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Here’s Our Brand Editor’s Secret to Throwing a Really Good Party

Caitlin Abber, M.M.’s Brand Editor, loves throwing parties. Here’s how the pandemic, a move, and a toddler have changed how she entertains.

By Sofia Rainaldi


As temperatures drop and holiday stress rises, we’re getting back to the basics of what makes spending time inside so nice. So, in addition to hosting a series of virtual events called Inside Time, we reached out to several women in our community to find out how they spend their Friday nights. Next up is Caitlin Abber, the Brand Editor of the M Dash, taking us through her recipe for high-energy hosting without much stress. 

In the summer of 2020, M.M.’s Brand Editor, Caitlin Abber, packed up her small menagerie—including her husband, her then-6-month-old daughter, two senior cats, and a wiley rat terrier—and moved from Brooklyn, New York to the small city of New Haven, Connecticut. The move was somewhat sudden and certainly a result of the pandemic, but, consistent with her attitude about most things, Caitlin promised herself that she’d make the best of it. 

So she traded the subway for floorspace, her favorite burger for New Haven’s famous pizza (she’s a BAR person), an elevator for a backyard, and weekends spent wandering around the city for trips to Trader Joe’s and the playground. But there is one thing she refused to give up: throwing epic parties (even if her daughter—who is now 21 months—is the only guest invited). 

“My husband and I threw a ton of parties before we had a baby,” she explains. “Birthdays, New Year’s Eve, whenever Beyoncé released a new song…Of course, our parties in Connecticut aren’t the same, but in some ways, I think they might be better.” 

With her daughter in the mix, Caitlin’s new strategy is making sure to anticipate the unexpected and allowing for extra chaos. ​”When you have children, you have to be okay with a little mess, a lot of noise, and several outfit changes. You have to let go of control, because if you spend all night trying to get your kids to sit down or eat food they don’t like, no one is going to have fun. Perfect is the enemy of the good when it comes to most things in life, especially hosting.”

Caitlin’s daughter Simone was born on March 5, 2020—less than a week before New York City went into lockdown. When they brought her home, Caitlin and her husband didn’t realize that they’d be spending the next 6 months alone in their tiny apartment, just the three of them. “No one could come and visit. Most of our family, including her grandparents, didn’t meet her until June.” The 2020 holidays played out similarly, and now Caitlin feels like she’s making up for lost time. This year, she’s hosting a friendsgiving with all her pals from Brooklyn, Christmas day with a mix of her family and her husband’s, and her birthday on New Year’s Eve. 

“I love hosting, but what I’m really excited about is watching Simone experience holiday joy for the first time,” she explains. “I want to make sure that this foundation we’re giving her, these very early memories, are good. I want her to feel spoiled, and I want her to feel special. And I want her to experience magic the way you only can when you’re a little kid.”

In terms of her party-planning process, Caitlin considers every detail well in advance, from the overall vibe to the variety of the guest list. “A good party needs 5 essential people,” she explains. “Someone who is a bit of a gossip; someone who is excellent at cooking or cocktail making; someone who has connections and is like, ‘You want to switch careers? I can help you with that’; someone who makes everyone laugh; and someone who knows when to suggest opening another bottle of wine. Once those 5 people are covered, everyone else is a bonus.”

Then, it’s onto the food. Caitlin’s only unbreakable hosting rule? “I have to have something to serve guests the minute they show up.” Hors d’oeuvres typically include a cheese plate, dips and veggies, and a warm appetizer, like the famous squash toast from ABC Kitchen. And she’s adamant that guests have something to eat toward the end of the evening, as well. “Back in Brooklyn, when the event went much later, I had this party trick where I’d pop a casserole of homemade mac ‘n’ cheese into the oven at around 11:15pm, so by 12am, everyone could put something in their stomachs and start dancing again.”

If it’s a special occasion, Caitlin might open a bottle of Etude Pinot Noir. “I don’t know a ton about wine, but I do know that sometimes things are delicious because they remind you of a special time, and this wine reminds me of a trip to Napa a few years ago. It’s kind of pricey, though, so we reserve it for special occasions.” Caitlin has been drinking less recently, due to her new normal of one-glass-of-wine hangovers, and she prefers to wind down with a low-THC gummy and a nice fizzy seltzer instead. 

A great outfit is another essential component of a good party, so before anyone arrives, Caitlin puts on something a bit festive and elegant. “If we’re having guests over, I have been known to go pretty glam (I was in New York for almost 20 years, I can’t help myself). A typical party outfit might include heels, high-waisted pants, a slinky tank, or a slip dress—like the Nene in silk charmeuse. Luckily, my husband and daughter like getting dressed up, too, so I’m never alone in my efforts.” 

Speaking of Simone, she has arrived at an age where she can recognize (and start) a party herself, which makes even a random Tuesday a lot more fun. “She gets the concept now,” says Caitlin. “She loves to dance and run around. She has her favorite songs that she requests—right now it’s the Trolls soundtrack—but she’s also been known to get down to indie music from around 2006, like Animal Collective, Rilo Kiley, and LCD Soundsystem. I’ve always been a big fan of dance parties, so I’m very happy we’re carrying on this tradition from our living room.” (Caitlin creates a new playlist for almost every party, and this year is no exception. You can listen to her 2021 Friendsgivemas playlist here). 

On nights when it’s just the three of them, Caitlin reaches for something more casual, but still indulgent and elegant. “A big part of my self-care, both postpartum and throughout the pandemic, has been dressing nicely and wearing makeup, even if we’re just eating mashed potato pizza (a true New Haven delicacy) on the couch.” For cozy nights at home, she loves silk jersey, especially the shoulder-baring Dae top, unexpectedly paired with the Joni joggers, or a cashmere sweatsuit with an elegant underpinning and a bold lip. “One thing I’ve learned from the last two years (and also the movie Trolls) is that you don’t need a packed house or a full spread in order to have a great party.”

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Sofia Rainaldi

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