November 08, 2022

46. Entertaining Tips to Ensure Your Holiday Season Happens Without A Hitch with Mary Hollis Huddleston

46. Entertaining Tips to Ensure Your Holiday Season Happens Without A Hitch with Mary Hollis Huddleston

I think I’m STILL laughing from this conversation. 

If you’re ready for some practical entertaining tips, hilarious wedding planning stories, and some scoop on an upcoming book, well – I’ve got just the episode for you today.

I’m sitting down with my Instagram friend,Mary Hollis Huddleston, who you may know asMrsSouthernSocial on Instagram. 

Mary is the author of one of my favorite books from last year,Without A Hitch, which you’ve probably heard me talk about on the podcast before! The fictional book is loosely based on her time as a Dallas, luxury, wedding planner – and let me tell you, these stories are OVER THE TOP. 

…so you know I had to ask her if some of the craziest ones from the book are true or not!

She also owns the Nashville based rental company,Please Be Seated. We talk about this in our conversation because she created this business from the ground up - it literally started as an idea and her kitchen became a storage unit of sorts. 

And as if that wasn’t inspiring enough, I loved hearing about the meaning behind the business - which came about because she laid down her career as a wedding planner when she had children. She knew the hours wouldn’t allow her to be the present mama she wanted to be. 

So when she saw a gap in the market in Nashville, what started as a ‘side hustle’ quickly turned into a 100-employee empire. 

Talk about a strategic pivot. Ladies - let this be a reminder to us that, as Mary puts it, 

When God closes a door, there might just be a window that opens.

Tune in hear all about this, PLUS:

  • Her top two tips for entertaining without the stress this holiday season

  • An EXCLUSIVE, first insight into her upcoming book, Piece of Cake, and

  • The best hostess gifts this year

Mary’s top entertaining tip? Don’t be a bartender, so batch those cocktails and place them into a beautiful punch bowl! Want to snag that batch cocktail recipe and punch bowl Mary spoke about? 

Recipehere and punch bowlhere!

And the favorite items from her Dillard's x Southern Living collection? Got you covered there, too!

Magnolia Candlesticks

Social Cluster Bowls

Get ready to giggle on this one, ladies, because Mary leaves nothing on the table…except for her perfectly placed serving settings from her Dillard's line that is.

Tune in and let me know your favorite part!



Use code LWLFREESHIP at the Life with Loverly Shop for free shipping on all orders within the Continental US!


This podcast was transcribed using Descript. Please forgive any typos or errors.


Brittany: Hi friends! Welcome to the Life with Loverly podcast. I'm Brittany, a wife, mom, and lifestyle entrepreneur here to help you discover your best daily style and encourage you to try new things when getting dressed each day, I took a tiny following on social media and turned it into a community of over 1 million amazing women and I am so glad you're here. I'll be sharing my heart with you beyond the 15 seconds on Instagram, so we'll be diving into things like personal growth, friendships, motherhood, marriage, and of course -- the business of blogging. Really, this space is here to serve as your go-to resource to building a life you adore while sprinkling some kindness to others along the way. Grab an ice coffee and let's do life together. I'm Brittany and this is the Life with Loverly podcast.


Nichelle: So Brittany, do you want to intro our next guest?


Brittany:Yes. Oh my gosh, guys, today we are talking with Mary Hollis Huddleston, and I first met Mary Hollis through a mutual friend online and we actually partnered together in a group giveaway three or four years ago. And when we first met and interchanged, I started watching her stories a ton and she was hilarious. I messaged her and was just like, "girl, you've got me rolling on the floor." Just hearing her banter and how she talks on Instagram stories, I thought she was hilarious and she writes back to me and said, "you have no idea how much I love your Target finds." We just really connected right away, and it was cool that our audiences got to overlap within the giveaway. And I've just continued following her and engaging with her and she's been doing so many amazing things with projects that she's working on. So I've loved being a cheerleader behind the scenes. I've never actually met her in person before, but I feel like I really know her just from being on Instagram.


Nichelle: Yes, she is a hoot. Brittany, oh my goodness. With her wedding planning background, Mary focuses on the idea of easy entertaining for the modern southern woman on her Instagram handle @Mrssouthernsocial. She's also the founder of Please Be Seated, an event rental company, and now has collaborations with Dillard's and Southern Living.


