It’s party season, and what better way to celebrate than knocking out your favourite Christmas party ideas and putting on the glitz and ritz at home? But from drinks to decorations, canapés to chairs, there’s plenty to think about, plan and get prepped in advance.
In truth, the lack of big festive parties over the past two years has got us all longing for a proper Christmas knees up. And if you're a fan of entertaining over the holidays, you'll likely already have some tried and tested party plans up your sleeve. However, there's nothing wrong with taking a look at a little fresh décor inspiration to add a new twist to your party set-up!
From how you decorate for the big day and ways make your home fabulously festive to what to serve guests (and how to serve it), we've asked a selection of party experts for their advice on how to the the perfect celebration.
Regardless of whether you plan to decorate your home from top to toe, or simply fancy trying a few new Christmas ideas to brighten up a room or two, there's no time like the present to get your home perfectly prepped for the party.
‘Preparation really is key whatever the size,’ says Jonathan Carter-Morris, co-founder of hospitality group Caviar & Chips. ‘We’ll spend days preparing for big events and parties to make sure things go as smoothly as possible, and a party at home is no different. You can even write yourself a timetable, working backwards from the moment your party starts to make sure you know exactly when to do what.
'Think about the food you're serving, what drinks you'll be enjoying and importantly what you'll be serving them in,' continues Jonathan. 'Think through the practicalities of your guests' experience from how they are served the food or if they help themselves? Will they need cutlery, napkins, crockery? How do they get it and where does it go when it's finished? Always manage your guests' expectations and give them direction and what's being served, when and how.’
Christmas party ideas - 25 ways to prep your home for guests
So whether you’re the one hosting the festivities this year or you're planning and a good old New Year's bash, we have you covered with our guide to throwing the perfect Christmas party.
From clever (and affordable) Christmas craft ideas to setting up a dedicated drinks area for guests to help themselves, we have plenty of Christmas party ideas that are guaranteed to ensure a successful festive celebration. Read on for instant inspiration...
1. Create the ultimate showstopping table decoration
Most of us have the same décor that we bring out year after year, but if you're looking for ways to give that classic look a lift, then you've come to the right place.
‘Compile inspiration from magazines, Pinterest or Instagram to help you decide on your look,’ suggests interior and event stylist, Theoda Solms Iles, ‘then streamline these ideas to what would work for you, your home, what you might already have and budget.'
'The trick is to do a few ideas well. If you’d like to do paper decorations in honeycomb spheres and stars, big-up these by getting lots and grouping them in clusters. I always like to suspend décor, like hanging groups of decorations from curtain poles or using Command removable hooks, to hang from ceilings and walls. Suspended decorations always look so impressive.’
This stunning over the table décor set up by The White Company may seem unattainable, but can be easily recreated using a special bar that clamps onto your dining table.
Try this at home with this great-value version: URBNLIVING Over Table Hanging decoration display rod rail pole, £23.99, Amazon
2. Greet guests with a hallway cocktail
Festive cocktails are always a guaranteed win at Christmas parties. Stylist Theoda agrees: ‘Decide on a signature drink to welcome your guests, it's a good way to set the mood and acts as an actual icebreaker.'
Set up a spot beside the front door - either on a console or side table - so that once your guests arrive and hand you their coat, you can replace that with a festive tipple of their choice. Aim for two to three options, so everyone's happy.
3. Use lit decorations to your advantage
Good mood lighting is essential at a party. "Oh I loved that really brightly lit party!" said nobody. Ever.
Debbie Marks, luxury event designer and founder of QubeLuxe agrees. ‘Lighting is really important when transforming your home into a party space. Lots of twinkly fairy lights, uplighters and candlelight can really change the atmosphere. Avoid using your bright house lights if you can.’
Thankfully, one of the most iconic festive visuals is decorating with Christmas lights so you can really take advantage of the season, by switching the overheads off and filling the space with twinkling lights.
