On a brilliant afternoon in early December, friends arrive at Camilla Gallacher's home with armfuls of evergreens. By the time they leave, a few hours (and aperitifs) later, they've feasted, fêted their close-knit group, and fit in a lesson on creating stunning wreaths—bravo!—with their own two hands.
The first time Camilla Gallacher threw a holiday wreathmaking party, back in 2016, her guests had so much fun that they didn't even get around to the wreath part. "I wanted to give everyone an early Christmas present, so I bought the supplies and asked them to come over with some greenery. But the truth is, we all drank too much Champagne," she says with a laugh.
Gallacher and her cohorts live in the neighboring communities of Brookhaven and Bellport, New York, two relatively sleepy spots on Long Island's Great South Bay; they all migrated there from Manhattan. The women formed fast friendships after chance meetings in coffee shops or on the ferry to Fire Island. "It's a really lovely group. We're originally from different places, but we're all writers or artists, and mothers," says Gallacher, who moved to the U.S. from London with her husband in 2006. "But there's not much going on, so we have to make our own fun." (Judging from that early attempt, they do a good job of it.)
This year, Gallacher has invited a guest star—her friend Esther Flury, an art historian and freelance floral designer—and asked the group to bring cuttings from their yards, which Flury puts in galvanized buckets around the kitchen. The made-ahead lunch is similarly arranged for them to pluck from: A hearty antipasto platter features a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano Vacche Rosse, the holy grail of Parmigiano. There's also a big pot of silky squash-and-parsnip soup with fried sage leaves and pepitas for sprinkling, a crunchy-cool fenneland-endive salad drizzled with crème-fraîche dressing, and a cookie plate piled with riffs on classics, even good old fruitcake.
After a few glasses of Campari punch, Flury offers everyone some "loose instructions." And charmingly, as the wreaths take shape, each woman's begins to match her personality: some minimalist, others unruly, with shooting greens and gold balls. "With the same materials, they've made very different things," Flury says. "They're like little self-portraits." They're souvenirs, too—of a newly rooted holiday tradition.
An Open Invitation
Gallacher is a jewelry designer and interiors stylist who recently relaunched her accessories company, Camilla James—so low-key Brookhaven is a serene home base. "What I appreciate most about being here," she says, "is having more time to get together with people." She's also a mom to 6-year-old twins, so the gatherings in her 1850s farmhouse tend to be casual and self-serve.
The Wild Bunch
Pictured here: Michele Chiaramonte, Jana Guja, Beverly Allan, Maya Schindler, Andrea Codrington Lippke, and Donna Clarke make up the merry crew.
If you're hosting, provide (or have guests bring) six to eight large branches of greens for each wreath, as well as decorative elements such as berries and pinecones, in a mix of textures, scents, and colors.
Cluster the foliage into small, bouquet-like bundles, with denser greens in back and berries and flowers in front. Bind them with thin (20- to 26-gauge) paddle wire. Plan on making 16 to 20 per wreath.
Place the first bundle on a frame at a 45-degree angle, and secure it tightly with a few wraps of paddle wire. Tuck in a second bundle beside the first, overlapping slightly, and secure again with wire. Repeat until the frame is evenly covered, inserting greens to fill holes. If desired, use floral wire to add balls, bows, or bells.
Sparkling Campari Punch
Winter White Salad with Creme-Fraiche Vinaigrette
The wreaths own the spotlight at this party, but the dessert spread nearly steals it. Fruitcake goes from heavy to heavenly in meringue snowballs, light as air on the outside and chewy inside. Gingerbread-espresso crinkle cookies combine holiday spices with a frosty coating. (The secret to a great crinkle: Roll the dough in granulated sugar first, then dredge—generously—with confectioners'.) And the almost-too-pretty-to-eat shortbread wreaths are infused with Meyer lemon and decorated with sugared rosemary and thyme.