Brittany: We will be covering all the entertaining tips in this conversation, but Mary also happened to co-write one of my favorite books of 2021, Without a Hitch. Essentially she wrote a book loosely based on her over-the-top experience as a wedding planner in Texas, and its hilarious. Some of the stories, I definitely could see how that would be true just because of how intense and crazy they are. So I had to get the scoop on how the book came about, what stories were true, and grab some insider information on book number two.


Nichelle:Yeah, some of those stories were crazy! I was laughing so hard while listening. I'll definitely be putting her three entertaining tips to use this holiday season.


Brittany: Guys, get ready to laugh because Mary is bringing you some hilarious stories. Here's my conversation with Mary Hollis Huddleston.


Hello Mary Hollis, how are you?


Mary Hollis:I'm so good, how are you?


Brittany:I'm good. I feel like we're both just smiling so big through the computer screen right now.


Mary Hollis: Well, you put out this vibe. I love your aura and it just makes me happy every time I watch you on Instagram. That's a rare thing, you have just a light to you, so it makes me smile.


Brittany: Thank you. Gosh, I appreciate that. Wow. Okay, well let's get started. I have some really fun questions for our interview today. I feel like my audience is going to love this segment, but before we get started, one thing I've been asking my guests is if you could just describe your last seven days in one word, what would it be?


Mary Hollis:Train wreck. That maybe two words. No, dumpster fire. Either one. Dumpster fire or train wreck. It was quite the past seven days for me.


Brittany:What happened? What was going on?


Mary Hollis:Well I got vertigo, which that's fun. Just aging. It's great. Never had it before, so I felt carsick all week. And then of course my husband was on a golf trip. So now I've gotta figure out how to murder him and bury his body.


Brittany:How convenient.


Mary Hollis: So, it's a lot always.


Brittany:The golfing is just, it's a lot. It's a lot.


Mary Hollis:Okay, does your husband golf?


Brittany: Yes.


Mary Hollis: We are golf widows together. No one understands.


Brittany: No. I mean I am very thankful that Chris does a lot of weekday golfing, so the weekends are not my problem necessarily. But yeah, it's just a lot.


Mary Hollis: It's not like a quick pickup game of basketball. They're gone for four to six hours. And then if they have a cocktail after, it's just, yeah, it's really great. It's really a great thing.


Brittany: So my question is what is the hobby that we all need to pick up that is four to six hours that we could be like, "here you go!"


Mary Hollis: That is such a good idea. We should just say we're playing golf with a bunch of girls and just go to the spa for six hours and shop. Although that may show up on the credit card. That might be hard to hide.


Brittany: Well I mean, golf shows up on a credit card somewhere.


Mary Hollis:This is true, this is true. And when I show Paul my credit cards these days, I usually just do it topless, and so we don't have a problem. That's the best way, always.


Brittany:I mean I feel like that's the nugget of information that the listeners need to know.


Mary Hollis:I'm telling you just don't have a shirt on. Maybe just his neck tie. Have a full pretty woman moment. He's not going to care what you've spent.


Brittany:Exactly. Some lacy undies and get to going. That is hilarious.


So you are a woman of many talents, but I really want to get into talking about your first book because I personally love the book. So, can 

you talk a little bit about it? I know you were a wedding planner in a past life and so many of these funny situations came from that in the book. So can you just tell us a little bit more about it? It's truly one of my favorites.


Mary Hollis:Absolutely. Thank you so much. The book is really where it all started. I never thought I'd write a book, that was not a dream that I had growing up. But I kind of fell into my career as a wedding planner, almost 20 years ago, before it really was a career that a lot of people aspired to have. And I fell into this career with one of the premier wedding planners in the entire country, Todd Events in Dallas, Texas. Just like you would think, the stereotype is true that everything's bigger in Texas, especially in Dallas -- over the top, extravagant. I had no idea really what I was getting into, but the things that I saw and that I did over the six years that I was with them, you just can't make it up. And I would go to dinners with my friends, we were all young working single people out of college, and I would tell these stories and people were like, "more, more. You have to tell me. This is insane.You did not do this. This client did not show up with a mini me dressed just like him." I mean it was just all things you can't make up.


A few years into the job, one of my friends kind of worked her way up as a literary agent with Dupree Miller in Dallas, and I was having lunch with her one day and I was just, again, talking about my life. I said, "you won't believe what I did last week. I had to stand outside of the room while a bride and groom consummated their marriage in the synagogue and then we just got in the car together and rode away like nothing had happened." And I mean that's a small thing that we did. And so she was like, "you have to turn this into a book. This is hilarious, but let's make it fiction. Let's make it kind of like the Devil Wears Prada, Nanny Diaries kind of vibe." Because I wasn't interested in a tell all. So she paired me up. My friend, Asher, actually a girl I went to college with, we are now best friends who went and had a proper career in journalism. Long story long, they paired us together and she said, "I'm going to get you a book deal but you have to write the book. As a first time author, you can't just have an idea. As a fiction writer you have to write the whole manuscript.


