Top 6 Holiday Entertaining Tips Sure to Impress. Plus, Rayo Events now featured in ...




Hi everyone!  It's so great to be chatting with ya again! We've missed ya so much! It's been one thing after the other, but we're so glad to be back at blogging and are oh-so grateful for each of you! We definitely could not leave ya hanging during the holidays without sharing some amazing holiday entertaining tips and tricks! We love the holidays; adore the holidays! It's the perfect time to enjoy the beauty of nature, snowflakes (it snowed in Atlanta!), candid yams, butternut squash anything (lol), firesides, baked brie, holiday carols, hot coco overflowing with marshmallows (my fave!), and the laughter of family and friends! So we put together 6 Top Tips for Effortless Holiday Entertaining! These tips are incredibly simple, quick, and so doable. They're so super fantastic that they've been featured in The  Boss Box and Modern Luxury Interiors, Atlanta (page 185)! We are beyond trilled! Thank you, thank you, thank you The Boss Box and ML Interiors, Atlanta! Keep these tips in mind as you're getting those remaining gifts and/or making preparations for incoming family and guests! You'll be so glad you did! Drumroll ...

6 Tips for Effortless Holiday Entertaining!

1. Decorate in No Time
No decorations up yet? Family arriving in a few days? Most home and garden stores have color cards that can easily help you pick a quick scheme. Find one you like and go with it! Add festive accents to popular areas such as the kitchen, family room, and mantles. Hang a colorful wreath on your door and light clusters of candles to create amazing ambiance!

2. Impress with Desserts
Cupcake/cake stands and platters are your friends! Cluster your desserts on a buffet or console table and decorate with pumpkins, pomegranates, or winter squash! For cocktail parties, aim for at least three different bite-size sweets to offer. For sit-down dinners, use a stylish dessert plate, or classic painted china.

3. Gather Around Fire Pits or Fireplaces
When it comes to holiday entertaining with your family and friends, there’s no place like home! Make sure to have a moment where everyone gathers together to share special holiday memories or exchange gifts. Warm fireplaces or pits are the perfect location! Blankets, apple cider, and s’mores increase the cozy-factor!

C decor.jpg

4. Kids Just Want to Have Fun!
Create a kids-only zone filled with holiday crafts and games for your most precious tiny guests. The crafts can double as party favors at the end of the night! Consider enlisting a babysitter to oversee the activities.

5. Ask Before You Post
Guests, check with your host before posting photos on social media! You may unintentionally hurt the feelings of someone who didn’t score an invite, and you also want to respect the host’s home. Hosts, get the ‘OK’ from your guests before clicking ‘post’! Consider creating a special hashtag for everybody to use!

6. Try Electronic Invites
Technology is an effortless way to quickly communicate with guests, especially if high attendance is expected. There is a plethora of creative and stylish electronic invites to excite your guests. This method also makes it easier for your guests to RSVP, and you can conveniently message them with any updates.


These tips can also be incorporated into your New Year's Day festivities! Share these tips with a friend and post your photos on social media (tag Rayo Events). We'd love to see your creative creations! :-)


photo: verawedding.net

5 Must Try Spring Entertaining Tips!

Happy Tulip Season everyone! I hope everyone has been enjoying the Spring thus far. Here in Atlanta it's been a roller coaster of cold and warm weather, granting invitations to thunderstorms. But it's all well in the ATL. While we're in the heart of Spring - and before it starts storming again - we had to share some of our 5 Must Try Spring Entertaining Tips! Nothing says a Spring shindig like an awesome gathering of family, friends, business partners, etc, all enjoying delicious food, tasty drinks, seasonal décor and - of course - great company! So let's spring to it:


#1. BYO - Bartender

I've gone to way too many parties where guests are making their own drinks. And even worse, the host is tied down to the bar taking drink orders. So everyone but the host is enjoying their event, ... and a drink. No, we are totally in support of BYOB!  But if your selection spans beyond beer, wine, soda, and your favorite punch, we'd suggest enlisting a bartender.  It'll take stress off of you as a host, and plus the bartender can whip up any drink of your desire. And you can finally use your bar that you haven't had a chance to use in years!


#2. Hello Bright Fresh Flowers

Photo: wearefound.com

Photo: wearefound.com

Okay, so I'm a totally tulips kind of gal! Especially colored tulips - how fun and unexpected! Ever Spring, we always find a way to incorporate tulips - or really any bright fresh flowers - into our event décor. Fresh flowers are always a plus for their lovely scent, makes you feel like running to the meadows singing, "The hills are alive with the sound of music, la la la la,..." One of the easiest ways, and places, to incorporate fresh flowers into your spring décor: your kitchen countertop or island, the heart of any home. Aim for a bright hue of similar colors already in your home; yellow usually compliments most décor.  Select in-season florals and place in a clear vase (trim stems evenly) or a bright or white vase. You'll already be one step closer to being party ready!  


