Happy holidays! There is so much to celebrate this time of year, and though we may not all celebrate the same holidays or observe the same traditions, one thing is pretty universal- this is a time to gather. So if you have plans to entertain this holiday season, here are some helpful tips and design inspiration for all your holiday parties.

How to Plan and Choose Holiday Party Decor

First, I highly recommend starting with a concept, just like my team and I do when starting an interior design project. When you have a concept to guide you, your party decor will be cohesive and striking, and every “this or that” decision you need to make becomes so much easier.

Selecting a Concept vs. a Theme

Your holiday party concept can be something as simple as the mood you want to set, like “romantic and formal”, or “rustic and family-friendly.”

Or, you might opt to develop a full-blown theme. For example, an invitation might read You’re Invited to a Seaside Christmas Party, and at this event family and friends might dine outdoors with a fresh seafood menu, set to a playlist of acoustic guitar and steel drum Christmas carols, and the decor would offer a coastal spin on traditional Christmas decor.

If planning a theme sounds like fun, go for it. If a looser concept is more your speed, remember it will serve you best the more specific you can make it. Either way, start with this step to kick off your planning.

Image source: Coastal Living

Set the Tone with the Invitation

Now that you know what your holiday party concept, or theme, will be you can use this to narrow down all your other party planning decisions. Choose an invitation design that supports your concept. For a large or formal event, printed invitations are still considered the most appropriate. I like Minted.com as it offers a wide variety of current, stylish designs and special touches like metallic foil, all while supporting independent artists.

When paper invites just seem like overkill, check out emailable invitations like Paperless Post. Invitations can still be such a great way to complement your concept and set the tone for your gathering. For example, the design of each of these emailable holiday party invitations communicates something different about the tone and character of the event. Your invitation style gives guests a taste of what to expect if they attend.

Image Source: Paperless Post

Lay Out the Experience

Start at the entrance guests will use, and walk through the area imagining how and where you’d like them to circulate. Then plan your entertaining layout to encourage that flow. Especially for larger parties, spread things out to encourage movement and mingling. For example, don’t automatically place the drinks next to the hors d’oeuvres, or the dinner buffet next to the desserts.

Once you know where your hubs of activity will be, you’ll also know where to focus your holiday party decorating efforts. Make sure there are decorative statements that support your concept or theme in each of the activity hub areas where your guests will spend time. (And don’t forget the powder room) If it helps you, sketch a floor plan of the entertaining area and use it to keep track of your ideas in a more visual way.

Holiday Party Lighting

Lighting is an effective way to set the atmosphere you want at your holiday party. Whether it be a Christmas party, Hanukkah celebration, or New Year’s Eve bash, you can make creative use of lighting to set the festive spirit. Here are some ideas I like…

LED curtain lights are quickly hung and inexpensive. Multiple strands hang from one long, main string that plugs in at one end. Attach them easily with mini 3M Command hooks on a large window, slider, wall, or staircase, and they make an instant holiday party backdrop.

Copper wire mini-lights, sometimes called fairy lights, are very versatile. They are powered by a small battery back, so you’re not tethered to a wall outlet with these. Arrange them on a buffet, as part of a table centerpiece, or highlight any arrangement of special decorations you already own. They are flexible, and unlike conventional plastic string lights can be sculpted a bit to hold a shape.

Candlelight is a holiday classic, day or evening. Enough said, right?

When it comes to holiday party lighting, look for some sparkle. If you have a crystal chandelier, or cut glass candlesticks, those are a great place to begin. If you have a lit Christmas tree, you’re already most of the way there. In general, turn off any harsh overhead lighting, especially in the evening, and let a variety of smaller light sources work their magic.

Plan a Few Surprises

Last but not least, no matter how casual or formal the holiday gathering, it’s always fun to plan a surprise or two that will make everyone smile. Here are some ideas…

  • Create a hot cocoa bar with a variety of toppings (like this one at Little Spice Jar)
  • Find a spot for a DIY photo booth
  • Fix a festive signature drink
  • Provide a take-home memento
  • Set up a holiday craft station to occupy kids
  • Toast marshmallows and make S’mores

Depending on the surprise, you might want to have it be visible from the start of the party, or unveil it partway through.

Image Source: The Little Spice Jar

Happy holidays, and may all your celebrations be joyful!

Warm wishes,