Around that time, we were both doing other things in our lives and so it took us a long time. It took us about five years to write this book, but it immediately sold to HarperCollins. They bought it for two book deals and it's been such a fun ride. It's really hard. Writing a book is not just like "let's write a book." But I had a story to tell. All the books that I love to read -- you can tell that they came from somebody who had a story to tell. So that's the basis of the book.


Brittany:How long does it take to write a book like that?


Mary Hollis:To give you some perspective, our second novel just took a year. Because as we were writing the first book, we knew we were going to write a sequel, so we were able to hold back some of the stories, know where our character was going, and we went through the whole process. I mean it was a lot. Our first manuscript that we turned in, we had to go back a lot. I wrote the stories and the funny bits and my co-author wrote the arc, the narrative, and the dialogue. We've been a really good team. The second book was much easier and happened much faster. So it doesn't have to take a long time. I think what took us a long time was that I had also started Please Be Seated, my party rental company around then, and we both got married and had babies. It's hard when you're doing life. I think if it was our full-time job and we didn't have any other distractions, we could have done it in six months.


Brittany:Gosh, I know I say that all the time. If I would've started Loverly Grey now, just how completely different it would've been. But when I started I had no kids, I was just married. And it's just so different the way life has its turns and add kids to the mix and it's just a lot.


So, can you tell us if one of the scenarios in the book is true. Specifically in the opening chapter where the groom parachutes out of the helicopter with a stunt double? Is that true?


Mary Hollis:That did happen, yes. I will never forget, I also had pantyliners in my armpit because I was sweating. That is a great tip.


Brittany:Nichelle just said that the other day about wearing the pantyliners under your arms.


Mary Hollis: But the thin ones, you don't need the thick pantyliners.


Brittany:Little Light Days.


Mary Hollis:Little Light Days! I had my Light Days under my arms. This was in Dallas. We had a stunt double and I was sweating bullets because we actually played Mission Impossible over the loudspeaker and we had to start it so that you couldn't hear the helicopter coming from the nearby Army airport, where we had hired a stunt double. And he didn't parachute in, he repelled down off of a rope. And the groom was hiding in the bushes and jumped out and came. To this day, I still don't know that he told anyone that it was not him.


Brittany:Oh my gosh, what a secret. But also, how extravagant. I'm just thinking who was he trying to one-up that that was a plan he came up with?


Mary Hollis:He was clearly the attention-seeker of the two. Our bride was a little bit more laid back and he's just this gregarious guy. I think she was just like, "oh Henry. Just what he would normally do." But when they're paying you all this money and the sky's the limit, literally, you're like, "well we're going to make it happen."


We never said no. And I think that's what led to some of these crazy things. It's funny now, having worked in that particular job with that particular company, now anything that comes up at an event pretty much in my life, I'm like, "y'all we're going to be just fine. We can turn the temperature down. We don't have somebody repelling out of a helicopter." You know what I mean? It's like everything's just easy, no big deal.


Some of the stuff that's in the book that is not true is the small stuff. The big stuff, I can't tell you exactly everything but the stuff you would be like "there's no way this is true." You can't make this stuff up. That's why we wrote this book. It's too good not to share. This is wild.


Brittany: I've talked about the book a little bit in last season on the podcast after I got done reading it and I think it literally took me three days because the stories were just so good. I wanted more and more and more.


What did you want people to walk away with the most from the main character's transformation?


Mary Hollis:It's kind of cliche now having gone through COVID, but the art of the pivot. I never in a million years thought I would be a wedding planner, but it's something I fell into and my skillset, my natural skillset really aligned with the work. The fact that you can pivot in life, and just because it's not what you thought for yourself doesn't mean that it can't be great. It can actually be better, and God can use so many experiences. He may slam a door in your face but opens a window to an even better experience. And that's really what this book was about -- don't let preconceived notions dictate what your future could be. I would've never seen my career going the direction that it did and leading to all the wonderful things that have happened to me because I took this random job in wedding planning. Almost died doing it.


