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Organizing and Planning Holiday Parties: Your Complete Guide

Christmas and New Year holidays are such a busy time of year. Find everything you need to organize and plan your holiday parties here in this guide. 

Don't let the holidays stress you out. Easily plan all your Christmas and holiday parties with these tips and ideas. This guide will walk you through every step.

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How to Organize and Plan Holiday Parties

It’s a super busy time of year. With a million and one things to do during the holidays, planning a holiday party can seem outrageously troublesome. 

Let’s take the stress out of all this planning. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about organizing and planning holiday parties. 

Keep track of all your expenses and to-do lists in our Take Action Printables binder. Never search for a to-do list again, this has everything you need!

Some of the questions this guide will answer include: 

Let’s get started. Don’t forget to pin this post or share it on Facebook. You’ll want to come back to this post next year too. 

Don't let the holidays stress you out. Easily plan all your holiday parties with these tips. This guide will walk you through every step of party planning from staying on a budget to food and decorations. These ideas are easy to apply to any birthday or holiday party!

Pick the Theme

Even if you are doing just a small family gathering, pick a theme. This will help you as you plan the food, music, and decor. 

How to Pick a Theme

An excellent theme will be easy for your guests to understand and simple for you to plan around. 

If you will have to explain the theme to guests, try to pick a different one. 

Here are some goals for party themes: 

  • Relatable – Guests instantly get it.
  • Funny – Keeps the mood light-hearted.
  • Simple – Easily incorporates the decor and food without trying too hard.
  • Unique – It’s a theme the guests might not have experienced or heard of before, making your party stand out. 
  • Meaningful – If you are throwing a party for a close group of friends or family members, make the theme something that tugs at their heart. 

Popular Themes for Holiday Parties

Are you still struggling to come up with a theme for your party? While being unique is important, it’s also ok to use a theme that’s been done before. 

9 Popular Holiday Party Themes That Are Timeless

Here are some ideas that are popular for the holidays. Take them and make them your own. 

  • Decade Party – These are popular. You can either make the entire party about a specific decade (like the 70s) or you can let your guests pick the decade they want to dress up as. 
  • Gift Wrapping Party – Invite everyone together to all wrap gifts together. This is a fantastic way to use different wrapping paper without having to buy it. 
  • Vegas Night – Set up some gaming tables and serve some shrimp cocktails. 
  • Cookie Decorating – Even adults can get into this. Tell everyone to bring one topping and you’ll have a huge spread of fun sprinkles!
  • Holiday Trivia – Tell guests to bring cards with holiday trivia questions on them. Then, use them to play a fun game of trivia. 
  • Can-Can – Do a western theme and ask everyone to bring a canned food item to donate to the local food pantry. 
  • Wreath-Making – Ask everyone to bring something to put on a wreath and gather together for some decor-making fun. 
  • Movie Night – Base the theme on your favorite movie! 
  • Music Theme – Pick a song and base the theme on it. 

When you are picking a theme, have fun with it. You can search Pinterest for games that go with your theme. It’s a cinch. 

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Choose a Location

Next, decide where you are going to host it. You need to decide this before trying to plan the decor or the food. The location will decide which constraints you have to work around. 

When you are picking a location, keep in mind the size of the room, where everyone is traveling from, and the cost of renting it. 

Venue Size

The first thing you have to consider is the size of the venue. How many people are you thinking will attend? And will you need space for tables and a dance floor? 

It’s a balancing act between picking a place that isn’t too small and isn’t too big. 

It’s ok to make it a smaller party. Sometimes, the smaller gatherings are better because they aren’t as loud and you have a chance to really talk to everyone. 

Location of the Guests

Next, consider where the guests live and how far they will be traveling. Try to find a place that is equal distance for everyone. 

This might be tough, especially if you have people coming from all directions. But it’s something to think about if you want to have the party at a place that a large number of people won’t want to drive to. 

Cost

The third thing you will be looking at is the cost of the facilities. Gather estimates of your top 3 places and decide which one is more worth it to you. 

Make sure you are gathering estimates that all include the same things. Some places include catering and clean up, others don’t. 

Free places to have parties

Finally, consider your free options. It’s always a good idea to save money when you can. 

