The holiday season is here, making it a great time to invite friends & family over for a holiday party. Whether you host a holiday party every year or it’s your first one, here are some tips to help you plan a party that’s fun, festive and budget friendly.
1. Set Your Holiday Party Budget
List potential expenses, such as invitations, decorations, entertainment, food and drink. If you’re not sure how much each item will cost, look online for estimated pricing. If you’ve hosted a holiday party before, review expenses from previous years. Also, programs such as Party Budget Estimator from Evite calculate your costs based on information you type in, the number of guests and duration of the party.
Prioritize where you’d like to spend most of your money. Is the food the most important aspect to you, or is it mood-enhancing items like decor? Once you estimate how much everything will cost, you can decided how you would like to prioritize your spending if you’re on a tight budget.
2. Create Your Guest List
Although your budget may dictate the size of your holiday party, there are ways to cut costs so you can entertain more people. Are you planning a sit-down dinner party or something larger? Are you inviting families or adults only? If you’re inviting children, keep their interests and ages in mind as you plan activities. For example, be sure to have entertainment available to them, such as holiday movies in a playroom, holiday themed games, toys, etc.
- Sending Paper Invitations? If you plan to send paper invitations, be sure to send them as soon as possible. Schedules fill up fast over the holiday season, so be sure to invite your guests several weeks in advance.
- Email Invitations. These are free to send and allow you to easily manage who has responded and who hasn’t. If you use Facebook, create an event page to invite guests and communicate with them before the event. This is especially useful if you’re planning a potluck or are asking guests to bring snacks or beverages; you can ask people to post what they’re bringing to ensure there’s no overlap.
3. Plan Your Entertainment
- Karaoke Anyone? If your guests love singing, buy, rent or borrow a karaoke machine and queue it up with holiday hits. Offer a prize for the best singer to encourage healthy competition.
- Festive Attire! Encourage your guests of wear festive attire like (ugly) holiday sweaters by offering a prize.
- Have Santa Join The Fun. Ask a friend or family member dress like Santa Claus and hand out candy to guests or small toys to their children.
- Create Goody Bags! This is fun if you have young children at the party. Include candy canes, crayons, holiday-themed coloring pages or books and stickers. This will keep them busy while their parents mingle.
- Exchange Gifts. Make it a Secret Santa or While Elephant exchange and give guest a budget to adhere to. For a Secret Santa exchange, pair people up ahead of time, once you know who’s coming to the party.
4. Menu Planning
Whether you’re having your holiday party catereted, making everything yourself or having a potluck, it helps to plan ahead.
- Catering In? Hire a caterer as soon as possible since the holiday season can be their busiest time of year. Look online or get recommendations from friends for great caterers in your area. Once you’ve hired one, work with them to create a holiday party menu your guests will love that also takes into account any dietary restrictions your guests may have.
- Cooking Yourself? Scour the internet and your favorite cookbooks and magazines for recipes. To save time and avoid stress, make as much of the meal as you can in advance and freeze it, Or, host a holiday party buffet instead of a sit-down meal. People tend to eat less at a buffet and you can make most of the food ahead of time. Another idea? Host a brunch instead of a big dinner. Since breakfast items tend to be cheaper, you’ll cut down on food costs.
- Planning a Potluck? Supply the main dish and ask your guests to bring their favorite dish to share. To avoid doubling up on dishes find out ahead of time what they plan to bring, If they’re not sure, give them a recipe to make of if they don’t cook, ask them to bring beverages or ice.
- Creating a Signature Drink! Serve a drink such as eggnog or a seasonal cocktail. Buy non-alcoholic beverages in bulk, such as soft drinks, water or apple cider.
Your holiday party decorations don’t have to break the bank. Reuse old decorations to save money or borrow decor from family or friends. If you have children, enlist their help to get creative. Decorate natural items such as pine cones and branches with glitter. If you prefer to purchase new decorations, discount stores offer a selection of low-cost, festive items. If you tend to hold a holiday party every year, be sure to take advantage of post-holiday sales and other deals throughout the year.
At The End of Your Holiday Party
Before you save goodbye to your guests, here are three thoughtful ways to thank them for coming!
- Buy Food Storage Containers. Send people home with leftovers and treats. They’ll appreciate the gesture and you won’t have a refrigerator overflowing with food.
- Did You Use Centerpieces or Flowers? You can send them home with a few of your guests or use them as prizes.
- Take Pictures! If you have a Polaroid or other instant camera, take photos throughout the party. You can also set up a photo booth for guest to take pictures of themselves. Allow them to keep the photos, or send them a copy with a handwritten note after the party.