After one wedding working with the Earth, Wind and Fire. I don't think I'll get in trouble for saying this. Earth and Fire don't get along. I actually can't remember. One of them, Earth and Wind, somebody doesn't get along. And it was this over the top wedding. They lip synced. Okay, this client paid a small fortune and they lip synced. We never told the client that they didn't actually sing. But they're also 90 years old. How does anyone know that they're not? But that wedding weekend was so intense because it was a multicultural wedding and there were lots of events going on. We all went and got IVs at the hospital before we drove back to Dallas, before it was a thing. Now I feel like everyone goes and gets an IV. We were doing it when they were like, "you don't need this unless you're about to die."


Brittany:Gosh, I'm sure you have so many stories, even the ones that didn't make the book. That's so funny.


Mary Hollis:There are some that I could never tell in the book, but we'll grab a cocktail sometime and I'll tell you all about them.


Brittany: I'm coming to Nashville and we're sitting down, that's for sure.


Okay, so speaking about pivots, you made a big pivot after your wedding planning side of your life, and then you started your business, Please Be Seated. Tell us a little bit about what you do now.


Mary Hollis: Sure. I moved to Nashville, started a family, and when we left Dallas, I was still a wedding planner and I thought, "you know what, I'll just pick up a few weddings." I mean you have to pivot when you have kids. Being a full-time wedding planner was not going to work for my life. But I did have one wedding on the books, which happened to be in Nashville, that I was finishing from my contract in Dallas. And I realized, as I was planning that wedding, there were no high-end event rentals, like what we had in Dallas. Nashville, now, is a whole different game. It's caught up, it's just as big as Atlanta, you have everything here now. But eight/nine years ago when we were starting Please Be Seated, it just didn't exist. But the money has always been here, the taste level has always been here, but people don't know what they don't know.


So I met with a few wedding planners that I had known, because I'm from Nashville, and I said "listen, I took pictures from companies in Dallas, I said, if I brought some of these rentals in would you use them?" And they were like "all day, every day I'll book them now." And so I was like, "Paul this is just going to be my little side hustle." I think I know where to source this stuff because I had worked in the industry. I said "let's bring some of it in." And what started in a storage unit in my kitchen has turned into one of the largest party rental companies in the southeast. I have a hundred full-time employees, eight 24-foot trucks, a hundred thousand square foot warehouse. Girl, if you ever need plates, I got hundreds of thousands of them for you.


Brittany: That's amazing. Congratulations! I don't think I realized the scale of your business. That's unbelievable.


Mary Hollis:Well thank you. And it was a lot of work and now I'm not as involved in the company, thankfully, I just get to do the fun stuff like buying new inventory. But again, God was good and it was timing. As you know, timing is everything. Nashville was really on the cusp of blowing up to what it is now. And now we cannot keep up with the amount of corporate events, social events. Not just weddings, I mean it's the bachelorette capital of the country now. So many people are coming to Nashville. So, it's been a good line of work to be in and what's neat for me is, I love the event industry, but this allows me to have a more balanced life with my kids because I'm not a planner. I'm a piece of the pie, I'm not managing the whole pie.


Brittany:Oh my gosh, what a breath of fresh air you have because you can go in and like you said, do the fun buying. I would absolutely love that part of the job. But you don't have to do all the craziness.


Mary Hollis:Correct. We just deal with one piece of the crazy. Just the rentals, not the flowers and the cake and the schedule, etc.


Brittany:If somebody called you and said you have free reign to do whatever, what's your favorite type of setup to give somebody?


Mary Hollis: That's a great question. I have one client that I do still work with personally quite a bit because you just don't say no to her, and we do a Christmas party every year that's pretty epic, and I have so much fun sourcing life-size nutcrackers. We do a massive tent in her backyard and we hang ornaments that are all massive. They're four feet in diameter ornaments all through the ceiling. She likes having a sexy Santa, so I get to book all these sexy Santas. I mean that's my dream because the sky's the limit. I get to be creative. We do hot cocoa stations, we have an ice bar with all kinds of fun things. I love the holiday parties because people just lose their minds with holiday. They don't care.


Brittany:And there's no budget, Everybody is just having the best time ever!


Mary Hollis:Those are my favorite, for sure! She's like, "you just do it." Advice that I give when people ask what advice to give to anyone working with an event planner for any event -- really lean on the event planner because we're the specialists, tell us your vision but then let us do what we do best. With the clients that tend to micromanage, you never get the full result rather than when you just let people do what they're really good at. It's about trusting. Trusting the process and the planner.


