Christmas Party Planning 101
If you’ve ever thrown a party, you know that they can be a lot of fun…and a lot of work. There are steps to take that will make things easier and guarantee that you throw the best party (or parties) of the Season!! Luckily, I know these steps and I’m willing to share. : )
Let’s Get Started
The first thing to do is decide what type of party you’re having. Is it a Christmas Eve/Christmas Day celebration? A party for your friends? Will it be formal, relaxed, and/or family-friendly? These are all great questions and will help get you started with choosing a theme.
Choosing a theme can make things easier and an easy party is so much more fun!
Here are a few party theme ideas:
Christmas Eve Appetizers
This is what my side of the family generally does. We all bring appetizers and desserts to share. Then we sit around and talk, open presents, or do whatever we want. It’s very casual! (This is a fairly old picture. There was a full buffet of dessert and the stove and countertop were covered as well. I’d show you an updated one, but we generally don’t wait to take pictures when it’s time to eat and I couldn’t find one!)
Christmas Day Family Dinner
This is the traditional meal for most people who celebrate Christmas. While some might have to schedule for a different day due to travel/work schedules of family members, this is still the most common time for people to sit down and have a celebratory meal during the Christmas Season. This is basically “anything goes.”
Mid-December Christmas Brunch
I totally get it. There’s a lot going on in December and sometimes it feels like there is a party every night. How about changing things up with a Christmas brunch? Plan it for the middle of the month or even after Christmas and make it as casual as you want. Pajamas, anyone?
Ugly Sweater Party
Ugly sweaters, ugly shoes, ugly accessories…whatever it takes to look as ridiculous (and festive) as possible. Don’t forget to keep a few ugly sweaters just in case your guests show up without their own and give out a prize for the best…er…worst dressed. I think my kids would win with these outfits!
If it’s not too incredibly cold at night, the fire pit will do. But if it’s more than a little chilly, you’re gonna need a bigger fire!! We’ve had bonfires before that were so hot you couldn’t stand close enough to roast marshmallows. That’s perfect for a cold night out with friends though!
White Elephant Party
This is one of my favorites and there are a variety of ways to play, but the best is when everybody brings a wrapped gag gift and takes turns trying to steal them from each other. We have had some of the best laughs out of this!
Everyone brings one batch of already made cookies and copies of the recipe to share. Divide the leftover cookies and send them home with your guests. I feel like you could easily do this with any kind of food. How fun would it be with appetizers or other desserts?!?
Pinterest Craft Party
Pick a Christmas craft or two from Pinterest (or your craft book stash) and invite some friends for a creativity fest! Ask everyone who is coming to contribute some of the supplies if at all possible.
Favorite Things Party
This is basically a White Elephant Party with nice gifts! The same game is involved, but the prizes are anything that is a favorite of each individual guest.
Invite friends and family over for board/party games and finger foods. This is a good night to order pizza!
Gingerbread Decorating Party
You provide the gingerbread and icing, but have each guest bring a different candy for decorating. In a dream world, we could all make creations like this. Unfortunately, in our family, we can’t even get the precut ones to stay together, let alone decorate something this magnificent. This was at The Sights and Sounds of Christmas in Knoxville, TN at least a decade ago. I don’t I’ve seen one in person since then that was this impressive!
After you’ve chosen your theme, it’s time to pick a day, a time, and a venue. Most of us will have parties at our homes and for some reason, they are usually at night!
You may have to be a little more flexible with the date during the Holidays. There are so many events, it’s just impossible to make them all. We’ve had more than one party where only two or three people showed up. The key is to enjoy yourself anyway!
Decide if you will be hosting multiple parties/events. As much as I’d like to have a huge party, we just don’t have the room. Sometimes it’s easier to host a couple of small parties than to have one big one. If that’s the case, try to keep most of them casual.
Next, you’re probably going to need some sort of budget. It’s nice if you have the funds to just go spending willy-nilly, but even if you do have those funds, that’s a bad idea! Make a budget and try to stick to it. However, unless going slightly over budget is going to be a hardship, don’t beat yourself up over it!
Let’s Make a List
Now it’s time to make those lists. And there is going to be more than one. Prepare yourself. (But if you need help with that, see the awesome new Printable up above for just this very occasion!)
- Make a guest list. Who is coming to this party? Will they be alone or is there a limit on the people they can bring? Are you sending invites or just texting/calling people? Do they need to RSVP?
- Research ideas. **HOT TIP**: Make a secret Pinterest board and save all your favorite recipe, decorating, and game/activity ideas on that board!
- Plan a menu. Once you find some recipes you like, start planning your menu. A word to the wise: Don’t try too many new recipes for this party. One or two is fine, but for the most part, go with what you know. Unless your friends and family are used to that and it makes you really happy, then go for it!
- Make a grocery list. Write down everything you need for food, treats, party supplies, kitchen supplies…everything. Keep an eye on those sales and use them to your advantage. Stock up on everything you think you will need for the whole season. (Maybe buy a few extra things for when you’re too tired to grocery shop in January.) And don’t forget your list!
Prep as early as possible. Are there any dishes you can make ahead and freeze? Anything you can make a day or two before? Do whatever you can to free up time on the day of your party. Procrastination is not your friend!
Keep it simple. Make recipes you are familiar with and recipes that don’t require a lot of work. Think about using your crockpot. Buy foods that are already prepared. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to contribute whether it’s food, drinks, or plates/napkins, etc. Finger foods and potlucks are always fun and easy party options!
Make a self-service drink station. Whether you are serving alcohol, soft drinks, hot chocolate, wassail, or just water, it’s easiest to let people serve themselves. Also, a hot chocolate bar is cheaper than a bar with alcohol. Just saying.
Miscellaneous Party Tips
If you don’t have everything you need to decorate with or your serving dishes are a little sparse, consider borrowing them before you buy. And if you must buy, check out thrift stores and clearance aisles first. Just because something doesn’t have a Christmas design on it, doesn’t mean you can’t use it. I’m a big fan of using what you have!
Play Christmas music in the background, but don’t play it so loud that people can’t hear one another. That was okay back in the college days, but now I actually like to talk to people! Nothing more frustrating than a conversation that consists of “Huh?” every other sentence.
When it comes to food, looks aren’t always everything. I’ve had some beautiful food that tasted disgusting and some lackluster food that would melt in your mouth. Try to make it look appetizing, but don’t spend a fortune on food just because it “looks fancy.”
Don’t try to clean the entire house after the party is over. Put the food away, take out the trash, and clean up any major spills. Have a good night’s rest and tackle the rest of it in the morning!!
The Very Last Thing
This is super important, so make sure to pay attention. No matter what…always, always, always… Ask. For. Help.
Trust me when I tell you that I was the world’s worst for this. I wouldn’t ask for help because I felt like I had to do everything myself and then I got frustrated and stressed out. It was exhausting!
It’s okay if everything isn’t perfect. It’s okay if you can’t have it exactly like you dreamed of. If people are fed and entertained, they don’t really care about much of anything else!
Let go of the need to have the perfect party and let yourself enjoy the company.
Remember: Don’t do it if it stresses you out!
A Christmas Party can be as joyous as the holiday itself, but it takes some planning and a little work. Follow these party planning tips to have a party you can be proud of AND enjoy!