How to Host an Epic Christmas Party
The holidays embed in our DNA as we grow up, and we all have different traditions and memories. But one thing everyone can agree on is that it is a time for family and friends to enjoy each other, reminisce about times past, and celebrate life. December is the best time to host an event, as long as you are not intruding on family time, such as on Santa's night or the big day. The magic of the season is hanging thickly in the air, and people have relaxed and are poised and ready to party.
Save the Date: the first thing you should do is check the temperature of your friends and family about the party date. This can be done in many ways: text message, email, social media event page, or more formally with a mailed Save the Date card. However you decide to do it - ensure your main players are free on your suggested date. If you receive too many negatives, pick other dates until you exhaust all efforts for this season or find the time that fits most schedules.
Find your event space: from the Save the Date you managed, you'll know how many you will likely have at your party. Casual parties are best hosted at your home. It's more personal, you're likely already to have most of the Christmas décor up already, and it's cheaper on your budget. Other options for smaller parties (up to 30 people) would be to contact your favorite restaurant and ask if they have a private dining room you can book. They will probably charge you a flat fee, which goes toward food. If you don't spend that much - they'll charge it anyway, so don't hold back on the appetizers. Another smaller party option is a hotel hospitality suite. Ask if they mind if you host a gathering - sometimes they don't allow it, and it would be a Scrooge-y nightmare to get kicked out midway through. Also, apartments, condos, and many neighborhoods will have rec rooms you can rent for a nominal fee, as long as you agree to clean up afterward.
Or, for larger events (30+), my default is a hotel ballroom. They usually have various sizes for your event, and an event planner will be included with the room rental - which is very convenient but will cost you (it's all mixed in the fees). The good thing about renting a ballroom is that they will set up everything (tables, etc.) and take down for you. You'll get to pick how to arrange your tables, what tablecloths, and sometimes, centerpieces. They will allow you to design a menu and manage it on your big night, so you don't have to hire a separate caterer. The drawback to that - you don't have much flexibility, and it tends to be more expensive.
Formally invite your guests: depending on how formal you want your party to be, this can be done many ways. There are free eVite sites that will track RSVP's for you. This is convenient, but some people mistake them for junk mail and won't see them, so you'll still need to manage them. Just like with the Save the Date, you can text/email if it's casual, send an electronic flyer via email, set up a social media event page, or be traditional and have invitations printed for your event. Deliver them in person while driving a car with a Rudolph nose and ears (and please Tweet me photos) while wearing an elf costume. Or snail-mail them and skip the theatrics.
Things that should be included in an invitation are: the host(s), the party location and address, the date and time, and an RSVP line where you put the number, social media handle, or email address where potential guests can let you know if they are coming with a deadline date. Also, include expected dress (casual, semi-formal, formal, or maybe even Christmas costumes).
Décor: I will focus on home parties, as you'll have less control of restaurants and hotels, and will likely need to hire a florist to decorate a ballroom (or if you DIY a large event space, that's an entirely different blog article, and a ton of work, by the way).
Besides food, the decorations can make or break your party. You don't have to spend a fortune on decor, but it must hit on all senses when your guests walk into your party. If they walk into your living room and it looks just like it did last week - you've failed. You need to transport them to a place that makes them smile, conjure fond memories, and feel a general warmth inside.
Your existing Christmas décor is a start. But do a walkthrough as one of your guests. What do they see when they drive up to your home? What is the focus at your entryway? What do they smell when they walk into the main party room? If you can't think of anything remarkable, fix it! Head over to Pinterest and start searching for DIY Christmas decorations. You will be surprised at how many cool ideas there are on there, which will cost you little to no money but have a significant impact.
Yankee Candle has Christmas-scented candles. Or, bake some gingerbread cookies for the party right before the party, and it will smell fantastic. You can trigger memories and happy emotions from the amygdala and hippocampus (parts of your brain) by scents. Your guests won't even know why they are in a super fabulous mood!
Food: I have said it a million times - hangry guests will hate your party forever. Do not host a party of any kind without food. Ever. Food is part of the decor, and either should be phenomenal or inspired by the theme of the event. Go campy or quirky with Reindeer Poop Cookies, a Snowman Cheese Ball, or Christmas tree pizzas.
Or, serve a traditional holiday meal of roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. It is alright only to serve finger foods - as long as you keep the trays stocked during the night. But if you don't serve dinner - let them know that upfront on the invitation, as I explained above. You must disclose that it is an appetizer night or that dinner will be served. That way, your guests can prepare.
Entertainment: I don't want to make this blog an advertisement for my murder mystery party games, but I must suggest hosting a murder mystery party from My Mystery Party. I'll make it quick - my favorite game is my most recent for 2019, Bad Santa. It has team-building activities, video content, and is all-around fun. If you want more information about how to host a murder mystery party, click here. Murder mystery parties will give you the best return-on-investment for long-lasting memories and Monday morning cooler talk. People might forget most parties they attend, but they'll never forget a murder mystery party.
Murder mystery party isn't for you? No worries, but you must provide a focus of some variety - especially if you've invited a bunch of introverts like me. Socializing as the main focus will scare away our kind, stress us out, and the flake-potential will rise. Have something - make it a game night with fun party games, hire a harpist, guitarist, or pianist, or purchase/rent a karaoke setup. Other ideas would be to gather around and watch a traditional Christmas movie, go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood, or maybe have your guests sign up for a home talent show and show off their unique abilities. Poker tournament, kid's home recital, or maybe hire a local performer for a show (comic, magician, actor, etc.)
Take-home gifts: this is the season for giving. If you are on a tight budget and this is a party for very close friends and family, just make it a small, festive bag of holiday candy. Or, a poinsettia plant, a mini box of Godiva chocolate, or there are some DIY party favors for Christmas on Pinterest, such as custom mixed tea blends in glass vials, pinecone ornaments, mini evergreen trees, and custom flavored liquors. You don't need to spend a fortune on this - it's just a token gift as they walk out into the night air. Plus - if you made it yourself, that means even more and is less damaging to your bank account. Giving festive party favors does confer a good feeling with your guests on their journey home.
You can also use the take-home gifts as a way to signal the end of the party if you have lingering guests. Bring them out and set them on a decorated table. Make a soft announcement for everyone to grab one on the way to the car when they are 'ready,' and be sure to say 'no rush,' but they'll get the subtle hint. This is a polite way to signal the end of the evening, if needed.
I hope this has given you some ideas, affirmed your plans in progress, and given you the confidence to be a superb party host this holiday season.
I wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season and a happy New Year!