Brittany:It's so true. I think of even Nichelle when she was planning my party that we had earlier this year, she was really looking at these planners and these event spaces that had something to show on their websites or on their Instagram and kind of saw what the vision was, what had they done before, and is that Brittany's taste? So I feel like it is very important to showcase what work you really like to do. 


Same with a photographer. They showcase their style so you see what you're getting yourself into and then you kinda let them have free reigns.


Mary Hollis:It's smart. Yes, that's the first step. You end up micromanaging when you haven't picked somebody that's a good fit for you. Because if they understand you and your aesthetic, and even just personality. When people ask me for referrals, I really want to get to know the client or know who I'm talking to because there are some great planners in town, but they might have a really big personality and for a more quiet bride that may not be a good fit. So you try to find someone that also can work well with them.


Brittany:That makes so much sense. Wow.


So how long have you had Please Be Seated?


Mary Hollis:She is almost 10.


Brittany:Oh my goodness. That is amazing.


Do you guys mostly stay in Nashville or do you actually go nationwide, southeast, etc.?


Mary Hollis:We go everywhere. We try to stay within a day's drive, but we go to the Highlands, we've gone down to Florida, 30A. We go down to 30A quite a bit. So, we're in the southeast. We don't cross over much into the Charleston territory because there are so many great rental companies there. But no, we travel all over.


Brittany:Okay, good to know! I'm putting some mental notes for some upcoming things we have next year to reach back out to you. So this is great to know.


Can you give us any insider information about your upcoming second book?


Mary Hollis:I totally can. You are getting the first look or listen. The second book, we knew we wanted it to be based in the wedding world because that's what makes us different and where I have all my stories. But we base this one in Nashville. So that's really fun. And like I said, we start off downtown in the middle of Bachelorette Nation and so the Nashville content alone is just iconic right now. I mean you can't go down on Broadway and not be able to write a novel. It's based in the magazine world. The lead character is not the lead character from the first book. We actually took our nemesis from the first book and based the second book around her. It's still a romcom, it's actually more of a romcom than the first. But what I really like about the second book is that it is about redemption. My co-author and I both have young children and, in this cancel culture that we're in right now, we really kind of wanted to push the idea that because you make one mistake -- which she makes a very big mistake in the first book, she's actually pretty evil. But that doesn't have to define the rest of your life. I mean it can, but the fact that you can also come back from that and learn from your mistakes and be a better person. That's what I hope for my kids. I hope that if they make mistakes that it's not going to haunt them the rest of their lives, and that they can grow from them.


That's the serious message that we have in the book. And then obviously on top of it's all the fun wedding stuff because she covers weddings with the magazine. So you're still getting that peek behind a curtain of what's going on and the bride that wanted a Tolkien-themed wedding and has a unicorn. And, again, all things I've seen in real life. So there's that fun element to it as well, because I'm not a serious writer, I like to write fun things. But I also think it is neat when you can write from personal experience, and that's what the 

second book's about.


Brittany: And how cool is it that it's based in Nashville? You live in Nashville so I feel like you are picturing these things happening or these places where it's set up as you're writing it and telling the story.


Mary Hollis:And that, I will say we did that to also make things easier. It didn't hurt that Nashville is the hotspot right now in the South. But when I was writing, I've lived in Dallas, so writing in Dallas was familiar, a story based in Dallas and then same for Nashville. So I wanted to write about a city that I was at least familiar with so that I could really be true to the city. There's a hot chicken incident in this book, that's a real thing in Nashville. You gotta be real careful with the hot chicken here or you can get yourself in a pickle! So it was neat that I could write about things that I knew well.


Brittany:I love that. I cannot wait to read it. When is it going to be out?


Mary Hollis: We have actually just pushed the pub date. I believe it'll be late May, early June, but it's May or June of 2023.


Brittany: Perfect summer read for next summer!


Mary Hollis: Beach read, girl, yes!


Brittany:Exactly. Sign me up. I love that.


We're leading up to the holidays right now and you are the queen of entertaining. So I would love to know some tips and tricks and some things that we must do as we get into the holiday entertaining?


Mary Hollis:Absolutely. First of all of these tips, the goal is to keep the hostess from losing her mind. Because, just like a wedding, you can spend a fortune on a wedding and have an over-the-top beautiful event. But if the bride is stressed, everyone reads that, and that energy goes out. So, just like if you're hosting a party at home -- if you're manic, that's going to set the tone of your event.


