It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Holiday celebrations are back in full swing and back in person. Hosting a holiday dinner party is a great way to reconnect with family and friends. December is the month to take a basic dinner party up a notch with Instagram-worthy, over-the-top décor and jolly fun!
If you need inspiration, Pinterest can be your most creative, stylish friend. Unfortunately, the deluge of digital images can also be overwhelming. Let us help you get a plan in place for your soiree, and then you (and your laptop and your favorite shopping venues) can take it from there!
Pick a vibe that matches your tribe. Do your friends prefer beer pong and nachos or are they drawn to a more sophisticated soiree with guests dressed in their Sunday best? Here are a few ideas for party themes that span the gamut between formal and informal.
- Holiday Movie Premiere
Focus on one particular movie, or a mixture of many. Playing movies in the background is an easy activity and offers introverted guests a comfortable socializing option. This party can be styled up or down, depending on your audience. Red carpet pizazz or pajamas and pizza. Invitations can be elegant stationery or cute admission tickets. The table centerpiece could be anything from the infamous leg lamp from A Christmas Story to fake snowballs a la Buddy the Elf. Dessert could include a gourmet popcorn bar. Let your imagination run wild with your favorite holiday movie ideas.
- Gift Back
This year’s gift exchange could be a nostalgic nod with a philanthropic twist. Guests can bring new toys, games or books that remind them of their childhood (think Slinky, Lincoln Logs, Tonka trucks, Spirograph, etc.). Before adding each toy to the donation box, guests can share stories about why they have chosen to gift their item. These stories will make great conversation starters. The trick here is to make sure the toys are brand new and still appealing to kids! Fat Brain Toys offers new versions of popular toys from the 1920s through the 1990s.
- Winter Solstice
If you want to be completely on point for this party, the first day of winter this year falls on Dec. 21, which is a Wednesday evening. But celebrating midweek is not absolutely necessary. What IS necessary, is that guests dress in their best winter white, and the party food and décor follows suit: white flowers, meringue-inspired delicacies, snowflake luminaries (doilies wrapped around glass jar candles), a gourmet hot (white) chocolate bar. Party favors could be gourmet marshmallows. You get the idea.
- Pajama Party
This can be fun for families with children or you can do a grown up version. Either way, playing The Polar Express movie in the background — the dreamy story of a group of pajama-clad kids who end up on a train bound for the North Pole — will create the right atmosphere for this casual gathering. Don’t forget blanket forts (sized for adults with dimly-lit LED candles), junk food, karaoke, and group games.
There are countless party theme possibilities — Christmas Around the World, Ugly Christmas Sweater, Creative DIYs (wreaths, gingerbread houses, Christmas ornaments), Christmas Carol Karaoke, Holiday Trivia, Christmas in Vegas, Tropical Holiday with the Beach Boys’ Christmas Album, Holiday Talent Show. This list goes on and on.
To-do: The List
Once you have chosen your theme, it’s time to create your list. Live by your detailed to-do list.
Your master to-do list should have many subcategories including:
- Guest list
- Equipment rental
- Music selections
- Party decor
- Grocery store list
- Liquor store list
- Party store list
Once your preliminary list is underway, it’s time to schedule tasks by creating a checklist and referring to a calendar. What should you accomplish one month before the party? Two weeks before? One week before? Two days before? This will help you eliminate much of the inevitable last-minute scramble and panic.
Here are five tips to simplify and streamline your party:
- Choose as many make-ahead recipes as possible.
- If you plan to make the spirits bright all night, big-batch cocktails are so much easier than custom cocktails, unless you hire a bartender. Champagne punch in a beautiful punchbowl is not only easier but it also makes for lovely and festive décor. Make sure to include a fancy alcohol-free, and mark the difference with simple tent cards.
- Rent or buy an inexpensive coat rack so that guests aren’t searching for their coats in a jumble on your bed at the end of the evening.
- Have to-go containers available so you can send guests home with goodies. Table centerpieces and other holiday décor can also make nice take-home party favors.
- Be prepared to wrap it up. We’re not talking about gift wrapping, we’re talking about how to gracefully nudge night owls to go home. When the party’s over, but your guests seem to be staying over, be prepared with subtle hints that it’s time to leave. Lower the music. Blow out candles. If they still won’t leave, yawn. Then start cleaning up.
One last way to make your soiree stand out and live on a little longer — take pictures throughout the night to share with guests in a follow-up thank you note and/or social media post. Celebrating together and then capturing these meaningful memories strengthens your friendships and enriches your life.