The holidays are all about two things: booze. And babies.
Sure, the crazy Halloween party with half-clothed costumes are great, but first, your sister insists on bringing her kids over because Benny’s skunk costume is just “oh-so-adorable”.
By the time you’ve made it to New Year’s, you’re ready for the biggest booze party of the night, but only after you’ve survived Thanksgiving and Christmas oohing and ahhing about your cousins new twins, your grandmother asking you why you’re still single, and cleaning up the turkey your two-year-old niece just threw across the room because she wanted sprinkles.
From kegs to casseroles, we’ve got your entire guide covered with all-encompassing holiday party tips. I’m here to help you from prep to clean up for any party at any holiday whether your guest list is crazy college roommates or both sides of the family tree. I’ll tell you what to get, how to prepare, and whether you need to dust your ceiling fans or order more booze, we’ve finally got the holidays figured out.
HALLOWEEN PARTY TIPS
Halloween With Friends
Food for Halloween Parties with Friends – Let’s be honest, you only need enough food to keep everyone off of a liquid-only diet. Simple finger foods will suffice because most of the focus will be on the drinks.
Keep things interesting by providing plenty of options that are easy to snack on throughout the night. With a house full of your besties, it’s more about the atmosphere and having a great time together rather than providing a five-course meal.
If you’re looking for Halloween party on a budget, snack mix, chicken wings and brownies oughta just about cover it.
Drinks for Halloween Parties with Friends – Bring on the drunken costume content!
The best drinks for Halloween parties are spiked and spooky, you can get creative with cocktails like a smoking martini (with dry ice added), or the poisoned apple. Maybe go a little different with bloody vampires or mad scientist potion.
One of our best holiday tips for Halloween is to keep things interesting by using test tubes, carved pumpkins, or even beakers as glassware.
What to Wear to a Halloween Party with Friends – This is perhaps the most important Halloween holiday party tip.
If you’re hosting the party, you should be the best dressed one there. Set the bar high by putting a little extra time into thinking about your costume. Don’t let it be an afterthought, let it be the main event. After all, people will be coming to you throughout the night. Be easy to find and leave a lasting impression.
Word of advice, the T-Rex suit phase is over. Plus, could you imagine trying to pour a drink in that thing?
Decorations for a Halloween Party with Friends – I don’t really think it’s necessary to go overboard with spray painting little headstones, taping bats to the wall or creating a spooky village across your mantel, but it’s your place, do what you please
Spider webs and cobwebs are great decorations that are easy and work great for a Halloween party on a budget. Either way, don’t be a slob, you’re showing your place off and be sure the actual cobwebs are cleaned up before guests arrive. An actual mess isn’t spooky or cute. You want your place to look it’s best.
Also, keep in mind to keep some things off limits, like your bedroom. You can even use caution tape or post a sign to let guests know the area is closed. Ideally, people will listen to you, but you never know. You might need to designate a guest bathroom to be destroyed.
Music and Entertainment for a Halloween Party with Friends – Obvi. Monster Mash, but look up a fun remix to it to add some flavor. Make sure your playlist fits the theme of the night and keep things upbeat.
If you have a friend who is a real music junkie, this is the perfect task for them to create your Halloween playlist so you’re ready for the big night. If you’re ready for a real party, bust out your karaoke machine (or rent one) for a sure win, but add a twist – each person has to sing IN CHARACTER.
Get ready for the coordinated ensembles!
Halloween With Family
Food for Family Halloween Parties – By the time everyone gets the kids costumes on and in the car, they are already hungry.
Have food ready as soon as your guests arrive. It keeps kids occupied and makes parents happy. Nobody should have to skip dinner to come to a party (and no, tootsie rolls don’t count as a main course).
Cater to the ages of your family, if you’ve got a million nieces and nephews, don’t bother with a vegetable plate the size of Texas. Instead, go for spooky foods like mummy hotdogs, jack-o-lantern quesadillas or slimy spaghetti. If you have mostly adults, you can go for a more upscale but equally delicious menu (who doesn’t love a quesadilla that smiles back?)
Drinks for Family Halloween Parties – Fun fact, it’s cold at night. After trick or treating, have the kiddos come in and warm up with a spooky hot chocolate, made with ghost marshmallows.
Or, if you’re looking for something a little more creative, go for an odd colored punch served in a bowl with frozen hand (use a glove to make an ice mold) for an added chill.
