Christmas carols have deemed the holiday season to be the “most wonderful time of the year.” Fun homemade decorations, food that is entirely outside of your diet, and Christmas music make this statement so real, and of course, our favorite part will always be the music! The holiday season is the time for endless parties — corporate holiday parties, parties with friends, and of course, family gatherings. No matter which category your party falls into this year, there are some basic things you can do to ensure you stay on budget, stand out in the crowd (of other parties) and ensure your guests have a memorable time. Here are some of our tips for hosting the best Christmas party this year:
Create Your Christmas Party Budget and Stick to It
The holidays are a time of cheer, but you don’t want January to roll around and feel the delayed pain of overspending. Before you do anything, set a realistic budget and stick to it. We cannot stress the importance of sticking to your budget because people overspend to feel good during the holidays, then turn around and feel even worse after they get their credit card bill. Be realistic and leave room for incidentals. For instance, if your budget is $1000, plan a party for $800 to give you some space if you need to make another store run the day of the party or if something goes wrong. In the event the party stays at $800, you will have saved some money. Worst-case scenario, you will have to spend the additional $200, but at least you haven’t gone over budget.
Ask Your Guests to Contribute to the Party Budget
If you need to expand your budget, ask for help from some of your attendees or party planning committee. Give a heads up in the invitation that you either need people to bring different supplies and food or ask everyone to pitch in a set amount and send it via CashApp or Paypal. If you want to ask for budget help in a more subtle way, you can ask everyone to bring a bottle of their favorite wine (to cut liquor costs) or organize a 50/50 raffle where the “house” gets to keep 50% of the raffle money, and the winner gets to keep the other 50%. Of course, you can go with the traditional potluck party; however, potlucks have lost some of their zeal over the years. Personal diet restrictions and sanitation concerns, primarily because of COVID-19, may prevent a potluck party from going over well with everyone. If no one on the committee is a part-time Bobby Flay, it may be wise to ask everyone to pitch in on having food catered, so no one is eating something they don’t want to eat.
Overall asking for budget help is tricky and depends on the type of party and type of guests you plan to invite. If you’re hosting an informal affair with friends or family, asking for contributions isn’t taboo. People may even expect to contribute if this is a group effort and your house is just the designated venue. If you are hosting a more formal event or if you invited people, be prepared to carry the cost yourself and stick to raffles and wine contributions to help offload some of the cost on the back end.
The Covid19 pandemic has been looming over our heads for almost nine months, and as of now, and during this holiday season, there is no way we will be able to host events the same way we used to. The CDC is asking people to host smaller gatherings and have other guidelines for hosting holiday celebrations. Some of the recommendations are as follows:
- Remind guests to stay home if they are sick
- Encourage social distancing
- Clean hands often
- Limit the number of people handling or serving food
- Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items
- Wear masks
Because of these guidelines, we encourage you to get creative with how you execute your party. We can also find some benefits in it for you; for an example, if you want to limit commonly touched surfaces, you can request an early Christmas gift from your family and get a touchless trash can for your home!
Virtual Christmas Party Options
You can also opt for a virtual party with friends and family. Platforms like Zoom and GoToMeeting are great for hosting video conference calls. You can still have a theme and even ask your guests to wear festive clothing and drink or eat the same thing on the call. If you really want to get creative, you can still do a Secret Santa and open gifts together on the call. You and your guests can also play online games like Online Holiday Bingo and Virtual Scavenger Hunts. If you are hosting an office Christmas party, you may decide to go the virtual route as many employers are considering Zoom Christmas party options this year. CEO of HRinMotion, LLC, a human resources consulting firm, says,
“As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, safety is the most crucial factor when it comes to holiday celebrations. It is essential to remain in compliance with social distancing protocols; however, the holidays will always be a time of celebration, when humanity displays gratitude, kindness, and celebration in various ways, and this year should be a year of reflection as well. We should not miss an opportunity to let our employees know how much we value them, and hosting a virtual celebration where laughter and festivities are the focus is a great way to cap off the year.”
No matter what you decide to do, being creative with your hosting options will open the possibilities if you have restrictions that keep you from gathering with your loved ones during the holiday season.
Choose a Christmas Party Theme
After cultivating a budget and getting creative with your party’s platform or venue, it is time to choose a Christmas party theme. You have your traditional themes like a formal black-tie affair or Ugly Christmas Sweater party, but you can also switch it up and go with a theme that is entirely off the wall. Good Housekeeping gave a ton of unconventional themes like these:
- Revere Christmas in July (Think beach themed-Christmas)
- Christmas Pajama Party (Break out the fuzzy pajama bottoms)
- Christmas Carol-ke (Karaoke anyone?)
We love all of these ideas and suggest that you speak to a few guests or work with a party planning committee to develop more themes that would go over well with most of the crowd. Keep them comfortable and light — the holidays are already fun for people, and you don’t have to do too much to entertain guests during this time of year.