‘And don’t forget your Christmas tree,' reminds Theoda, 'it’s a natural focal point, so switch on the lights, even if it is daytime.’
4. Bring the outdoors in using fresh foliage in your décor
There are plenty of ways to decorate with foraged foliage at Christmas, especially when creating a Christmas table centrepiece idea for your buffet or dining space.
‘Spruce, pine and conifer always look nice,' suggests stylist Theoda, 'but try adding in some rosemary and eucalyptus for a beautifully seasonal and scented arrangement.'
'Hook branches over doors or make into simple swags tied with ribbon,' she continues. 'You can even use flatter branches under serving dishes. Don’t forget that you might have to order flowers in advance as florists are busy at this time of year. I always go for seasonal blooms, like amaryllis, hellebore, thistle and roses.’
5. Set up a drinks trolley for all
While home bars were big before the pandemic, their popularity - and those of premixed cocktails - grew exponentially through the various lockdowns and beyond.
So it's definitely worth setting up a drinks trolley of sorts by dressing a table, sideboard or - if you have one - a drinks trolley with all the drinks and accessories your guests will need to knock together their tipple of choice. From stronger drinks to virgin cocktails and even a good cup of tea, a self-service station means guests can help themselves.
‘The classics always work well, suggest hospitality expert Jonathan, 'fizz always goes down a treat. If you want to do cocktails, keep it simple if you’ve got big numbers. Pick one that will appeal to lots and can be made easily and quickly. And do have lots of non-alcoholic options, with mocktails and non-alcoholic “spirits”.’
To make it easier for your guests, you can also splash out on a few pre-mixed bottles like these from Kocktail at John Lewis & Partners.
6. Add a touch of festive fabulousness wherever possible
‘Transforming your home into a Christmas party space is all about changing your environment into a warm and cosy space that makes guests smile everywhere they look,’ says luxury event designer Debbie.
‘It's quite likely your guests will be familiar with your “everyday” look so they will be expecting something magical at Christmas.’
Clear your everyday clutter off of all surfaces wherever possible to give you space to add a few carefully chosen decorations. Bowls filled with baubles provide lashing s of festive glitz and fun and are easy to tidy up afterwards, too. Don't forget to leave some space for guests to put down their empties though!
7. Create a beautiful buffet table
If you're feeding your guests a buffet table is always the easiest option, particularly if you're inviting more than your dining table can seat. Don't spend a fortune on festive tableware though - you can easily add a Christmassy touch to existing designs.
‘I always try to buy items that I can use all year round,' explains stylist Theoda, 'like a new linen tablecloth or napkins in a neutral colour like natural or grey. Opt for serving platters and bowls that are beautiful rather than novelty.'
Look for multipurpose serveware, too. 'I have my eye on coupé glasses,' adds Theoda, 'as they are not only for serving fizz but other cocktails and puddings.’
Worried it'll all look too formal? Theoda also has a great solution: ‘I always try to tone the formality down by adding an imperfect touch, like draping napkins rather than folding them.’
8. Make a good first impression
Your front door is the first opportunity you have to set the scene for the party that lies ahead, so make sure it looks festive and inviting.
Wreaths are always a great choice. Buy an artificial option, or even make your own using plant life you've foraged from the garden. A vintage sleigh is the perfect setting for creating a small display of presents.
If the weather forecast isn't the best, you could instead fill a zinc planter with festive foliage and wrap around with the best Christmas lights you can find - remember to only use weather and waterproof options though!
9. Dress your table to impress
Your guests will have dressed up so make sure your home is adequately attired, too.
A striking arrangement of foliage above the dining table will add a sense of occasion – easy to do you can simply bend some pliable twigs, such as willow, and fasten with garden twine. For further visual impact fill large glass vessels with seasonal foliage and berries. Accessorise with a cluster of tapered candles for added drama.
Using one of the traditional Christmas colour schemes will make it easy to design a chic and festive table and help differentiate it from other annual events.
