You've come up with a dinner menu, prepared an I-Pod playlist, and bought loads of bubbly, but is your holiday party missing something? Jennifer Brisman, a New York-based event planner, gave us the inside scoop on spreading holiday cheer, one party favor at a time.

When to give:
If you're having an intimate gathering at your house or have asked guests to bring a bottle of wine or a dessert dish, it's appropriate to give party favors. "If you know that your guests will be bringing things to your home, it's nice to give them something to bring back to their home," explains Brisman.

What to look for:
When shopping for favors, think of how useful they'll be to your guests. According to Brisman, "You want to give with purpose, where the life cycle is going to last from year to year." If you go with something edible, make sure it can be shared. And don't feel pressured to go all out; as she points out, "I think that people over-excess. There's something to be said for doing something sweet, that doesn't have a one-off shelf-life."

What to avoid:
"Stay away from things that are hokey!" warns Brisman. High on her list of over-played favors are picture frames, Christmas stockings, socks, slippers, and napkin rings. And equally passé is spending money on wrapping paper. Instead, she suggests reusing what you have in your house, such as linen napkins, fabric swatches, and wine bags.

If you're on a budget:
You don't have to break the bank when buying favors. To keep costs low, go for something homemade—eggnog, hot apple cider, and oversized cookies are all easy to make. Stores like Marshall's and Target often carry inexpensive ornaments, which Brisman likes because they can be used year to year by guests. Or you can custom order cocktail napkins with seasonal images (think wreaths or snowflakes) or sayings (like, "Have a holly jolly Christmas," or, "We hope that you're decking the halls"). Not only are paper napkins cheap and easy to find—stop by your local stationary store—but they can be used by your guests in the future, thus extending the favor's life cycle.

If you want to impress:
Knock the socks off of your party guests with guaranteed crowd pleasers, like pashmina throws or martini spears. "People can use these things, and they're always in style," points out Brisman. For an added "wow" factor, think about presentation; instead of just handing out beautiful ornaments to your guests, for example, hang them on a tree and invite your visitors to take the ornament of their choice at the end of the evening.

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