#3. More Ivy Please

We heart ivy! It's a great foundation to use for practically any season. And it's a lovely plant for bringing warmth into your home. Try incorporating an ivy garland as a runner on your dining table or food buffet. Even drape some around the base of your candy/treat jars. Use pillar candles or candle holders and fresh or faux fruit (lemon and limes work well) or bright flowers along the garland to add dept. For an evening event, we'd suggest sticking to candles and flowers. In either case, ensure some ivy hangs off the edges of the table or countertops to preserve the integrity of the plant's beauty and whimsical effects.


#4. Use Your Pool or Patio

If you've been getting tons of compliments on your pool or patio, then it's a sign.  It's time to throw a party! Pool and patio parties provide a relaxing ambiance of fresh air and the comfort of your home. The secret to a fantastic pool or patio party: playing good music, providing 30-50% seating, and keeping the food and bar outside (if possible). If the bar and food are kept inside, let it be easily accessible from the patio or pool. Wipe down everything (even if you're using table linens) and dust off seat cushions. Call the pool cleaner - yes, we'll be able to tell the difference. And remember to turn on your pool and patio lights, place gourmet peanuts in dainty bowls at the bar, and fight insects with some cintronella candles!


#5. Oscar Worthy Desserts

Have you had a dessert martini? Yes, a martini glass with a dessert in it! Gotcha lol. Use a fancy and unexpected presentation of desserts to keep the party lively well after everyone has eaten. Martini glasses (disposable works just as well and allow for easy clean-up) or even tall shot glasses are good for mousses and custards. But only fill 2/3 of the way to leave room for toppings. Small to medium sized cookies and bite-size desserts (e.g., petit fours) can be nicely displayed on tiered dessert stands. Desserts such as cakes, chesse cake, and anything with frosting should be cut before dessert time and placed on seperte desert plates for each guest to easily grab. And don't forget dessert forks and spoons!

Let us know if you were able to give any of these tips a try! How did they work for you? How did you incorporate these ideas into your party? Do share and share any pictures!

And remember: Joy Designs Homes


Holiday Dinner Etiquette Tips for Hosts & Guests

photo: womensday.com

photo: womensday.com

Who doesn't look forward to attending a great dinner? What else can top tasty food, mellow music, and great company? Even with all the excitement - especially around the holidays - there are simple etiquette responsibilities of hosts and guests than can really make the difference between an unforgettable party or a party everyone would rather forget. So let's check out these etiquette tips that will surely make you shine at your next party. Drum roll please:

Responsibilities of the Host

  • Look your best! Feel your best! If the event is being held at your home, throw on some shoes or pumps to complete your ensemble (at least until all guests have arrived). A stylish host always helps set the party tone! If there is a dress code preferred, be sure to include in your invites.
  • Always greet guests at the door or as soon as you see them.  If you have a greeter, make sure to keep on eye on the door for any new guests so you'll know as soon as they arrive. Greet them accordingly
  • Immediately take jackets/coats. You can hand them to another to hang up or put them in a room set aside for coats.
  • Take any gifts and follow same procedure as coats. Before the party begins, make sure you've designated an area for keeping gifts. If the gift is, for instance, wine, do not feel obligated to open and serve to guests. If the gift is a dessert, feel free to serve and make available to guests, but ask the guest first for permission first.
  • Introduce arriving guests to friends standing in the area. Identify friends by name.
  • Give directions to food and drinks to your arriving guests.
  • After all guests arrive,  the host circulates to make sure everyone has someone with whom to talk.
  • Assign someone to make sure there is enough food and drinks for everyone throughout the party. This can be handled by your event coordinator and/or caterer.         

   Responsibilities of Guests

  • Always take a hostess gift if you are going to someone’s home. If not at a home, it's always still a great idea to bring a token of appreciation.
  •  If it is a large party and your host is not at the door, work your way through the crowd and say hello to your host. Before you head to the bar or buffet or begin speaking with other guests, make sure to greet the host first.
  •  Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to others, and shake hands when you meet them.
  •  If you are talking to someone and a stranger walks up, introduce yourself, then the person with whom you are talking.
  • If there is an event coordinator, treat he/she as you would the host, as this person is a representative of the host.
  •  If you spill something, let the host know immediately, and offer to help clean it up.
  •  If you break something, let the host know. It is your responsibility to pay for the damage.
  •  Don’t bring a friend to the party unless you have checked with the host first.
  • Always thank the host before you leave. Don’t just walk out.                           -adopted from etiquette-ny.com

What is your experience with these tips? Tell us your perspective. And remember: Joy Designs Homes


One of the Best Christmas Decorating Tips!


