It’s Little Gala Time!



WHY DON’T YOU . . . 

                           . . . give a little gala?   As Chicago hostess Abra Wilkin said in our first Formula for Success, “In January people are bored to tears and want to get out.”

                          But they are also tired of white tie, black tie and long kid gloves. So how can we entertain them—and ourselves?

                          Classic Chicago is developing some thoughts to present to you later in the season. In the meantime:

Why don’t you round up a group and go out to a vibrant restaurant?

Or throw a chic little dinner party at home? We might even find a restaurant that will cater it for you.

And, when it gets really cold and snowy, you could take everybody ice skating . . .

. . . and home for cocoa and cookies afterward.

Or you could go cross-country skiing in the park . . .

. . . followed by marshmallows roasting over an open fire, with Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole CDs playing softly in the background.

If all of this is too off hand for you, don’t worry. Classic Chicago will soon have suggestions for “little galas” that will balance formality with comfort and include a range of restaurants that offer private rooms with sizes appropriate for your group.


How does this suit you?

Forget Palm Beach, Palm Desert, Aspen,  San Miguel and learn to love the joys of a great Chicago winter.



        From Bill Zwecker, Lisa Smyth, Noren Ungaretti and Liza Yntema


Legendary local hosts and hostesses put us in the party mood with their tips for little galas big on originality. We couldn’t resist a few international celebrity formulas as well.  And don’t forget, everyone is anticipating a little January gala.


Bill Zwecker.


Thanks to one of Chicago’s most gracious people Bill Zwecker, host of Fox 32’s “Good Day Chicago” and fabled columnist, for this worldly idea:

“A couple of years ago, my husband Tom Gorman and I were privileged to attend a very fun international-themed summer cocktail party in East Hampton, where the host and hostess created a very festive setting. The guests were requested in advance to participate by creating an hors d’oeuvres and drink (wine, beer, cocktail, etc.) that would be representative of a specific country. Among the nations included were Peru, Italy, France, Brazil, Japan, Russia, Portugal and Austria — which we presented. I served a traditional Viennese appetizer called “Liptauer,” a spread which is made of cream cheese, caraway, paprika and capers; plus we brought Austrian beer and a popular Austrian white wine.

It all led to a very delightful evening, with people sharing memories of visiting the various countries and explaining the reasons for the choices made.”

Lisa Smyth.

Vibrant Lisa Smyth, who just chaired the 2019 Passavant Cotillion, shared these tips:

“For my table of twelve at the Cotillion I used these little trays as place cards.

“For my annual NaughTea ParTea during the holidays I do pads of paper with a phrase on them like “Ho”,  “#naughty” “time out”—I can’t recall the others. It’s such fun to see guests’ responses at the Tea Party when asked to write their Christmas wish on their nametag and wear it throughout the party. Some were thoughtful and of the season – Peace, Good Health, and many were of course hilariously funny: “Don’t talk to me” “Pants that zip” and “I wish I were at home watching TV”.

“I love invitations more than anything – combining beautiful card stock with a play on words and a fun envelope liner, or an unusual surprise sets the tone for a great gathering. We held a Lobster Boil one summer and placed life sized plastic lobsters with invitations attached to their claws in peoples’ mailboxes.”

Liza Yntema.

Liza Yntema, founder of the Dance Data Project and famed North Shore hostess:

“For one of my husband Mark’s and my dressiest fanciest parties, where we really did it up, I put a box of Bespoke Belgian Chocolatier creations and a gardenia in each car, so that the guests, as they were leaving, would have a last little “hug & kiss” from their hosts, letting them know how much we loved having them.

“My favorite party story is from my mother. We lived in Cambridge out from Harvard Square. In the massive snowstorm in the 1970s when I was in college, zero transport other than snowshoes, skis or slogging, was possible. My mother, of course, decided to throw a party.
“The snow was up to the 2nd floor. She opened the windows in her dining room and stuck the champagne bottles in the snow and just had everyone bring whatever they could carry for food.”

Noren Ungaretti.

Noren Ungaretti, President of the Women’s Board of the Joffrey Ballet and style-setting volunteer leader, shows in her recommendations why she is known as one of Chicago’s great connectors:

“When I have people for dinner at home, I think about what their favorite foods are, which chairs are most comfortable, having soft music always in the background. But at larger events or intimate ones, I always try to make introductions by presenting people not just with their names, but also with a bit of interesting bit of information I think they might have in common to ease everyone into a conversation.”

We couldn’t resist adding a few suggestions from international party givers:

“One secret for making a party pop: serve the dinner backward. Do anything. But for goodness sake, do something weird.”– Elsa Maxwell, columnist renowned for high society parties:

“A party without cake is just a meeting.”–Chef Julia Child

“A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”– Diana Vreeland

And also from fashion editor and the definition of style Diana Vreeland:

“Style—all who have it share one thing: originality.”

And if all else fails:

“When life gives you lemons, find someone who has vodka and throw a party.”–Ron White, standup comedian, author and actor.


Compiled by the Editors of Classic Chicago with

Andrea Aguilar and

Jonah Nink