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From screenwriters and sound engineers, to celebrity makeup artists and stylists, Variety’s new series “Ask an Insider” asks top professionals in the entertainment industry to share their essentials, for work and play. In this installment, celebrity event designer Edward Perotti shares his holiday party must-haves, including Diptyque candles and Brizled LED lights. 

Celebrity event designer Edward Perotti knows how to throw a party. His multi-million-dollar bashes have featured performances by artists such as Nick Jonas and Ariana Grande, and even a buttoned-up corporate event he threw alongside Kathy Griffin ended with an on-stage smooch between the two.

But despite his grand soirees — which have taken place everywhere from the Louvre to the Great Wall of China — he firmly believes that you don’t need to spend a lot of money or flaunt over-the-top extravagances to create one-of-a-kind experiences for guests.

During the holidays, when people are likely celebrating with close friends and family, Perotti’s main mission is to make guests feel like their most authentic selves: “It could be an A-lister in L.A., a tech exec up in Northern California or a mom and pop in Kansas: Everybody wears a mask outwardly,” Perotti tells Variety. “And when you’re inviting people to a holiday party, especially if it’s at your home, you’re saying that you want to give them something of yourself. So let’s give them that.”

One of the ways he does this is through gifting personalized goodie bags to guests, packed with memorable relics from the party itself. This year, he’s on a candle kick, particularly Diptyque’s newest wood fire scent that he says adds warmth and light to any space — something we all need a little bit more of right now.

Below are a few more of Perotti’s holiday party must-haves. But before you sift through his essentials, Perotti stresses the importance of having protocols in place, such as vaccine requirements and masking, as COVID variants continue to pose new threats: “Diligence is a huge thing,” he says.

Diptyque Feu De Bois Wood Fire Candle

Courtesy of Diptyque

Perotti says you can’t have too many candles, noting that he “lost his mind” with candles this year. “I personally felt that I needed to see some more light this year — the image that it puts on the walls, there’s a little bit of calming and hope that goes with that for me,” he says.

Rather than relegating them to tabletop décor, his favorite use for candles is first introducing them throughout the space of the party before including them as surprise gifts in goodie bags for guests to take home. His candle of choice this year has been Diptyque, which he first discovered on a trip to Paris when he was a teenager, and has since become a staple in his home. This season, his go-to scent is Feu de Bois (wood fire), which he says “takes you to that special place of comfort and warmth.”

By gifting guests candles, Perotti says he can tell a story. “I can connect them with me and the event, and they’ve got something that they’re going to also take home, that’s going to remind them of what they just experienced,” he says. “These things don’t need to cost a lot of money. Holiday events should be about celebrating the collective group, you all coming together. And celebrating joy, celebrating an emotion. So it doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, it just needs to have thought.”

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Orange Proof Syrup

Courtesy of Proof

Perotti loves to experiment with cocktails during the holiday season. “The mixes, the smells and textures are where your creativity can shine,” he says. “The kicker is that you don’t need to be a skilled mixologist to wow your guests. When time and talent is short, there are a few pre-made options that you can dress up to make your evening a hit.”

His drink of choice is an Old Fashioned, which he spices up with citrusy syrups from a go-to brand named Proof. “Just add the orange syrup to give a holiday kick to your specialty cocktail. Garnish with a small sprig of fresh rosemary and viola, you are a rock star.”

If your taste leans toward bubbles, though, he recommends Bellinis, which he tops off with Limoncello or Grand Marnier for a hint of festive citrus.

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Glass Booze Baubles

Courtesy of Whiskey Shop

Perotti recommends using enclosed glassware that can’t collect any germs from bartenders or while sitting out in the open. But rather than letting these changes get in his way, he embraces them, using festive drinkware like these glass booze baubles.

“Why not put all the drinks in sterilized plastic ornament balls that sit in a martini glass?” he says. “People can grab their drinks, and it’s nothing that’s been out and people have put any breath on. And then they just pour it into their glass — it gives them a sense of control, and I think that’s important.”

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Paperless Post Invitations

Courtesy of Paperless Posts

“We’ve been trained to use tech for most of our needs, and that still makes sense now,” says Perotti, who uses platforms like Evite and Paperless Posts to spread the word about his events.

He stresses the importance of staying COVID-safe and being diligent, with guests taking necessary precautions. “You should include specific notes on vaccination requirements and masking expectations in the body of your invitation,” he says. “Be as transparent as possible with your guests. They might not say anything and feel conflicted, so you want to address their concerns as much as possible.”

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Brizled LED Lights

Courtesy of Amazon

Ambient lighting doesn’t stop with candles. Especially during the holidays, Perotti loves adding a glow to any space with the help of traditional Christmas lights, whether it’s draped around the tree or in communal spots in the house.

“If your home decor has lots of color and details, go for the simplicity of white or clear lights. But if your decor is more minimal and sedate, weave in colored lights,” he says. “The trick is to let your decor make a statement, yet make it feel like it belongs in the environment.” He recommends Brizled LED lights, which come in both color and white options all on one strand.

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