A few things I like to suggest are batch cocktails, they are my go-to. I've got them on my blog, Southern Living does great batch cocktail recipes. The punch bowl is having a moment and that's great because then all you have to do is put out beer, wine, and one signature cocktail in a punch bowl that you batch make ahead of time so people can self-serve. You do not want to be bartender. It's also really hard to have a full bar. People are very particular about their drinks. So just take that off the table, make it easy, people will be thrilled.


The second is to put your money in the biggest "wow" moments, and do the things you love. Meaning if you don't like arranging flowers, and flowers are really expensive right now, book a florist. But only spend your money on the dining table if it's a seated dinner, because that's what people are going to be looking at. Don't worry about everything else. Same with food -- if you don't love cooking but you love baking, pick up already-made lasagna that you put in your dish and serve and then bake a cake, or vice versa. My blog is full of where to order food from, so many places ship nationally now, and I find that most of the time, at least for me, by the time I've bought everything and spent the time making it, I could have just bought it for so much cheaper. So, those are the ways to just play into your strengths and focus on those and then delegate the rest.


Brittany:I love that because I feel nervous to host any type of large, or not even large, but friends over because I'm not a great cook. I just don't enjoy it. There's other things I would rather do. Or I think, "is our home in the perfect condition?" But your advice is more to play into your strengths and don't necessarily worry. Let the worry go away.


Mary Hollis: Y'all people just want good music, just turn on your speakers or your iTunes with wireless speaker, and something to drink, usually, if they're a drinking crew. And the food, people really only remember if it was horrible. Unless you're a gourmet chef, you can even cater a barbecue buffet, which is so delicious. Lean into the casual food. That's kind of a trend that's happening at weddings. People are even serving pastas as their entree because it's so yummy, and we're all tired of eating overcooked chicken, even at the nicest places. So lean into yummy food or do a whole pizza bar -- call up a great local pizzeria and have multiple different pizzas out all on display on wooden boards. People will lose their minds and you'll keep them from getting too hammered, which is always a win. Or a loss, I don't know. It depends on the party you want.


Brittany:Exactly. I loved when the mashed potato bars became a thing to do at weddings and people would put them in those great martini glasses and then you'd do all the dressings and stuff like that. That, to me, is where it's at.


Mary Hollis: Put a fried chicken tender on top. Yes! That's what's neat about entertaining now versus when my grandmother entertained because those resources didn't really exist. I mean I haven't baked a pie in years because I use Southern Baked Pie. I haven't made a cake because I use Caroline's Cakes. There are just so many options now that didn't exist.


Brittany:Your favorite batch cocktail to make, what would that be?


Mary Hollis:Probably my Pomegranate Margarita for the holidays. No, it's a Cranberry Margarita. I also have a pomegranate one. It's really fun because you can float the cranberries on top. It's delicious. It is on the blog, we'll make sure we find it. But I like anything with tequila, that's just my personal thing, and I find that men and women really like tequila-based drinks. It's hard to make bourbon drinks that women like. Vodka-based drinks are also great. Those two, if you're going to look for a batch cocktail to serve men and women, I'd go with tequila or vodka.


Brittany:And I can just imagine a pretty punch bowl with this cranberry, maybe an orange slice, something floating on the top. And that can be festive and decorative as well.


Mary Hollis: Absolutely. And then you use that punch bowl, after you're done serving cocktails in it, fill it with ornaments and it's on your coffee table and you're done. You don't have to worry about it. So, that's what I try to do -- multiple purposes, easy things so that you're not always having to go out and buy stuff.


Brittany:Okay. Another question, you mentioned the hostess and keeping her not stressed. One question that I get a lot is what is a unique hostess gift to take to somebody who is hosting a party or anything around the holidays? What would be your suggestion?


Mary Hollis:It's so boring, but I try to think of what I like. Yes, you can put together fabulous baskets. I love those things and that does show a lot of thought. But I think a nice candle, because I burn through my candles so fast, a nice candle or a nice bottle of wine. It is so basic and I know it's overdone, but sometimes when you try to get too creative it's not something people would use. Same goes with wedding party favors. Unless it's edible or really that's it. Don't give anybody anything that's not edible at the end of the wedding, at the end of an event. Also, anything that you do like to make or that's homemade, something that's your specialty. If you grew up and had Mamaw's Banana Loaf, take that. Because that's something you enjoy doing and they're going to eat it and love it. It's not just going to be another trinket in their house.


Brittany:Right, something that means something. I was at a holiday market last year and there was a vendor selling these potpourri kits, maybe not even potpourri, but something where you do the boil, and it was like a pre-made boil that you would add and it is a great scent in your house. And I thought that was a really cool idea to give to hostesses, so I grabbed a few of those. But it's something they could use right away if they wanted or even re-gift if it wasn't something that they were interested in. But I remember that being kind of cool.


