Couple hold a party for 50 friends every year
Guests who arrive at Ms Sharon Lee's home for her annual Christmas party are greeted by the scent of fresh pine from the 8ft-tall Christmas tree in the warmly lit home.
There is a sumptuous spread of roast turkey, honey baked ham and homemade pumpkin pie on the kitchen table and familiar Christmas pop songs play in the background.
The spacious apartment in Joo Chiat is not decorated with tinsel or fairy lights. Ms Lee prefers more subtle touches such as scattering pine cones and shiny baubles on the white marble dining table. A projection of a crackling fireplace on the wall sets the mood, aided by flickering candles.
She and her husband Christophe, who is in his 30s and works in finance, enjoy hosting parties and organise a Christmas party for about 50 friends every year. They have done so for the last five years.
Ms Lee says creating a warm and inviting atmosphere is key for any party - big or small.
1 CREATE THE RIGHT ATMOSPHERE
Use warm lighting to create a cosy vibe. Dim the lights if you have dimmers. If not, switch off the brighter lights and use candles.
2 THINK ABOUT GUEST DYNAMICS
Make your guests feel comfortable by introducing them to one another. Say something interesting about each person so that everyone has a conversation starting point.
3 FOCUS ON THE SENSES
Think about engaging all five senses. Besides food and decor, create a playlist of Christmas songs that will put guests in a festive mood.
4 DO NOT MAKE EVERYTHING YOURSELF
It is okay to order some food - it does not make you less of a host.
5 RELAX AND HAVE FUN
If you are relaxed, then your guests will be too. It does not matter if things are not perfect because what is important is having everyone there.
The founder of luxury events company Pernickety Events, who is in her 30s, says: "One thing people often overlook when throwing a party is setting the atmosphere. I think it is important to create the right comfortable environment for your guests. It is the small things that make a difference."
The "small things" go beyond decorations and music.
Providing non-disposable cutlery and glasses, for example, also adds to the atmosphere.
"It's a pain to wash up, but worth the trouble," says Ms Lee. She has disposable tableware on standby, but tries as much as possible to use non-disposable ones.
Then, there are also the amenities that one should pay attention to.
"Make sure your guest bathroom is clean and tidy. Put away your personal items, light a scented candle in there and make sure it's well stocked, so people don't have to ask you for anything in the middle of the party."
Setting the right mood also means ironing out any awkwardness among guests, who may not know one another.
Ms Lee says: "I do think about the dynamics among the guests so that people will have some things in common to talk about."
The couple do not have children.
Ms Lee sends out the invitations via e-mail or text, about three weeks before the party.
She says there is no need for a theme and there is "no need to mess with tradition" when it comes to Christmas.
"For Christmas, I like to embrace and celebrate tradition. I think people appreciate that too. No need for gimmicks, really. I'm old-fashioned that way."
Her menu usually stays the same every year and is made up of Christmas favourites - turkey, ham and mashed potatoes.
She usually buys her turkey and her favourite suppliers are online caterer Grain and InterContinental Singapore. Last year, she decided to add Mediterranean baked fish and ribs.
She also adds her own dishes to the feast, putting together mashed sweet potato, creamy garlic mashed potato, grilled vegetables, pasta salad, fresh salad and pumpkin pie with homemade ice cream.
All of her dishes are made on the day of the party, while she orders the meat dishes about a week before.
She admits that she once tried to cook everything herself.
The experience was stressful and nearly "killed her", she says with a laugh. Her husband's contribution is ensuring that the house bar is fully stocked.
Ms Lee says: "He's also in charge of making the drinks. He'll make Christmas-inspired cocktails such as spiced negroni and cranberry old-fashioned."
Asked if they ever plan any party games, she says good conversation is the best entertainment. However, she has card games on hand if there is ever a "lull".
Friends of the couple say their warm presence and inviting home make for great parties.
Ms Elsie Yeo, 35, head of digital marketing at a media company, who has been friends with Ms Lee for about seven years, says: "Sharon is thoughtful and a great hostess. She'll make sure each person is comfortable.
"If you look a little lost, she'll introduce you to someone she thinks you'll be able to get along with. It's always fun."