Picture the scene: you're hosting a Christmas party; the tree’s seen better days, the dog pulled down the fairy lights weeks ago; every surface in your kitchen is covered in plastic tumblers and the alcohol stash that actually emptied your bank account suddenly looks like nothing; there are sad bowls of crisps dotted around your living room and Step Into Christmas is coming, very feebly, out of a tiny radio. Sound familiar?
Well now we have haunted you with the ghost of Christmas parties past, you will be pleased to know that this year will be different, because we’ve got you covered with our top tips for throwing an awesome festive party. Seriously, these essentials will ensure you are met with an influx of ‘Thanks for such a fab night (dancing girl emoji)’ texts come the morning...
1. Dress the front door with a wreath
It's all about first impressions, so making sure your front door looks the part is a must. At Christmas and New Year a wreath will do the job; the rest of the year round, a couple of candles in super-sized sconces will make an impact.
2. Deck the hall to create an instant atmosphere
Okay, you don't have to go this crazy, but dressing your hallway with a garland around the bannister, tealights, fairy lights, a bowl of baubles... all have the effect of creating a fabulous first impression.
Find more quick and easy ways to make your home festive at Christmas for instant ideas.
3. Make sure your Christmas decor is on point
It’s a Christmas party. You want it to feel like a Christmas party, so as well as a mountain of pigs in blankets and enough mulled wine to fill a swimming pool, that means decorations. We have put together loads of decorating ideas so hot foot over to those for some inspiration...
- Keep your dose of Hygge high with our Scandinavian Christmas decorating ideas
- More of a traditionalist? Check out these classic Christmas decorating ideas
- Or why not go a but rogue and choose embrace the kitsch Christmas trend this year?
4. Dim the lights, string up the fairy lights
If you know your party will spill into rooms that make don’t get as much attention when it comes to Christmas decor, just be sure to string up some fairy lights to keep the festive mood. Plus, no party will go with a swing if the lighting is too bright (party rule number one). Why not steal this idea from @island_supply_co and pin some lights and evergreen bits along your kitchen shelves. Simple but super effective.
5. Make the house smell like Christmas
It's not hard to make your home smell like Christmas (use our guide to find out how), all you need is our pick of the best Christmas candles or Christmas scent diffusers. Or, failing that, a good reed diffuser (our pick of the best is legendary) will do the trick. It's worth investing in a good air freshener, too, because that loo is going to be used rather a lot (sorry).
6. Prep the kitchen
Speaking of the kitchen, we all know that at any party it tends to be where it’s at. So prepare for that. Beyond making sure it’s clean and tidy, ensure there is a good ambience in there – bring some bedside lights down and dot them around the room, light a few candles, make sure there is some form music. You could pinch this idea from @hardcastletowers and adorn your ceiling with paper snow flakes – you could of course make your own but you can also pick them up from Wilko for just 80p!
7. Style up a bar cart
No longer a relic of a bygone era, the bar cart has long shed its Abigail's Party-esque past and become one of the most coveted pieces of furniture going. We’ve rounded up some of our favourites so you can go and find the best bar cart to suit your style and budget.
Alternatively, you could definitely just jazz up a sideboard or even a coffee table using these 10 tips for styling a drinking cabinet/bar cart/corner of the kitchen table/wherever you can find room for all the booze.
8. Get a cocktail shaker
Because all good tipples are shaken not stirred, so if you only choose to invest in one piece of barware make it a cocktail shaker. The key with cocktail making at a party is not too get too carried away. If your mixology skills go about as far as a gin and tonic, then don’t buy all the ingredients for a Long Island Old Fashioned Bloody Mary Iced Tea. Keep it simple. Research two or three different classic cocktails that will please the majority of people and have a few practices before the big night.
9. Make some bakes... and some punch
Your mixing bowl is going to be out anyway, so once you've whipped up some Christmas bakes for everyone to snack on, wash out the bowl and fill it with Christmas punch. Or maybe two: one for drinkers, one for drivers. Why make a punch? Well, it's more exciting to drink something a bit different and the alcoholic one can get the party going really quite swiftly... (just make sure you label them).
Looking for Christmas recipes for bakes? We've found some lovely Swedish festive bakes that are easy to make en masse.
10. Go all out on the table settings
If you are having a sit down meal as part of your gathering, then make sure the table is dressed to impress. This doesn’t have to cost a bomb and it doesn’t have take too much effort either. You could do something as simple as strewing your table with some evergreen and lighting a few tapers. Go and check out our table setting ideas for more inspiration and find out how to set a table for a special occasion, too.
11. Have impeccable music in every room
Upgrade from playing music from your laptop and invest in some good quality speakers. Something that’s portable like the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom would work – it’s super small but the sound is impressive. You could also choose smart speakers, that will take the responsibility off you and let everyone pick their own music depending on where the vibe of the party is heading.
12. Save the arguments and a make a playlist
If you don’t fancy the chaos of everyone shouting ‘Alexa play Destiny’s Child’ maybe plan your playlist in advance instead. Try and anticipate the mood at different times of the evening, start with the typical festive tunes and then BOOM two hours in hit them with Crocodile Rock (or something similarly doubtful).
13. Plan for a tiny bit of organised fun
Just don’t force it – this isn’t Freshers' Week. Dot some quick-fire party games around the house and let them arise naturally when the time is right. John Lewis have a huge selection of party games, as do Firebox, if you are after something less er… PG.
14. Do a secret Santa
Because everyone likes presents and now thanks to a ton of online secret Santa organisers you don't have to all meet up to pick names out of a hat. Check with your guests who wants to be involved and set a small budget, oh and as the host just make sure you have a few spare prezzies for those of your mates who you know will forget to bring something.
If you need ideas for secret Santa, we have pulled together all our fave gifts for under a tenner, you will be sure to find something there...
15. Invest in a slow cooker
Yes, really. Around midnight everyone gets the munchies, so if you're not serving food early, and the party's due to go on (and on), food around then is a must for a) fuelling their energy into the wee small hours or b) ensuring they sober up a little. No one wants to be rustling up tasty treats at that time of night, though, but prepping soup/a chilli con carne/slow cooked pulled pork in the afternoon and putting on slow cook will make it effortless. Plus, we reckon that if you don't use yours for food, it'll be great for keeping mulled wine toasty. Aaaannnd, it'll be a valuable investment for January when you're trying to stick to that healthy eating resolution.
Don't miss our pick of the best slow cookers for hearty meals.
16. Hire a cleaner (or invest in kit)
Seriously, it's worth putting £50's worth of party budget towards a cleaner coming in the next day. Believe us, we've tried cleaning up a wrecked house with a hangover. We've also tried going out for brunch while a grateful teenager earns a few extra £££s doing the cleaning. The latter approach wins every single time.
At the very least, we beg you to consider investing in our pick of the best upholstery cleaners or the best vacuum cleaners.