Mary Hollis:Absolutely. Something that burns down, or that you drink, or that you eat because, I don't know if you feel this way, but I get a lot of stuff. And I'm kind of specific about my home and so I appreciate any gift anyone gives me, but if it's something that has a purpose or that will come and go out of my house, I love it even more.


Brittany:Yes, I totally get that.


So talking about entertaining styles, how could our listeners find their own entertaining style?


Mary Hollis:I'm a little bit different. If you look at my Instagram, you'll see. I like to decorate seasonally, so I don't have just one aesthetic. I mean my home is one aesthetic, but I don't want to be narrowed down to just always having to do things in tonal colors or always being in bright colors because I like to change for holidays. I think that's what makes it fun. So building a foundation, I think it's important for you to have a foundation of good white plates, good white china that you can then change out your salad plates, or your dessert plates, with whatever you want seasonally. Having great white serving pieces, just having a good foundation. And same with glassware. Have a really beautiful, just clear water glass that you love. And then you can buy fun colored wine glasses. And you'll see over time as you set tables, and this happens for me. I like to layer things but there's always new stuff coming out and I don't want myself to be limited by a permanent collection that I have. So I try to keep my staple pieces very tonal so that, if I'm feeling colorful for this Christmas, I can just drop down a fun salad plate, not have to buy a whole new set of china.


Brittany:I love that. And that's honestly great advice for somebody who is maybe about to get married or is doing a registry of some sort, adding some of these classic pieces that you will use forever and then you can always build on it as the seasons come and go.


Mary Hollis:Absolutely. And don't forget, you can also register for Christmas china. People forget about that. That's one of those things, you might want a full set of Christmas china that's separate, too, and that's a good thing to register for. Because a lot of couples already have their everyday china, so they're maybe registering for something formal and then they can register for holiday. People love buying gifts like that. People always have fun when you offer items in the registry that are different than just a casserole dish.


Brittany:That's a great idea.


Speaking about entertaining, let's talk about Dillard's. This is so exciting! So you have your holiday line with, correct me if I'm wrong, but it is Mrs. Southern Social by Southern Living at Dillard's, correct?


Mary Hollis:Yes. There's lots of us. We're a threesome with Dillard's and Southern Living.


Brittany:You sent me the Social Cluster Bowl, which I am so excited to use. It's beautiful. When we opened it up here at the office, the girls were like, "okay, can we have a party. This is a beautiful piece." So thank you for sending that to me. But, tell us a little bit about what you have going on at Dillard's right now.


Mary Hollis:You're so kind. The holiday collection is really fun and it speaks to what we talked about earlier with dual purposes. But for example, the Cluster Bowl that I sent to you is the easiest entertaining piece. You can make it a charcuterie board. You literally put the nuts in one, the cheese in one. It's like 101, and it's also really fun for candy. So holiday candy. Halloween, I fill mine with different Halloween candies and just put it out for the kids or for adults you could do nuts and candy, a mixture. But it makes it so simple and it's stylish looking -- done. I've also got a punch bowl in this collection and it's very transitional. So it would work if you're more modern, it would work if you're more traditional. And that goes back to, yes you can make a batch cocktail, but you can also fill it with beautiful ornaments mixed with anything. Or you can float candles, fill it with water and float candles, and that's your centerpiece on your dining room table. Just ways to make it easy and affordable.


A lot of this collection, I love, because we took inspiration from very expensive items that I love from other designers, and we made our spin and made them very affordable. So, I think that's what Southern Living and Dillard's does really well. They have a whole line of cabbageware that, if you're into that look, I mean, you can't find it anywhere for the price point. We made a bamboo flatware for spring, that's still available now, that's the most well-made and best price point bamboo flatware on the market, because it doesn't need to cost this much. And, thankfully because Dillard's is so large, their manufacturers can make high-quality products at a reasonable price.


Brittany:Which is your favorite piece that's available right now?


Mary Hollis:I'm just old fashioned and southern. I love the Magnolia Candlesticks. They're really pretty. They can just be an objet on your table. That is, to me, it can be a nice gift. You have to know whoever you're giving it to, if it's their aesthetic. I love those. And I also love my cabbageware vases. It's kind of a surprise to see those in the holiday collection, because they're year round. And they have that frog piece insert that I talk about a lot on Mrs. Southern Social. You literally stick stems of flowers down in them and it holds it. It makes flower arranging so easy.