Focus On The Table

And in focusing on the table, feel free to deviate from the standard red-and-green. "Rather than the traditional red and green scheme, try something new like a fabric in malachite and hot pink peonies," says designer Grant Gibson. "Layer in black and white for a graphic pop. The plates [here] are antique French."

Grant Gibson

Elle Decor

Fall is here!

Hi everyone! Please excuse me for my mini-sabbatical! I missed you all. But we're back on board. It's for sure time to get back to entertaining and decoration tips!

It's Fall, so you know what that means: lots of outstanding oranges, rich reds, textured tans, and mysterious mustards. And of course, I can't forget my favorites: shades of burlap, squashes (butternut squash!!!), pumpkin bread, and pomegranate anything! Love the fall!

One of the most fantastic ways to get you and your guests into the Autumn mode, if you haven't already, is having a fall wreath. I love square wreaths because they're different (in a good way), chic, and make a great conversation piece. Try wrapping a seasonally print fabric or (heavy duty) burlap around your wreath or hanger to complete your wreath. You can purchase a square wreath, foam, silk flowers, and wreath hanger and fabric from your local crafts store.

Please share how yours turned out and send your lovely pictures!

As always, remember: Joy Designs Homes!

New Takes on Carrot Cake

Hi everyone! This is a great time to begin thinking about your holiday dinner menu, especially your desserts.  Nothing every beats a good 'ole homemade cake! Absoultely nothing! What holiday dessert spread doesn't include some yummy carrot cake? Check out this new takes on the popular dessert, care of Food & Wine magazine, and give it a shot this holiday season. Remember: baking in a metal pan is best for oven temperatures over 350 degrees. Use a lovely cake stand to show off this holiday treat! Enjoy!


1. With cocoa. Baked in a loaf, this carrot cake is made extra delicious with the addition of cocoa powder and an almond-y streusel topping.

All photos courtesy of Food & Wine magazine

All photos courtesy of Food & Wine magazine

2. With almonds. Instead of using a lot of flour, this simple, unfrosted carrot cake relies on finely ground almonds and whipped egg whites for its structure.

3. As cupcakes. Yep, the classic layer cake makes for equally delicious cupcakes. Top them with the usual cream cheese frosting or upgrade by adding caramel as well.

4. With lemon frosting. Mascarpone, the creamy Italian cheese, is a luscious stand-in for the usual cream cheese. Lemon juice gives the frosting its signature tanginess.

5. With coconut. Coconut flour not only creates a pleasantly dense and flavorful carrot cake, it also makes it fiber-rich and gluten-free!

6. As cookies. Add carrots to your oatmeal cookies and top with cream cheese frosting for a cute riff on carrot cake.

7. As waffles. Make a carrot cake–inspired waffle batter, then top with cream cheese whipped cream. (Feel free to replace the gluten-free flour in the recipe with all-purpose.)

8. As muffins. Feeling like you want to eat something more virtuous? Skip the frosting and add wheat bran to the usual carrot cake.

By Kristin DonnellyPosted November 14, 2015.

Share your comments on how these turned out for your: And Remember: Joy Designs Homes!

5 Simple Tips to Hosting a Flawless Thanksgiving!

It's that time of the year again to give Thanks & cut some turkey! Wow - how time flies. Getting ready for Thanksgiving can be a lot of work, especially if you're hosting. It seems like no matter how soon you start your preparations, there's never enough time. Either the grocery stores are crowed, your to-do list keeps growing, or you haven't started cooking. On top of that, you have no idea what you're going to wear. It can be very stressful. We totally understand, having helped host countless parties and events we know how stressful party planning is. But what we have learned is getting stressed out only delays your preparations and is no fun. That's why we've found staying organized is your friend. You shouldn't be in the kitchen during Thanksgiving; you've got to enjoy yourself too. So we put together five tips for hosting a flawless Thanksgiving party!