Obviously, someone’s home is going to be free. Other free places to host holiday parties might include: 

  • Church – If you are a member of a church, they sometimes allow you to use a room or two for a small gathering.
  • Outside – This is tough in the winter. But if you live in a warmer climate, this might be an option to consider. 
  • Barn – If you live near some farms, ask around. Someone might have an empty barn that they use for small parties or dinners. 
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Don't let the holidays stress you out. Easily plan all your Christmas and holiday parties with these tips and ideas. This guide will walk you through every step.

choose your holiday party Decor

After you decide the theme and location, it’s time to finally consider the decor. 

Decorating for your holiday party doesn’t have to be expensive. You can be as extravagant or as simple as you want. The main thing to keep in mind is creating a fun atmosphere that makes everyone feel welcome and helps them have fun. 

Let’s walk through all the places you’ll want to decorate, so you don’t miss anything. 

Wall and Ceilings

Try to find wall decor that matches your theme. For example, if your theme is 80s night, hang up movie posters from the 80s. 

The ceiling can have decor too. But be careful and try to avoid over decorating. Maybe string some white lights in the ceiling with some white fabric for an ethereal glow. 

Tablescapes

Dinner and buffet tables are some of the most photographed places at the party. Have fun decorating them with your theme. 

There are a ton of ideas on Pinterest and Instagram. A few things that will elevate your table from blah to amazing include: 

  • Table cloth
  • Dishes 
  • Centerpieces
  • Ambience (light and candles) 
  • Tiny details (like small trinkets) 

Popular Decor Ideas

If your creativity is running on empty, don’t worry. Here are some pretty popular decor ideas that will help you as you plan your party. 

  • Color – Pick a main color and an accent color and decorate with them. Popular holiday colors include blue and white or red and green. 
  • Earthy – Use lots of greenery and flowers with muted decor around it. 
  • Simple – Less is more. Decorate with bright whites and grays with a few pops of color. This photographs really well too. 
Must-Have Holiday Party Decor
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holiday party Food

Now let’s try to decide on the type of food you will be serving. It’s perfectly ok to plan this part with your budget in mind. There are lots of ways to serve food at a party that either cost a lot or not much at all. 

Track your menu in our Printables binder. It has menu lists and more!

Heavy Hors d’oeuvres 

Heavy hors d’oeuvres are a fancy way of saying “finger food.” These are also some of the priciest foods to have a party, but they are worth it in some respects. 

If you make them yourself, they take the most time. You are essentially making individual portions of foods that look beautiful. 

Since they are so labor-intensive, lots of people choose to hire a caterer instead. It saves you so much time. 

The good thing about serving hors d’oeuvres at a party is that no one really feels overly full, making the atmosphere lighter.

Complete Meal

Another option is to serve an entire meal. You can either make it yourself or have it catered. 

Serving an entire meal will lead to more clean up. But it is a great option if you want to enjoy a meal with people you love. 

Pot Luck

If you chose a theme like cookie decorating, you could just ask everyone to bring their own appetizers. 

Or you can have a soup party and let everyone bring their own soups to share. 

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Don't let the holidays stress you out. Easily plan all your holiday parties with these tips. This guide will walk you through every step of party planning from staying on a budget to food and decorations. These ideas are easy to apply to any birthday or holiday party!

Games and Mixers

Now that you know where you are having the party, decide what you are going to do at the party. 

Some of the themes listed above lend themselves to activities naturally. For example, a cookie decorating party will have guests decorating cookies. 

But if your theme doesn’t have a game naturally tied into it, you will want to plan something for your guests to do. 

Party Game Planning Tips

When you are planning a game or activity for your party, here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Keep It Simple – Avoid having to explain the rules multiple times.
  • Keep Guests In Mind – What are most of your guests like? Do they like to be silly or are they more reserved? Don’t plan a game that will embarrass your conservative guests. 
  • Time – Plan something that doesn’t take a lot of time to complete. Guests will enjoy having time to chat and mingle.
  • Team Games – Team games are a fantastic way to encourage everyone to talk to each other and work together. 

Popular Holiday Games

If you are having a tough time deciding on games for your party, here are some popular holiday party games you should consider: 

  • Trivia – You can tailor this for any holiday. There are trivia questions for every holiday. 
  • Never Have I Ever – Everyone sits in a circle. One person stands up and says something they have never done. Anyone that has done it has to stand up and switch seats. Last one standing is “it.” 
  • Guess Who – Each person gets the name of a celebrity put on their back. They have to ask questions and guess who is on their back. 
  • Stocking Guessing Game – Fill stockings with random items. Pass the stocking around and let people guess what is inside without opening it.
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Party Planning Steps You Don't Want to Skip This Holiday Season

Music

Music helps to set the mood and tone of a party. If you are planning a really large party, you might want to hire a DJ. If your party is smaller, you can create your own playlist and use your own stereo.