10. Style your overhead lights
Simple candlelight is the perfect way to make a festive soirée more intimate and heartfelt. Even if you have an abundance of votives already, you can bet you'll need more to decorate for a party. That's where upcycling comes in handy.
Save yourself the trouble and expense of buying more votives than you would normally need. Simply spray paint used jam jars and other glass pots, to make your own shimmering mercury-glass-effect votives – a brilliant budget Christmas decorating idea.
Lay an empty glass jar on its side, on newspaper and mist with water. Immediately spray over the water droplets with silver spray paint. Leave to dry, rotate and repeat. Once full covered pop a tealight inside.
11. Make personalised party favours
When considering your Christmas party ideas, try and work in something handmade to really spread the love this holiday season. This may sound time consuming, but no matter where you are in your Christmas countdown, there's a craft you'll be able to fit in.
This year, why not try your hand at making some stamped napkin rings? To make, first decide what you want to stamp - perhaps use your guests name, and the ring can work both as a place setting as well as a sweet party favour to take home.
Once you've chosen what to print, dab each letter stamp in ink and print a test run on paper to get the spacing right. Then move onto the ring itself, dabbing the stamp into the ink and blotting on kitchen paper each time to remove any excess. Leave to dry for half an hour before handling
12. Turn a dresser into a glamorous bar
Convert an existing storage space or dresser into a drinks station. Glass fronted cabinets create a dazzling display space for coloured glassware and a selection of everyone’s favourite seasonal tipples.
Built-in shelves make a great drinks prep and serving space, plus keeping wine and spirits out on display rather than hidden away creates a warm and hospitable feel in a house full of guests.
‘Don’t be afraid to ask for help,' suggests hospitality expert Jonathan, 'think about who is good at – or enjoys – certain tasks. Make sure you've got someone looking after food and drink and someone looking after guests. That will take away a lot of stress and ensure you have a great time, too!'
13. Glitz up empty wall space
Think about empty walls as an opportunity for your Christmas party. If you have a good amount of space free on a wall, use it to create a cool background for selfies.
There's a huge trend right now for alternative Christmas trees, and a 2-D design is a great way to create that unique and festive backdrop. A simple string of fairy light attached to the wall with Command strips from Amazon or an existing picture hook can be pulled into a triangle to create the shape of a tree.
Once you add a star on top and baubles for extra oomph, you've got your very own Insta-ready Christmas "tree"!
14. Make homemade festive lights
We love a more-is-more approach at Christmas, and for a Christmas party this means decorating anywhere and everywhere.
Pendants above a dining table, or in the centre of a living room are ideal for dressing for the season, and create an unusual focal point for guests to admire. Dried flowers are an on-trend option, but you could also use ribbons.
Keep things safe by making sure that your light is properly wired and doesn't overheat when left on for a while.
Another clever touch is to add some festive scent. Theoda always lights a few scented candles as she starts to get a space ready for guests, ‘but blow any out near food areas at least an hour before you plan to serve. My all-time favourite scent would be The White Company’s Winter collection, which burns beautifully with a sophisticated green spice scent.’
15. Add a nod to tradition
There's so much nostalgia at this time of year that sometimes it's nice to include some of the more traditional Christmas decorating ideas in your scheme.
Once your guests enter your home, the sight of a fresh and full bunch of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling will instantly evoke warm memories of past Decembers. You don't even have to have the classic kiss under the mistletoe, because just its presence is a lovely Christmas hallway decor moment.
Also, it may seem like an obvious thing to do but it's so often overlooked in favour of decorating the rest of your home. 'Make sure your home looks and smells beautiful as soon as guests walk in,’ advises luxury event organiser Debbie. ‘Clear hallway clutter and make sure there’s room for thick winter coats and shoes. If you have space, add a clothes rail.’
16. Create a unique card display
Often as your guests enter, you'll be presented with a thoughtful card. Rather than placing on an overstuffed shelf, one cool Christmas party idea is to create a display that evolves over the evening.
