Are you hoping to host a holiday party this year that everyone will remember, without any of the stress you’d rather forget? 'Tis the season for overextending ourselves, and seasonal soirees are no exception.
Believe it or not, though, there are foolproof shortcuts you can follow to maximize Christmas cheer without any tears. Get ready to mingle all the way, because when holiday party planning feels effortless, you’ll enjoy yourself just as much as your guests!
When the holidays hit, calendars fill up quickly. To ensure your guests still have enough space in their schedules, send out your Christmas party invitations early. Aim to have them out by Thanksgiving at the latest, if possible.
Decide what size of party you want. Do you want a full house or a more intimate gathering? Will it be a casual get-together, a formal affair, or will you make it fun with a theme? Do you want your guests to help you plan, or will you take the reins? Make these decisions early, and make arrangements accordingly.
About one month before your party, settle on your guest list, select your invitations, and print them. Create a to-do list for the week leading up to your party and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to squeeze any shopping in so you’re not running around at the last minute.
Though it’s optional, introducing a fun theme to your Christmas party will make your fête unforgettable. Just let your guests know well in advance to give them plenty of time to prepare. Here are a few ideas to spark your imagination:
You don’t have to sweat over the stove all day to impress your guests with a scrumptious spread. Skip the elaborate sit-down dinner and serve snacks buffet-style, instead.
Make one heat-and-eat appetizer from scratch ahead of time, and go store-bought with the rest: gourmet cheeses, mixed olives, hummus, tapenade, roasted nuts, pickled veggies, crackers, chips and dip. Just be sure to pull the serving table away from the wall so guests can access snacks at all angles as they mingle.
Step away from the cocktail shaker, and let your guests serve themselves, instead. A large punch bowl filled with a festive concoction of your choosing will keep the drinks flowing all night while giving your party retro panache.
Top tip: don’t add ice cubes, which will water down the punch as they melt. Instead, line the bottom of a Bundt cake pan with thinly sliced fruit and other garnishes that complement your cocktail. Add juice mixer with equal parts water, then freeze. In a few hours, you'll have a decorative “donut” of ice that fits perfectly in your punch bowl!
Filling your home with the aromas of Christmas will get you into the holiday spirit before your guests even arrive. Seasonal candles work wonders, but you can also use natural ingredients.
As your guests arrive, have a large pot of spice-infused stovetop potpourri simmering on the stove or in the slow cooker, set to low. Use fragrant fresh-cut evergreen sprigs and clove-studded orange pomanders as naturally aromatic decorations and centerpieces. Into consumable decor? Swap the potpourri for mulled wine or cider.
Make sure festive music is already playing to give your guests a warm welcome as they arrive. While back-to-back Christmas classics set the perfect party mood, they tend to sound a tad predictable as December rolls on.
Mix in a few jazz, classical, or international renditions of holiday favorites to add sparkle to your setlist. For even more variety, ask each of your guests to put in their requests before the party.
Believe it or not, decorating for your Christmas party is the easiest part. Chances are, you already have your holiday decorations up for the season, so it’s mostly about creating the right ambiance.
Turn off bright overhead lights, dim any chandeliers, and use LED string lights and clusters of candles to create a magical Christmas glow, especially on your tablescapes and centerpieces.
It’s not a Christmas party without a few reindeer games, so organize activities to keep your guests laughing all the way. Arrange a cookie decorating or gingerbread house-building contest, and have everyone vote on the winner. Host a few rounds of charades, carol-oke, Christmas musical chairs, or pass-the-present.
If you’re feeling crafty, set up an ornament-making extravaganza. Or, keep it classic with nostalgic board games and playing cards.
‘Tis the season of sweets. Whether it’s gingerbread men, sugar cookies, pies, cakes, candies, or pastries, nothing says Christmas quite like a table piled high with decadent treats. Designate a “dessert bar”, and have each of your guests bring a platter of homemade confections to add to it.
To elevate your offerings, set up a hot cocoa station with bowls of whipped cream, marshmallows, and miniature candy canes.
Don’t let your guests leave empty-handed! Send them home with merry memories of the evening. If your party has a theme, make sure your party favors match. After a Christmas PJ party, hand out pairs of cozy holiday-themed slipper socks and hot cocoa mix in a mug.
At the very least, have takeout-style boxes at the ready, and let everyone help themselves to the leftovers! They’ll enjoy eating an assortment of scrumptious snacks and sweets at home, and you’ll enjoy not having a colossal clean-up on your hands that will turn your fridge into a game of Tetris. It’s a win-win for everyone!