Hiring a DJ – What You Need to Know

Before you hire a DJ to do the music for your party, this is what you need to know. 

Approve the playlist. Know what songs they are going to play and make sure you approve. You don’t want a song to play that could offend your guests. 

Set up and test equipment before the party. Avoid them showing up and the speakers not working right. 

Decide whether you are going to allow requests. It’s ok to say no requests, especially if you think some of the requests could get out of hand. 

Making Your Own Playlist – Best Apps

Playing music from your computer or device is the cheapest idea. You can ask for requests from guests before they arrive and put them into the playlist. 

These are the best apps for making playlists for your party: 

  • Spotify – You can create shared playlists and follow friends’ lists. 
  • Apple Music – This is a paid service, but worth it for all the songs that are available. 
  • Amazon Music – Find curated playlists or create your own. 
  • Pandora – You can choose a smart station or create your own. 
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Holiday Party Planning Inspiration

The Invitations

After planning the entire party, how are you going to invite everyone to come? 

Here are some essential invitation tips for your party planning success. Know when to send invitations and whether you should send paper or online invites. 

When to Send Invitations

Since the holidays are such a busy time of year, you want to send out your holiday party invitations early, giving your guests time to plan. 

Ideally, send out invitations at least 2-3 weeks before the party. Any earlier and guests might forget. Any later and they will be too busy. 

Online vs Paper Invitations

Paper Invitations are almost a thing of the past. This makes them that much more valuable. You can make your invitations match your theme. 

Paper invitations also create more excitement about your party, and give your guests something they can hold on to, which reminds them when it is. 

But paper invitations are more expensive and run the risk of getting lost in the mail. 

There are online services like Facebook Events or even Punchbowl that make RSVPing a breeze – and free. 

Who To Invite

How big do you want your party to be? It is ok to keep it smaller and more intimate. Keep in mind that when you plan a party, only about a third of the people invited will attend. 

Create your guest list and decide if your venue or budget can handle everyone. 

The Problem with RSVPs

With as busy as everyone is, it is pretty common for people to forget to RSVP and just show up.  

If you have a caterer that needs a headcount, or you have a space constraint, follow up with people that you think will attend but didn’t RSVP. 

Otherwise, plan on extra people attending that didn’t notify you. 

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Holiday Party Tips for Less Stress

The Clean Up

The final step is to plan how clean up is going to go. 

Some venues offer clean up as an included service. Make sure yours includes that too. 

If not, you might want to consider hiring a cleaning crew. Yes, it is extra money, but it saves you so much time and exhaustion during an already busy time of year. 

How To Stay Within Your Budget When Planning Holiday Parties

It’s easy to see how quickly planning a holiday party can become expensive. If you have a set budget, there are a few things you can do to make sure you stay within it. 

DIY Decor

Make your own decor. You can repurpose items and find lots of interesting knick-knacks in thrift shops. 

Look for bargain fabric for table cloths and use baskets for centerpieces. 

Plan a Potluck Dinner

Encourage guests to bring a dish for everyone to share. This alone will cut down on costs tremendously. 

You can even make it fun. Maybe host a baked potato bar or a salad bar where everyone brings different toppings. 

Keep It Small

Don’t over plan. Keeping everything simple will keep your costs low. It is amazing how much money you’ll save by just having it at your house and serving fun finger foods. 

Host It After the Holidays

Since everyone wants to have a party before the holidays, the costs are higher. If you have your party in January, you could save a lot of money. 

There you have it! This is everything you need to know to plan and organize your holiday parties. Don’t forget to pin this post so you can find it later. 

Struggling to get motivated? Sign up to get our FREE guide, The 30-Minute Organizing Secret and discover easy ways to overcome the chaos of clutter – even with kids at home!

Don't let the holidays stress you out. Easily plan all your holiday parties with these tips. This guide will walk you through every step of party planning from staying on a budget to food and decorations. These ideas are easy to apply to any birthday or holiday party!

More Holiday Organization Articles

Now that you know how to organize holiday parties, here are some more holiday organization articles that will inspire you. 

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