Place a sturdy bough with several windy branches in a vase on a mantle, or in the middle of a kitchen island and attach each opened card with a clothes peg, or punch a hole in the corner of the card. Thread through ribbon and hang at varying heights for a unique Christmas card idea to display season's greetings around the home.
17. Extend a warm welcome
Create a wow factor the moment your Christmas guests arrive through the front door. Style up a hallway console table with a seasonal display, to add some festive cheer to your entrance.
Twinkling lights and Christmas go hand-in-hand, so try to add a bit of sparkling illumination to your hall. Create a warm and opulent atmosphere with scented orange and cinnamon candles set alight inside burnished and bronzed lanterns.
If you don't fancy a whole string of fairy lights, place a few battery-operated tealights in glass jars. Realistic faux flowers are a great alternative to fresh blooms, to ensure they last throughout the festivities.
18. Adorn your hallway with foliage
Light the way into the party! Line your hallway banisters and door frames with festive foliage in abundance.
Aromatic evergreens such as eucalyptus and pine make wonderful garlands as they release their scent when brushed past, ideal for high-traffic hallways.
Use delicate herb wreaths decorations to add further delicate fragrance. And why not throw some fairy lights into the mix to add an extra bit of Christmas sparkle?
19. Prepare a selfie props table
Did you even host a party if you didn't get a pic of family and friends with props?! From specs and lips on sticks to characterful hats, the photo prop is the party accessory du jour.
Keep party props to hand on a sideboard or console table suitably dressed for the festivities. Alongside bottles of bubbly, all the ingredients for fabulous photos to treasure the happy memories.
We love this Ginger Ray Festive Christmas Themed Funglasses kit, £4.99, NotOnTheHighStreet - guaranteed to provide plenty of festive photo perfection!
20. Create a seasonal menu on a chalkboard
Set the tone of what guests can expect on the menu front, by fashioning a chalkboard sign. Taking the pub-like approach of a menu board helps to make a dinner party feel all the more special, setting it aside from just an everyday dinner.
21. Try a simple overhead wreath
Your guests will have dressed up so make sure your home is adequately attired too. A striking arrangement of foliage above the dining table will add a sense of occasion. It'll also free up the table of any decoration so you have plenty of space for food and drink.
Simply bend some pliable twigs, such as willow, and fasten with garden twine. and suspend from the ceiling using a removable hook.
For further visual impact fill large glass vessels with seasonal foliage and berries. Accessorise with a cluster of tapered candles for added drama.
22. Turn a dresser into a glamorous bar
Convert an existing storage space or dresser into a drinks station. Here, wallpaper-lined walls and glass fronted doors create a dazzling display space for coloured glassware and a selection of everyone's favourite seasonal tipples.
The built-in shelves makes a great drinks prep and serving space. Keeping wine and spirits out on display rather than hidden away creates a warm and hospitable feel in a house full of guests.
23. Dress a console table for a buffet
For a more relaxed Christmas party, load up a console table with party food and allow guests to help themselves, buffet style. A smart runner and a vase of decorated branches will add a festive party feel.
As for décor, stylist Theoda suggests aiming high: ‘Go tall on your buffet table, with a floral or foliage arrangement, while fairy lights twirling around your platters looks lovely, too.'
24. Blow up festive balloons
Balloons are the easy way to make a big impact when it comes to party decorations. Set a sleek dining table with gleaming candlesticks and sparkling crystal to make a Christmas or New Year bash go off with a bang.
Tie white, helium-filled balloons to mini decorative weights with lengths of ric rac trim, ribbon or tinsel and place the weights in the centre of the table so the balloons hove overhead.
25. Light up your garden
Show guests the way to your Christmas party with decorative outdoor Christmas lights. Here, three faux rattan stars make an eye-catching contrast against the leafy hedge, while a rope of mains-powered outdoor fairy lights entices people through the arch.
Use fairy lights as uplighters rather than all-over decorations to subtly draw attention to key features in your garden.
