1. Timing Your Holiday Party
Deciding upon the date is the first step in any party planning process. For non-business events, weekends are usually the best choice. However, with the holiday season being a busy time, you might need to consider weekday options as well. Early December is often ideal, especially for company celebrations, as the latter half of the month is usually reserved for family time. Aim to send the invitations at least a month in advance to ensure your guests have ample time to RSVP.
If you’re planning a family-friendly event, we recommend hosting it on a Saturday, starting in the early evening, around 5 p.m. This timing ensures that it doesn’t clash with bedtime for kids and allows adults to wrap up the party by 10 p.m.
1.2 Adults-Only Parties
For an adults-only gathering, consider hosting your party on a Friday or Saturday night, allowing guests ample time to recuperate. Traditional party time is around 8 p.m., but a later start might signal a more lively party. If weekends are unavailable, a weekday evening can work just as well. Tuesdays or Thursdays are often ideal for casual cocktails or dinner parties.
1.3 Daytime Parties
If you’re constrained by time, a daytime holiday party or an open house can be a great choice. You can prepare small bites, stock up on drinks, and invite guests to drop in at their convenience. Saturday or Sunday afternoons are perfect for this kind of event.
1.4 Company Parties
Company holiday parties often require juggling with schedules and other constraints. According to seasoned office party planners, Thursdays, an hour before closing time, seem to be a popular choice. It allows staff to enjoy the party without sacrificing their weekend.
“At Last” by Etta James • “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley • “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston • “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars • “Marry You” by Bruno Mars • “All of Me” by John Legend • “Love on Top” by Beyonce • “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas • “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce ft. Jay-Z • “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon
2. Selecting the Venue
The venue for your party depends largely on the number of attendees. For smaller gatherings of less than twenty people, your home might suffice. For larger groups, you may need to consider a restaurant, bar, or event space. If space constraints persist, you could also consider an outdoor or virtual party.
3. Deciding the Theme
A theme sets the mood for the entire event. Whether you opt for a “Winter Wonderland,” a “Black and White” theme, or the classic “Ugly Christmas Sweater” party, decide on a theme before sending out invitations. This allows your guests to prepare accordingly, from dressing up to bringing themed gifts.
4. Creating the Guest List
Your guest list will dictate the formality of your party. Consider whether you want to keep it casual or formal, and invite your guests accordingly.
5. Planning Party Activities
Having a set of planned activities can elevate your party from good to unforgettable. Here are a few suggestions:
5.1 Holiday Games
Games like charades or Pictionary can add a fun element to your party. Plan prizes for winners to keep the competitive spirit alive.
5.2 Gift Exchange
Organize a Secret Santa, White Elephant, or Favorite Things gift exchange. This allows everyone to leave with a small token or a good laugh.
5.3 Cookie Decoration or Swap
Ask your guests to bring their favorite confections, such as fudge, toffee, or cookies. You could also bake cookies and set up a decorating station for guests to create their custom treats.
5.4 Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest
This is a fun, cheesy way to get everyone involved. Have your guests vote for the most horrendous holiday sweater!
5.5 Holiday Movies
A small group might enjoy a film viewing. Set up a popcorn and candy bar and plan a trivia or drinking game for added fun.
5.6 Tree Decorating
A tree-trimming theme sets the holiday mood perfectly, especially for parties hosted early in the season.
5.7 Holiday Photo Booth
Set up a backdrop and props for guests to click pictures. You could use an instant camera or upload the pictures to a shared album the next day. Or check out our photo booth rentals!
6. Setting the Menu
The menu for your holiday party can range from light bites to a full meal. Your serving style will depend on the size of your party and your venue. Potluck parties are a great way for a gathering of about 12 to sample and swap family recipes.
Aim for a few high-quality appetizers rather than a wide variety. Large platters that are easy to put together but look abundant are a great choice.
Choose dishes that can be cooked in advance and reheated, such as lasagna or chicken parm. Don’t forget dessert! Pies are a safe bet, or you could ask your guests to bring a dessert for a collaborative dessert bar.
You can keep your drink menu simple with a case of wine or a signature holiday drink. Consider adding festive upgrades like rosemary sprigs or lemon twists. For an adults-only event, consider setting up a hot cocoa bar with a variety of toppings and liqueurs for spiking.
7. Decorating the Venue
Your holiday party decorations will depend on your theme. Evergreens, herbs, stockings, twinkle lights, and candles are all classic choices. Scatter baubles in your chosen color scheme along your tablescape, or string up dried orange slices, popcorn, and cranberries for a traditional touch.
8. Preparations Before the Party
Start shopping for supplies well in advance. Categorize your list to get everything as early as possible. Set aside time for yourself to get ready before the guests arrive. Before people begin to arrive, light candles, dim the lights, and put on a playlist.
9. Planning a Company Holiday Party
When planning a company holiday party, consider booking an all-inclusive venue. This not only saves you time and money but also ensures that everything, from tablecloths to holiday decor, is taken care of. Non-traditional holiday events, such as family-friendly outings, are a great way to involve everyone.
10. After-Party Considerations
While planning your holiday party, also consider the aftermath. Stock up on compostable to-go containers to divide any leftover food among your guests.
Planning a holiday party can be an exciting endeavor. With careful planning and a touch of creativity, you can host a memorable event that your guests will remember for years to come. Whether it’s Christmas, New Year’s, or just a generic holiday celebration, the key is to ensure that everyone has a great time and leaves with a smile on their face. Happy holidays!