Brittany: Okay, I think I'm going to need to look into this one because we are constantly trying to arrange flowers here and we say, "we just need it to look a little bit better." So this would be an easy fix.


Mary Hollis: It keeps you from having to tape the top of the vase, which is the other trick to keeping your flowers standing upright.


Brittany:I don't love that, though. I mean we will do it.


Mary Hollis:Yes, I don't ever do it because I always need floral tape and I don't buy it, and then I end up using Scotch tape and then the flowers all fall apart. It's great. It's just really great.


Brittany: Maybe that's my problem. The Scotch tape.


Mary Hollis: So my cabbageware vases have literally holes and we were like, "put flower here."


Brittany: Simple, easy, to the point. That's so exciting. Well, I'm so just excited for everything that you're doing. Congratulations again. Amazing.


Mary Hollis: Well thank you. I joke that I have a lot of useless information, but if you need to know about entertaining, it becomes useful. But I don't know anything else. I can't even do basic math, but I can set a table.


Brittany:I mean, I feel like that's important.


Mary Hollis: It has its time and place. It certainly does.


Brittany:That's so funny. Okay, so on this season of the podcast, I'm ending each of my conversations with our guests by asking them what was the most meaningful act of kindness that someone has extended to you that has had a lasting change on your life?


Mary Hollis: I don't know if you know this, but we were hit by the tornado in Nashville right before COVID. Our warehouse was destroyed. I mean that's a whole other story. It ended up being a huge blessing. God was good because that insurance protected us then from the drought of parties that happened for the whole next year. It was wild. Thankfully no one was hurt. But before COVID hit, as you can imagine, it was like mayhem. And Paul and I were freaking out, I mean we have a lot of employees that are like family and that we take care of. And so I was coming unglued and Paul needed to just dig in. And my friend, one of my girlfriends, I have wonderful girlfriends, called me and she was like, "pack your bags, pack the kids bags, we're going." And they took us to their house in Florida and loved on us, fed us. Paul could do his thing. I was able with the kids to just get away and spend time in prayer, plan, she helped watch the kids. It was such a gift. And I mean they took time off their schedule to take care of us, and I will never forget that. I say a lot, you want to find friends that pray behind your back, not talk behind your back. And I have a really great group of friends that do that. This is one of those ladies, and I will never forget that kindness and generosity. And that was such a loving act that she could do for me and my kids. Especially because your kids can feel the stress of the parents. And Paul really needed to just live at the office. And so it was such a loving thing for 

her to do.


Brittany:That's amazing. And I'm sure that's something you'll always remember.


Mary Hollis:That time, it was such a wonderful trip in Florida with them. And yes, I will always remember it.


Brittany:I love that. This question has been so fun to hear what people say. And I think too, in my own life, things that stand out to me, because it's so easy to be kind to people every single day. But for whatever reason, sometimes that's not the first action people take. So I've just loved hearing different responses.


Mary Hollis:I love that question.


Brittany:Yeah, it's a good one. I also just appreciate you being here today. I know my listeners are going to absolutely love this episode. So many good nuggets of information. I'm taking away the punch bowl with the ornaments. I'm so excited to go do that on my table at home because we set up our Christmas tree yesterday. So yes, lots of holiday decorating is coming to my house and I'm going to use some of your inspiration for sure.


Mary Hollis: Good. Well girl, I'll send you a punch bowl then.


Brittany:Yes. Oh, I'll put it to use!


Mary Hollis: Unless you have one. Do you have a punch bowl?


Brittany:I don't. I don't have a good punch bowl.


Mary Hollis:Well, you need one. It's one of those things, it's come back in the whole grand millennial thing, but it's actually useful. So there was a reason our grandmothers used them, so we need to listen to them.


Brittany:I know, right? Oh my gosh.


Well for our Life with Loverly listeners, we are going to put all of Mary Hollis's information in the show notes. We're going to put a link to her fabulous book. So if you haven't had a chance to read it, you can check that out. And then also to her collection at Dillard's right now. So thank you again, Mary Hollis. We will talk to you soon!


Mary Hollis:Thanks!


Brittany: Hi friend! I hope you enjoyed this episode on the Life of Loverly podcast. Be sure to snap a screenshot on your phone during your favorite part of the episode, post it to your Instagram stories and tag us @LifewithLoverly. I love seeing what's resonating with you and reposting to spread more kindness along the way. See you next week, friend!

This season of Life with Loverly is produced by Elizabeth Evans Media Productions.



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