How can I decorate my room for a Christmas party?
There are so many ways you can decorate a space for throwing a party this Christmas. Firstly, things depend on where the party will be centred.
If most guests will be in and around a living room, or you have an open-plan area, then of course the tree plays a major role in dressing the room. If people tend to congregate in your kitchen, add a mini Christmas tree into the kitchen.
‘Having one large room is a bonus and a luxury,’ says stylist Theoda, ‘but if you’ve separate rooms, you’ll need to factor each into your party planning and décor.'
'I tend to host larger groups during the summer when you can use outdoor space,' explains Theoda, 'and during the festive period, I keep soirees to smaller numbers, often having more than one party during the season to be able to invite everyone.’
‘Decide if it's a sit-down dinner, a buffet style party or just drinks and nibbles,’ suggest Theoda. ‘Regardless which style you choose, having a separate area for your drinks is key, while a second area for dessert makes things easier and helps to spread the load.’
‘Flow is really important, ' says luxury event designer Debbie, ‘you don’t want all of your guests ending up in the kitchen.'
'Create seating areas in several spots; circulate with nibbles and drinks to avoid bottlenecks at the bar and announce the buffet to a few guests at a time, asking them to make their way to other areas to eat.'
Theoda agrees, also suggesting that you push your dining table against a wall; ‘This will create more room for mingling, and you can still use it for food.’
'If you have space,' adds Debbie, 'try a double buffet, with food duplicated on your dining table and kitchen island.’ Furniture-wise, she also suggests adding some taller tables: ‘They're great for popping drinks on,' she says.
Lighting is key at every party, but never more so than at Christmas. Layer up candles and fairy lights to achieve the perfect twinkly vibe. Also consider your foliage - swathes of holly, ivy and eucalyptus, and well as pots of the ever-present poinsettia, set that festive theme.
Finally, who is the party for? If it’s family friendly, include homemade paper garlands and a hot choc station, as well as tactfully removing any breakable decorations.
How do you throw the best Christmas party?
Throwing a great party is actually much easier than you might think! Get your Christmas party ideas into action by first decorating the space you’re using to host in, but also remember to include a welcoming wreath at your door.
Add a few decorations in other areas guests might be using, such as a bathroom - a string of fairy lights and a simple display of holly can be incredibly effective.
Next, make sure drinks are easily accessible - pre-made cocktails in jigs for ease, or prepare a drinks station so people can easily help themselves. If you’re not serving dinner, make sure canapés are truly bitesize - nothing’s more awkward than trying to hold a plate as well as your champagne glass.
‘Make as much room as possible,’ says luxury event organiser Debbie. ‘Move any chairs to the edges of the room, you’ll have more space for your guests to roam around.’
As for music, Debbie suggests to have your music on as your guests arrive. ‘Look for a Spotify playlist or hire in a Christmas-themed performer. This could be anything from a Michael Bublé tribute act to a sparkly jazz trio of girls singing all your favourite Christmas tunes.’
Cater to kids if they’re invited too, perhaps have a small crafts corner for creating DIY Christmas ideas with little activities like card making and even a pick and mix station. On second thoughts, the latter is a good one for the adults, too!
What do you do at a Christmas party?
Christmas party ideas are a wonderful opportunity to gather and spend time with friends and family before - or on - the big day. While you can, of course, plan games, usually people enjoy this time to be more relaxed and to be used as a chance to socialise. If you prefer a more structured approach, Secret Santa always goes down well, and helps break the ice.
Christmas quizzes are a fun addition, different groups of guests could take turns in hosting rounds. Plus, it’s been long enough since the great Zoom quiz run of 2020 that we’re back to enjoying these once more!
We hope you've enjoyed these Christmas party ideas as much as we've enjoyed writing about them. Time to get planning!
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Thea Babington-Stitt is the Assistant Editor for Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for nearly 10 years.
She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.
- Ginevra BenedettiDeputy Editor (Print)
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