For the last two weeks, we’ve talked about the pre-planning necessities for a Christmas party: choosing a theme, sending out invitations, and food. This week, we’re closing out this series with the more “last minute” items – not that you should wait till the last minute for these! Planning early will save you a ton of stress. Think of these as your party’s accessories. Sure, you can have a party without them, but just as no outfit is truly complete without accessories, neither is a party complete without decorations, games, music, and favors.
Decorations should be the least of your worries at your party. Your guests are there for you and the other guests. The food, activities, music, and decorations are just icing on top of the cake. However, it’s easy for a party to feel off without any decorations, and, when done right, they can transform the whole aura of the party. Last week we described a few themes and ways you can decorate to fit those. But if you still aren’t sure, the best way to decorate is with a light touch. Accent pieces like a wreath on the door, a simple but elegant candle arrangement, and even something small like personalized drink coasters or like this personalized cutting board with a family recipe inscribed on it are perfect decorations.
You can’t have a party without music! Of course, Christmas tunes are the go-to. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but if you want to mix things up, you can definitely do that too. Any of Run0DMC’s Christmas music is great to include if you want an unconventional playlist. You also get to decide if you want to hire a live band/singer or just use a pre-made playlist and your computer. If you opt for the playlist and computer, you’ll want to spread speakers throughout the house. The music should be louder in the less-occupied areas of the venue (basically, anywhere away from the food). During dinner, play instrumental music, so guests can focus better on the conversation.
Activities are a must for any party. They can help shy or insecure guests feel more comfortable. They add laughter to the room which makes everyone happier.
- Christmas Carol Pictionary: Put a Christmas spin on classic games, like Pictionary. Rather than drawing simply any word or phrase, you have to draw a song.
- Who am I? Make this a Christmas game by using only Christmas characters. Anyone from Jesus and the 3 Wise Men to Frosty the Snowman to Santa to Krampus are all viable options.
- What child is this? Named after the Christmas song, have guests bring a copy of their favorite baby picture (or if you’re going with the pet theme, they should bring pictures from when they first got their pet!) and arrange them on a poster board. Number each picture and have a piece of paper with only a list of numbers, one for each guest or pet. Throughout the party, guests will write down on their paper who they think each picture belongs to. The guest with the most correct answers at the end of the party wins a prize! Note: if your guests all know each other well, you may need to be prepared for multiple people to get all the answers correct – so you’ll need multiple prizes.
- Gingerbread house decorating contest: you provide the supplies and your guests provide the masterpieces!
- Minute to win it games are always a hit – some Christmas-themed games include reindeer ring toss, snow shovel, jingle bell races, marshmallow munch, candy cane hook ‘em, and so many more.
- Carol-oake: karaoke but the only songs you can sing are Christmas carols.
- Christmas Carol Bingo: make bingo cards with either song titles or symbols that represent popular Christmas carols and pass them out to guests as they arrive. As the night goes on, when they hear a song, they should mark it off on their board. Just make sure you have all the songs from the cards on your playlist. If you are doing Carol-oake, you could restrict the bingo play to only during karaoke, to make it a little more challenging.
- Don’t forget to have a photo booth! Help your guests formally commemorate the party with photo favors.
- White elephant exchanges are a fun way to do a no-pressure gift exchange. You get all the fun of opening presents and none of the stress of finding the perfect gift for a randomly chosen recipient. Instead, instruct guests to each bring a gift and set a price limit. At the party, guests should be randomly assigned a number and then sit in a circle according to that number. The first guest picks a gift from under the tree and opens it in front of the group. The second person can choose to steal the first gift or open a new one. And the game continues until everyone has a gift!
Cookies or fudge are a classic, delicious holiday party favor, and you can't go wrong with them. But the holidays are already so full of food, it's also a good idea to switch things up a bit and offer guests something a little different. Take personalized ornaments, for instance. They are simple but lovely and are thoughtful favors that your guests will be able to enjoy for years to come.
That’s it for our ultimate guide to planning a Christmas party. You’ll be the talk of the town if you plan your party according to our guidelines. If you’re still looking for more advice, coming up we’ll be discussing the more nuanced details of planning Christmas parties for your family, your office, and more.