talk about our annual Irish Christmas at Blackberry Hollow and oh how much fun it is planning for 365 days. Although it is summer in Tennessee, these tips can be used for any event! (Disclaimer: Business blogging is part of my real job so NanceSense gets a little neglected but never unloved!)

Party Music

When I approach a photo shoot for Forest Home Media, I love every pic to have the perfect setting with dashes of food, wine, art, fresh flowers, books and a hint of music. The planning for our party is much the same and the first thing I book is the music! We were thrilled to have Geno Hafner join us again on keyboard and loved daughter Maggie and friend Bo Turner joining him on a few songs. (As well as Keb’ Mo’ and super talented wife, Robbie Moore, singing a few tunes!) Among Geno’s many hats is a swing band The Dean Martinis which we love! Living in Music City, we’ve been blessed to have book violinists, guitar players and keyboardist….and this guy rocks!

Geno Hafner, Bo Turner, Maggie McNulty, Christmas at Blackberry Hollow

Geno Hafner was joined for a few songs by violinists Bo Turner and Maggie McNulty

Party Invites

Solutions on the most successful way to invite friends to a party are definitely being impacted by The Internet. We’ve used Facebook and email hoping to be more green but there’s something about the tactile wonderfulness of a printed invite that keeps calling me back to it. I revisited Simply To Impress for our Christmas card and party invite and was super satisfied again. I think the RSVP rate is higher. However, it is fun to have a private Facebook page for post-party pictures so next year, I’ll probably add it back into the mix. The guest list shifts slightly each year to accommodate folks we have spent more time with in the year. Basically, we include a hand full of favorites from neighbors and media friends/work to church and social. The mix always creates a cornucopia of fun!

Irish Christmas at Blackberry Hollow, NanceSense. Nashville, TN


Christmas at Blackberry Hollow, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Charity In Lieu Of Hostess Gifts

Hosting this party for over two decades now, we are SO grateful for the kind hostess gifts but this year we again encouraged folks to just drop a little something in the bucket by the door instead. We don’t ask folks to bring food or wine as our gift to our guests. Hopefully, the donation bucket also simplifies the experience as well cause December can be flat out crazy for everybody. This year we chose Imagine No Malaria.

Imagine No Malaria, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Party Favor

So, music, date and invite are first in the planning process, but I actually decided my party favor last summer! Although we call our home Blackberry Hollow for the abundance of blackberries, I LOVE blueberries and made jam for my guests during July. Several folks pitched in the 48 hours before the party including garden lifestyle expert Carmen Johnston but her hubs who actually adorned the favors with burlap and plaid. #TommyRocks

Tommy & Carmen Johnston, Desmond Child, Troy Marden, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Tommy & Carmen Johnston, from Columbus, GA, with Desmond Child and Troy Marden. Tommy helped put the final touches on the party favors while Carmen “juzzed up” the place with her Southern Living magic!


The menu is something I continue to tweak each year but there are standards which must happen or I guess somebody might stomp out the door. Here’s what we served this year. After heading up the PR team for the Nashville Holiday Parade of Homes at Kings’ Chapel, I was thrilled to have serving help from Cydney Osborne who made several of the yummo items this year too. #CydneyRocks

Menu: spiced nuts, corn beef ball, blue cheese crisps, stuffed mushrooms, Greer Dip, Chicken Fingers, Irish Venison Stew with noodles, shrimp ‘n grits, homemade rolls, fresh pineapple, Sundried Tomato Pesto Torta, shortbread cookies, chocolate cinnamon rum bread pudding, brownies, chocolate vanilla trifle, meringue cookies, caramel cake

Event Signature Drink

Love this party tradition! This year this was all the rage on Pinterest and Facebook and seriously adorable The Grinch! This recipe was 8x. We also served tons of water!

The Grinch

3 oz peach schnapps, 3 oz Bacardi® 151 rum, 12 oz orange juice, 4 oz Sprite® soda, 3 oz Blue Curacao liqueur

Grinch signature drink enjoyed by friends Jen Zawadzinski, from New York City, Dana Tucker, from Franklin, and Carmen Johnston, from Columbus, GA, NanceSense, Nashville, TNj

The Grinch signature drink enjoyed by friends Jen Zawadzinski, from New York City, Dana Tucker, from Franklin, and Carmen Johnston, from Columbua, GA, NanceSense, Nashville, TNj



Love having a Christmas party because it forces me to get my decorating act together. One of our favorite traditions is local florist Garden Delights festively dressing my mother’s swan. This year, found a monogrammed burlap runner at Grassland’s The Perfect Setting to add to the Irish plaid tablecloth. Another highlight for me each year is friend Lisha Pope decorating our mailbox with plaid & the Republic of Ireland flags!

Swan table decor, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

mailbox Irish flag

Next year, there will be an Irish toast by hubs and we are adding a variety of Irish cheeses to the mix. Really can’t figure out why we haven’t been doing it each year, but, many times, it’s just a crazy critical mass just getting the food on the table! Slainte dear friends!


About Nancy McNulty

PR & marketing practitioner, wife/mom, writer, tennis player, cook & lover of the arts & pop culture. Began as a Nashville Banner & WMCP Radio Station reporter. Communications grad - Univ.of TN - Knoxville including working at WUTK & The Daily Beacon. Spent two summers interning in Washington, DC w/ one stint in the Majority Leader's Press Office - "yes, I can give you directions Mr. Kissinger." Now living, loving & working in Nashville, TN w/ my integrated marketing biz - Forest Home Media.. Love sharing great tips on what to do & where to go with folks via this NanceSense experience blog.Twitter & Instagram @NanceSense & Pinterest@NancyMcNulty
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