Sending Holiday Cards
Tap the Delicate Pen to design custom-calligraphed holiday cards featuring sweeping and romantic strokes weaving around branches of holly or snowflakes. Prices begin at $600 for 100 cards and rise from there depending on paper choice and design embellishment. Starting at $5 per piece, founder Jane Labanz will letter the envelopes; another 50 cents each will see that the elegant parcels are stamped, stuffed, and mailed—she will even have them hand-canceled for an additional fee. 212-877-3959; delicatepen.com.
Decking the Halls
Dumbo florist Emily Thompson is known for her wild Christmas wreaths (from $85), woven with unconventional materials like cecropia leaves, Floribunda rose hips, eucalyptus pods, and persimmons. She brings the same foraged sensibility to her extravagant residential holiday décor: sumptuous cedar garlands braided with pomegranates and vintage ribbon draped over the mantle or curled around banisters and light fixtures. Thompson can also transform your holiday table into a seasonal Flemish still life with topiaries, terrariums, wood-ear mushrooms, and loose fruits spilling over a velvet runner. Prices upon request. 347-529-5145; emilythompsonflowers.com.
Picking the Perfect Tree
Michael Walter and Rosa Szule, of Lexington Gardens on the Upper East Side, spent six years consulting on Christmas design at the White House, but their services can be enjoyed closer to home, too. To start, Walter or Szule will case your home to take measurements, make placement suggestions, and help you choose among species (Douglas fir, sugar pine, etc.) sourced from tri-state nurseries. Lexington Gardens will then deliver, install, and trim the tree—with ornaments or organic embellishments like cinnamon sticks, kumquats, and lacquered red pinecones—then collect the thing and send it to the chipper when the party’s over. If the project goes through, the $350 consultation fee will be deducted from the total cost, which starts at around $500 for a miniature tree and $2,000 for a full-size one. 212-861-4390; lexingtongardensnyc.com.
Sourcing the Yule Log
Call on the Woodman to complete your Dickensian mise-en-scène. The Hunts Point service will deliver a mix of kiln-dried maple, beech, oak, birch, cherry, and ash to hearths throughout the five boroughs and beyond. The sixteen-inch logs are available by the quarter, half, or full-face cord ($130 to $390); you can also order specialty cooking woods like pure hickory and apple should you wish to bring an added layer of finesse to your chestnut-roasting technique (prices upon request). 718-554-3251; thewoodman.com.
Hiring a Santa
With bona-fide bellies, pink cheeks, and tug-able white beards, the in-demand Kris Kringles from Real Santas are about as close as you can get to the genuine article. Hire one to lead a sing-along, read “The Night Before Christmas,” pose for photos, or deliver gifts to the brood—he’ll call prior to his arrival so you can hand off the presents. Rates range from $275 to $300 an hour; on Christmas Eve, 30-minute visits go for the same rate. realsantas.com.
Singing the Carols
For $1,200, commission the New York–based United Service Organizations’ Liberty Bells to add an hour of retro harmony to your Christmas affair. In pinup-inspired patriotic attire or holiday-friendly green evening gowns (your call), the singers—three ladies, or a quartet with one male for an added fee—will work their way through the seasonal songbook. Expect tunes like “Deck the Halls,” “Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Winter Wonderland.” The performance fee is tax-deductible, and proceeds benefit the USO. 212-695-5590, ext. 232; usonyc.org.
Slinging the Eggnog
“Cocktail Guru” Jonathan Pogash and his team of crack mixologists will keep your merrymakers well lubricated with seasonal drinks. Install the Guru—or an appointed member of his team—at a table, and he will ladle out Martinique rum punch infused with chai, chocolaty Manhattans with a dose of peppermint tincture, or even a proprietary nog. He’ll bring the liquor, mixers, ice, and garniture, plus (for additional fees) a cloth-covered table, the appropriate glassware for each tipple, and etched punch bowls. A three-hour shift starts at $1,450 for twenty guests, including organization and cleanup. Spend a little more to bait your cocktail-obsessive friends: For $65, Pogash will swap out bagged ice for flawless Kold Draft cubes, the same crystal-clear beauties in play at bars like PDT. thecocktailguru.com.
Cooking the Holiday Feast
Recently launched in New York, Kitchit is a kind of culinary matchmaking service, connecting dinner-party hosts with local chefs to execute multicourse meals in your private kitchen. Browse profiles on the website—listings include the chef’s education and restaurant experience—then make contact to negotiate a menu and a price per head. Holiday offerings are entirely customizable, but haute-barnyard Yuletide spreads, Christmas Eve feasts of the seven fishes, and locavore-latke parties are popular requests. Prices start at $50 per person and include consultation, food shopping, setup, cooking, and cleanup. Kitchit can also coordinate rentals, flowers, and tabletop design for additional fees. kitchit.com/ny.
Checking Off the Gift List
Grace Kang’s sweet Pink Olive shops, located in the East Village and Park Slope, offer a VIP concierge service that attends to gift-giving needs during the holiday season and throughout the year. The $197 annual fee affords you a dedicated “gift specialist” who will assemble a suite of presents based on the client’s request, then send along a PDF with options to choose from. (Cheeky stationery, funky jewelry, and design-forward baby ephemera are the coin of the realm here.) The dues also cover gift-wrapping, handwritten notes, and ground shipping. 212-780-0036; pinkolive.com.
Securing a Next-Level Gift Card
The season’s most tepid gesture, the gift certificate, gets an overdue reinvention via Wantful.com. Choose a price point between $30 and $500, pay your money upfront, and answer a few questions about the person you’re shopping for, and the web service—with on-the-ground operations in Dumbo—will generate a curated list of high-end presents. Select twelve items from a collection that includes Chambra cast-iron casseroles, Jaques London handmade croquet sets, and Fratelli Orsini Italian lambskin gloves, and Wantful will mail the gift certificate along with a personalized catalogue wrapped in Japanese rice paper to the giftee. wantful.com.
Elves for Hire
Where to find helpers that’ll do all—or at least most—of your holiday bidding.
The remote assistants at Fancy Hands ($65 a month for 25 fifteen-minute tasks; fancyhands.com) can research gifts, order alcohol for your party, and plan your New Year’s without ever meeting up in person. Assistants are vetted and assigned randomly, though you can request favorites.
Agent Anything (agentanything.com), meanwhile, supplies college students who can run your errands in between classes. Helpers are best suited to no-brainer duties like gift-buying (be very specific) and setting the holiday table; prices vary with each “mission.”
Need something a bit more specialized? Cut down on frantic Yelping with Zaarly (zaarly.com), whose new Storefronts section connects taskmasters with local artisans, including pie-makers, jewelry designers, bartenders, hairstylists, window washers, and more. Prices vary by vendor.
And of course there’s always TaskRabbit (taskrabbit.com), the Grand Pooh-bah of chore sites, where you can farm out decorating duties (around $100), card-writing (around $30), tree removal (around $75), and pretty much anything else you can dream up. Last season, one user hired a TaskRabbit to dress up like an elf and deliver gifts to twenty of his closest friends ($100, not that you’re curious). —Kurt Soller