Offer Guests Finger Foods Instead of a Big Dinner
A sit-down dinner may seem like a more appealing option than an informal meal, but it can become costly and possibly unrealistic if you are hosting in a small venue. You may not have enough space to serve all of your guests adequately, or your area may be cramped with a large table in the middle of the main room. Make it easier on yourself (and your pockets) by having a central table with assorted fruits, veggies, chips, and dip, then have specialty finger foods passed throughout the night or available in a room connected to the main area. People can snack on the inexpensive snacks throughout the night and still enjoy unique dishes. By having the specialty food in another room or passed by servers, you’re making a psychological differentiation between the menu options, which lessens the expectation of having the specialty food available all night long. You can also use smaller appetizer plates instead of big plates to slow guests down from overeating.
Create Alternative Options for the Bar
Food and beverage costs tend to be the bulk of expenses for most events. You cannot host a party without having something to drink and eat for guests, and most times, it is expected (and traditional) for a Christmas party to have a liquor or beer option. Alcohol is expensive, and without a cash bar, it is hard to keep this expense from eating up most of your budget. You can avoid this by having guests bring their own or favorite beer and wine or offering specialty cocktails instead of stocking a full bar (also known as BOYB/W). Some people have done away with serving too many liquor options and now offer guests festive drinks like hot cocoa with marshmallows or spiked party punch. Scan your guest list to see how these options will go over, and worst-case scenario, people will end up bringing their own spirits.
Make the Bar Self-Service
If you’re not so worried about the cost, you may end up being worried about having to play bartender all night long. If your Christmas party is a little more informal, make the bar self-service so you can enjoy your night and not be worried about having to serve guests. Make some party punch and spiked eggnog, then set up a table with glassware and corkscrews and allow guests to help themselves. The more self-service options you provide, the more of a chance you get to enjoy your own party.
Rent a Photo Booth and Play Reindeer Games
Having a photo booth at your party is an easy way to keep the energy flowing and allow your guests to take fun and festive photos. You can rent a photo booth and have an attendant help to drive traffic to your photo booth. Guests will have an instant party gift by getting personal prints of their photos. Some photo booths are equipped with special Wi-Fi access so guests can receive their photos digitally and upload them to social media immediately, which is excellent. Some photo booths also have social media features where guests can directly upload their photos to social media. You can add a special filter with a hashtag to really cultivate a specialized experience for guests.
If you want a less-expensive option, you can find a well-lit area in your house and set up a tripod with your camera. Crate and Barrel suggest using a festive Christmas-themed tablecloth as a backdrop and have fun accessories like Santa hats and reindeer ears nearby so guests can wear them in their photos. When it comes to games, there are so many options to choose from — some trivia, some gift exchange-themed games, and some icebreaker type games as well. We have a list of some of our favorites below:
- White Elephant Gift Exchange
- Twenty Questions
- Gift Wrap Game
- Christmas Movie Trivia
- Would You Rather?
- Never Have I Ever
- The Santa Hat Game
- Jingle Bell Mingle Bingo
- Jingle Bell Toss
- Christmas Minute to Win It!
One thing to note is that there should be the right mix of games, and you should ensure the games you choose are age and audience-appropriate. Games like Taboo are safe and fun for adults but may be a little daunting for kids if you’re hosting a mixed crowd. If this is a corporate party, you may want to stay away from risque games or physical games like “Twister” — they may not be entirely appropriate for the boss to play. If you’re hosting a smaller party or house party, you can also have board games and playing cards available at different places throughout the house. Having smaller group games will allow people to gather and play games.
Music is the Key
You know we didn’t forget the music! Music is a vital piece of the pie when it comes to hosting the best Christmas party of the year. Your first thought is probably to create a playlist that has all of the traditional Christmas tunes. Be sure to include some of our favorites:
- “All I Want For Christmas” by Mariah Carey
- “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams
- “Silent Night” by The Temptations
- “It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas” by Bing Crosby
- “Baby It’s Cold Outside” by Ray Charles
- “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee
- “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt
- “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole
- “Let It Snow” by Boyz II Men
- “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway
Beyond the Christmas music, be sure to mix in Top 40 songs, Motown classics, and throwbacks from the ’80s and ’90s. Having the right mix of music will make the atmosphere festive and danceable. If you can afford to hire a band or DJ, you know who to come to first; however, when in doubt, find a great playlist on iTunes or Spotify and press play!
We are so elated that you’ve decided to host a Christmas party. There are tons of reasons to avoid hosting a party, and we understand the challenges; however, the holiday season is meant to share memorable moments with people we love and share our lives (or office spaces) with throughout the year. It is such a wonderful gesture to take your time to show others a good time, especially when the holiday season can be somewhat daunting to those who would otherwise be alone or mourn the death of a loved one. Remember to keep these things in the forefront of your mind if the planning process gets a little challenging, and don’t forget to make things as easy for you as you possibly can. You and your guests need to enjoy your party, so keep it simple, plan ahead, and get creative. Happy Holidays!
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