The holiday season can cause some serious stress. Between meal-planning, house-decorating, family-wrangling and last-minute party-prepping, there’s little time to sit back and relax.
Even when you’re feeling the holiday heat, there’s no reason to be a Scrooge this season (and frankly, your guests won’t enjoy your company)! Try some of our holiday party ideas and deck your halls in style while saving time, money and your sanity in the process.
1. Always make a guest list.
The key to a stress-free holiday party is making the most of the planning stage. Whether you’re personally calling your guests or sending out hand-crafted invitations (or, realistically, a group email or even a Facebook event notification), set up a system to record who can make it and who must gracefully bow out. Don’t prep for a party of 50 when only 25 will actually attend.
PRO TIP: Remember to ask what your guests are bringing! Nothing is more frustrating than finding room for yet another cookie platter. Also. as you look up recipes, make sure your party menu suits the tastes of all of your guests (vegetarians, gluten-avoiders, etc.).
2. DIY snow globes are easy to make and fun, too.
If you plan to host a holiday party, your home needs some festive decor. Why spend precious dollars shopping (and precious time running around) when you can make your own snow globes to spruce up your home for the holidays? Grab a few extra Mason jars — or use an old candle jar — and fill them with glittering garland and some sugar or salt.
You’ll need: Mason jars (a variety of sizes), bottle-brush trees, tiny jingle bells and a hot glue gun. Now get creative!
3. Ornament centerpieces: You can do this.
Even after you decorate the tree, chances are you’re going to have a few leftover Christmas ornaments. Use them! Ornament centerpieces make it easy to decorate your home without breaking the bank (or taking up lots of extra space).
Use a few leftover ornaments to fill glass jars or cloches, hang from chandeliers or weave into holiday wreaths.
To make your own glass cloche:
- Balance and stabilize a cloche upside down in packaging material
- Put ornaments in the cloche one by one – varying the colors and sizes – and be sure to use the smallest ornaments to fill in empty space. PRO TIP: Turn the necks of the ornaments inward so that you can only see the spheres
- Place the base on the cloche and carefully flip over.
4. Gift exchange!
If you’re looking for a stress-free way to keep your guests entertained, try a holiday gift exchange. Have all of your guests come with a gift (yes, you can regift that blender you’re never going to use) and play a version of the White Elephant game.
“‘Stealing’ from other participants gives this gift exchange game an element of unpredictability,” says Vanessa DiMaggio of Real Simple. “Invite everyone to contribute a wrapped gift. Draw numbers out of a hat to see who gets to pick from the pile first. Player one chooses and unwraps a gift, then shows it to everyone else. Player two then either steals that present or picks and unwraps another one from the pile. Any player whose gift is stolen gets to pick again, and the game continues until everyone has a gift.”
5. On your mark, get set, build: Gingerbread-house competition
From easy, no-frills fun to entertaining electronics, party games are a great way to bring people together and keep your soiree lively.
And why not have a little head-to-head fun? Take a childhood tradition and transform it into a friendly competition with gingerbread houses. Split up your guests into small teams, set the timer for 30 minutes and let creativity take its course — just don’t let your overly competitive Aunt Anne get too wound up over whose house takes first prize.
6. Holiday cocktails: They’re a must.
Don’t let sky-high drink bills crash your party. Instead of purchasing several beverages to appease each one of your guests, decide on a signature festive cocktail or punch for the evening.
Here are a few favorites:
- Merry lemonade: 8 oz. lemonade, ¼ cup cranberries and a splash of seltzer
- Easy-blender eggnog: 2 cups heavy cream, ½ cup sugar, ¼ tsp. nutmeg and ¾ cup brandy
- Champagne holiday punch: 4 oz. champagne, 8 oz. club soda, 4 oz. simple syrup, 6 oz. lemon juice and 12 oz. Genever
Pick up some red or green cups and you’re all set!
7. Ribbon-wrapped anything works.
Not really a decorator? No problem. If you’re looking for simplicity, ribbon is your answer. The best part? You can easily decorate the rooms of your home and practically take up zero space.
“The holiday season is busy enough without spending hours crafting decor and gifts, so ribbon makes the perfect decor for tables, mantels, buffets and window sills,” says Carrie of Making Lemonade, organization and DIY expert.