1. Have an Approximate Guest Count

When people are hungry, they are hungry. And when it's their turn to spoon some mac and cheese, and there's no mac and cheese left, oh they're going to be agitated. When I was in the catering world, one of the #1 rules was to overestimate everything - especially the number of guests. So let's say you're expecting 15 guests, then cook for 20 - 25 guests. The difference in number may sound small but it makes a whole lot of difference. As a general rule, a 9" casserole dishes feeds up to six to eight comfortably, maybe 10 if you have at least three other dishes for guests to select from. A half size, deep (4" deep) aluminum pan feeds 18 to 20 persons comfortably. Do relay your approximate guest count to any guests bringing dishes, especially if they're brave enough to bring a main dish. And don't forget extra ice for the drinks! Guests will more than likely want to take a plate on the road with them. So don't be afraid to cook a little bit more than expected to attend :) 


2. Stick to a Menu

Photo courtesy of SarahHearts.com

Photo courtesy of SarahHearts.com

Creating a Thanksgiving menu shouldn't be too hard given we all know and love its staples. What, however, sets a dinner party or special gathering apart from any standard dinner is you're leading your guests to the main event - a lovely spread of some yummy entrees! Plus, this gives time for all guests to arrive to enjoy the grand meal together. Don't get me wrong - you don't have to print a menu for everyone to have. But it's a good idea as the host to jot down the menu for the occasion and categorize all the dishes into these three categories:

- Appetizers -

- Entrees & Side Dishes -

- Desserts (includes coffee and teas) -

Remember to place dishes guests are bringing into the above categories too. Organizing your meal is tremendously helpful! It helps you as a host to stay organized by guiding the order you prepare meals (prepare easy meals first and store until ready to serve - trust me) and by prioritizing which meals need to come out when. It's not a bad idea to have a tentative timeline for each category. For example, set aside 1hr for appetizers, 1 to 1.5 hours for entrees, and desserts and coffee for the rest of the evening. Having such time frames will encourage guests to mingle and gives you time to sneak away a few minutes to ensure the next dishes are ready to go.


3. Dress Your Table Beautifully

Photo courtesy of Loomdecor.com

It's one thing for food to taste good, but it's even better when it looks good!  Aside for being attractive to the eye, it really gives your guests something delicious to look forward to. It shows you the host really went out your way for well deserved guests.  If you're having a sit down dinner, where you're placing food in the middle of the table, it may be difficult to have a stunning centerpiece. Instead, transfer food into beautiful platters of similar colors/designs (I love white and pewter platters) and focus on using quality pieces (e.g. plates, silverware, napkins) for you table setting. Show off your attention to detail by using place cards in the shape of acorns or leaves and using beautiful serving utensils and salt/pepper shakers. If you have the room, stick to low centerpieces and a simple garland/runner or several small floral arrangements. Avoid tall arrangements unless you are decorating a buffet table. If you're having a buffet, chaffers are helpful and buffet cards add a very nice touch!


4. Be the Chicest Host Ever

Photo courtesy of Osochic.com

Who said the host can't look fabulous? You're the host, so you have to be the best dressed person of the party. Yes, you will be busy running between greeting everyone and making sure nothing is burning in the kitchen. But you'll just do it all looking chic. To help keep you moving but looking ah-mazing, try a fitted, well-cut sheath dress that has a touch of spandex/stretch to it. A nice caramel, earth tone, navy or black color flatters almost everyone. Pair your dress with some bling accessories, like a stunning necklace or bracelet, and some hott stud earrings or low-maintenance hoops. Throw on some badd pumps (have your ballerina flats nearby) and finish your outfit with a smoky eye or your favorite make-up. Add some red lips and you're done!


5. Light Candles

One of my most fav candle brands ever! Try the sandalwood vanile candle to give your Thanksgiving an autumn aroma. Photo courtesy of Candledilirum.com

While I was growing up in sweet home Alabama, we would boil cinnamon sticks to scent the home before guests arrived for a party. Not that the food didn't smell delicious, but we didn't want guests to know we just finished cooking :) In hindsight, I would totally do that again, but I'd enlist the help of scented candles. I adore candles; the ambiance they create is undeniable and perfect for a cozy gathering! I'm not saying your home shouldn't smell like your yummy food, but a lovely scent helps set the mood for a memorable time with family and friends. The smell of food is best reserved for when it's actually time to eat :) A few scented candles safety stationed at your foyer, living room and bar/beverage station and whereever guests will gather will do the trick. Light your candles 20-30 mins before guests arrive, and they'll totally love that you were anticipating their arrival!


Let us know which tips you loved and leave us your comments. Have a blessed Thanksgiving! Remember - joy designs homes!


Stylish Fall Entryways & Porches

Happy Tuesday all! I know you read the subject line to this post and were thinking how can fall décor be stylish? How does anyone style pumpkins, wheat stacks, colored leaves, and sticks all in the name of looking presentable? Well, I'm so glad you asked :) You see, style isn't just about bling and - I hate to say - fluff. It's about expressing who you are in a manner that's clear, distinguishable, and consistent. It can be described as rustic, classic, country (chic), modern, couture, elegant, beach, or bohemian - to name a few. But nevertheless - it's got to be fabulous! If you're gonna go rustic, make it the hottest rustic to hit the streets - so that everyone will want to go rustic!

What better opportunity to express YOU than the Fall and holidays? Yes, most of this décor is exactly the same ole story but put a twist in it. And why not begin with the first impression your Thanksgiving guests will have of you, which is your front door and porch. Yes, start sweepin'. And no, it totally does not work if the outside of your front door isn't decorated but the inside of your house is. It really throws people off. If you're gonna do it, do it all the way. Give your guests consistency. Set the scene with your front door/porch; let your guests' experience begin before they smell the fresh out the oven sweet potato pie! Give them something to look forward to. Then they'll know the party has really started and they are in for a very nice treat!

Here are some ideas I heart for your front doors and porches. Now notice all these images have three (3) things in common:

                       1. They use fall inspired colors were traditionally the colors are not used

                       2. Every item is clean, polished, and thoughfully placed (I'll speak more on this in a future post)

                       3. An element of surprise that uses fall colors (e.g. browns, greens, oranges, soft whites) is added

Check these out and please share your thoughts, tried, and trues.

The art of simplicity says a whole lot! Notice the interaction of very green plants and earth toned planters, both in round, textured shapes to emphasize the roundness of earth, and therefore, the integrity and beauty of the organic. Here, a play on browns and greens of fall and - yup you guessed it - off-white pumpkins remind you Fall can be warm and stylish. Did you notice the mirror doors reflecting the bare trees? So Fall! Mimic this look by picking up random branches outside - yes outside - of similar heights and stick them in your green plants, to look similar to the back of a porcupine.

The art of simplicity says a whole lot! Notice the interaction of very green plants and earth toned planters, both in round, textured shapes to emphasize the roundness of earth, and therefore, the integrity and beauty of the organic. Here, a play on browns and greens of fall and - yup you guessed it - off-white pumpkins remind you Fall can be warm and stylish. Did you notice the mirror doors reflecting the bare trees? So Fall! Mimic this look by picking up random branches outside - yes outside - of similar heights and stick them in your green plants, to look similar to the back of a porcupine.

Ok, there is SO much going on here - hay stacks, vegetables, apples, red corn, pumpkins, ... and a red door! Yes this entrance has got it goin' on ...and some! But what I like about this entrance is not only its classic allegiance to Fall, but its tasteful execution. Every hay and straw are in its place, ever plant is pruned, and every produce is securely and purposely placed. Everything, including the walkway, is clean and polished, even the squash and apples look so delicious. In achieving this look, work in subgroups to create the overall look you're going for. Try to keep the subgroups (e.g. stacks of hay with squash) as simple as possible so that the overall look isn't overwhelming. Try to repeat the same colors (i.e., all the squash are a shade of green) to create harmony in your décor. To make this interesting, us unexpected props (e.g. squash; apples) that are so Fall but everyone forgets it's their - not just pumpkin - season too.  Just make sure everyone doesn't eat them all :)

Oh yes, I feel like I'm in south Georgia, sippin' on some sweet tea or lemonade, with a wide brimmed, floppy hat! Deep breathe in; deep breathe out. Life is good! Notice in this image - thanks Hospitality Designs - orange plants, pumpkins, and faux bark planters are used to Fall-up this relaxing porch. It is really pillows that are used to alert the change in season. To bring in style, an animal print pillow does the job! Because the print is in Fall browns, it totally matches without exactly matching. But that's ok! We still get it - its Fall! Don't be afraid to show some personality! 

Have fun decorating. And remember: Joy designs homes :)

Let's get the party started!

Throwing a dinner party or just having the girlfriends over can be a ton of work! Tell me about it. No matter if it's just a couple of visitors coming over, you always wonder why does it always take you so long to set-up. I'll tell you why - because you want to show them you truly appreciate their visit and want them to feel special! What better time than the holidays to do exactly that. Some beautiful décor, thoughtful event planning, and some good food always make the best party hosts! Stay tuned for some Holiday entertaining ideas and the opportunity for you to share yours :)