Some last-minute ideas: Dress up books, boxes and canvases with plain white wrapping paper and some cheerful ribbon. Place them on your end tables, walls and mantelpiece display to add a simple but festive decorative look.
8. Festive food is a fan favorite.
Make your list and check it twice — the food list, that is. Even if cooking isn’t your forte, select some simple appetizers and desserts that add just the right amount of festive flare.
- Christmas tree pizza. Cut a traditional pizza dough into the shape of a Christmas tree and add a few cups of spinach, ½ cup pesto, a red onion and a few handfuls of shredded mozzarella. Place the sliced onion in a pattern, mimicking tinsel or garland on a dressed-up Christmas tree, and slice into fun-size bites!
- Santa hat brownies. Why make plain brownies when you can make Santa hat brownies? Pour brownie batter into an 8×8 pan, cut with a round cutter and add some vanilla-mascarpone buttercream to simulate white trim on the hats. Add an upside-down strawberry on top and you’ve mastered the hat.
- Edible fruit tree. Grab a styrofoam cone from your local craft store and garnish with assorted fruits (grapes, strawberries, kiwis and honeydew combine for a great color combination).
Don’t have a ton of time to focus on the goodies? Ask your guests to each bring their favorite dessert and choose from a tray of sweet treats (but remember to make a list! See Tip #1).
9. Wall Christmas tree, wall Christmas tree…
We don’t all have the space in our homes for 10-foot Christmas trees — not to mention the money, time, effort (or muscles) that go into the real deal. This year, get your creative juices flowing with a non-traditional tree.
“Not only is it an amazing small space solution for celebrating the holidays in full swing, but it’s a great way to repurpose all of the past years’ crafting scraps,” notes Kate Puhala, Brit & Co. contributor. “Who knows? Making a clever wall tree might just become a new family tradition.”
- Deck the walls. Use adhesive hooks (four along the bottom and one on top) to hang string lights in the shape of a Christmas tree. Add felt or paper star ornaments to amplify the twinkle effect, and save a ton of space for your family and guests.
- Get crafty with Washi. Use Washi tape to draw a Christmas tree on the wall. Design patterns and colors that best fit your home.
10. Get the party started with homemade favors.
“A homemade gift not only touches the heart – it keeps you out of the mall, it’s a wonderful way to involve the kids and illustrate the spirit of giving at the holidays, and it can really stretch your holiday budget without feeling like you skimped,” says Dawn Sandomeno, entertaining expert and owner of Party Bluprints Inc. “A win-win for the giver and the receiver!”
Here are a few favors to leave your guests with:
- Put together a mixed-treat bag with nuts, pretzels and chocolate (who doesn’t love chocolate?).
- Make a holiday bouquet in a Christmas stocking — it’s both festive and fun.
- Give a rosemary topiary. It’s adorable on the table and can be used for spices!
11. Maximize guest space!
Have we mentioned that it’s important to stay organized? Set up systems to keep your food, decorations and guests in order.
Find a feasible coat rack. No, a pile in the guest bedroom will not cut it. If you’re short on space, coat racks run fairly cheap and many include hangers. Put the rack right in the entryway so you can have an organized system as guests come and go.
Keep the food fresh. “A 200-degree oven works as a warming drawer,” says Kelsey Nixon, host of Kelsey’s Essentials on the Cooking Channel. “This also frees up counter space and provides insurance that your food won’t burn if you forget to take it out.”
Extend beyond the kitchen. Just because you prepare the food in the kitchen doesn’t restrict you to that one room. Place beverages and snacks on tables, counter tops and shelving throughout your home so guests have complete convenience during their stay.
Say goodbye to stress (and seasonal items)
‘Tis the season for seasonal storage. As you prepare for your holiday party, you might find that you need to place some of your seasonal belongings in a self-storage unit. Life Storage facilities offer space and protection for your items during the off-season months. Ask about our moving trucks and vans for your convenience, including free truck rentals with any storage space rental. These come in handy when you have a lot to cart off!
What are some of your favorite holiday party ideas? What are you planning this year? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
This post originally appeared on the Life Storage blog on 11/25/15 and was revised on 12/4/18 to provide new information.