What to Wear to a Family Halloween Party – The attire for a family Halloween party entirely depends on the crowd.
If it’s all about the kids, you probably don’t need to dress up if you don’t feel like it. My favorite holiday party tip is to throw on your favorite fall sweater and a pair of comfortable leggings. Comfort is paramount in these situations, especially after consuming copious amounts of candy later that night.
However, sometimes this is the only time of year when you get to act like a kid again, so if you feel like dressing up then go for it. It’s your party, dammit.
Decorations for Family Halloween Parties – Ambience, atmosphere and decorations for any party depend on the audience. For an adult party, a few pumpkins and a fall garland are all you need.
If you have kids, put in a little extra effort to make the holiday memorable. You can combine décor and entertainment by putting a pin the skull on the skeleton game on one wall, or making a ghost cornhole board.
Decorations that double as entertainment give the kids something to do other than running around your place with a sugar rush.
Music and Entertainment for Family Halloween Parties – Kids and adults both love music, and it gives the party a little extra ambience so keep it going and keep it clean (duh). Keep the music at a reasonable volume, you don’t really need extra noise if you end up with a house full of children.
You can use the music to your advantage to play a little game of Halloween name that tune, musical chairs, or even add spooky background music for unsuspecting trick or treaters.
THANKSGIVING PARTY TIPS
Thanksgiving With Friends
Food for Friendsgiving – Thanksgiving is literally all about the food. But that doesn’t mean turkey is the only option.
If you can’t cook one properly (or don’t own an oven big enough) go for another menu. You can do an autumn feast, or an apple harvest.
Quite honestly, you can serve tacos, it’s your call. Just tell your guests that you assume they’ll be sick of turkey by the time they finish all their thanksgiving festivities.
If a full menu is overwhelming, adhere to any holiday party tip and delegate side dishes and desserts to some of your friends. People usually enjoy contributing to the menu and it alleviates some of your stress (and cost).
Drinks for Friendsgiving – Wine. All the wine. Everything goes well with wine. Friends, food, football. All of it.
Create a signature drink to celebrate the occasion. People will care less about a burnt turkey than running out of wine. Assume that everyone will drink two glasses per hour and plan accordingly. http://www.southernliving.com/thanksgiving/friendsgiving-party-ideas
What to Wear to Friendsgiving – On these occasions, it’s alright to go a little fancier.
Just because you’re going to be watching football doesn’t mean you need to wear sweatpants. Show off a bit, ya know? Bust out the sequined sweater you only wear once a year or the velour skirt that screams holiday party.
Preferably something flowy and preferably with a stretchy waist band, because you know you’re gonna eat your weight in food. (Or secretly eat your leftovers in shame three hours later).
Decorations for Friendsgiving – You finally finished picking up fake cobwebs off your floor and the entire house will be covered in pine needles tomorrow, keep Thanksgiving simple and classy.
You don’t need to go overboard with paper pilgrims or a recreation of the Mayflower. Use muted colors, an elegant place setting and take it eeeeeeeeeeasy. Focus on the dinner, not the plates.
Music and Entertainment for Friendsgiving – “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….” I don’t care what anyone says, the purpose of Thanksgiving (other than to give thanks, of course), is to ring in the Christmas season.
That means it’s officially time to bust out your favorite holiday tunes. Here’s a must-have holiday party tip: Keep the music low so that everyone can hear the blaring football game in the other room otherwise you might have a few upset fans.
Thanksgiving With Family
Food for Thanksgiving with Family – No pressure, but you’ve just taken on the biggest meal of the year.
The dinner of all dinners. The menu that’s talked about for generations. If your momma’s not cooking, you better be prepared to step up to the plate, because if you don’t, you’ll never live it down.
Definitely start training. Cook a practice meal about a month before, to make sure you’re capable of doing so without burning your house down. This is an essential holiday party tip. (If you burn your house down now instead of on Thanksgiving, at least people won’t be there to make fun of you).
If the weight of Thanksgiving dinner is too much to handle, you can always delegate responsibilities and turn it into a potluck.
Drinks for Thanksgiving with Family – Wine is still acceptable and some beer. Assume that most adults will drink one to two drinks per hour, but also provide some options for children and designated drivers. Maybe make a festive apple cider for the kids, so they’re not stuck with a juice box or milk or whatever you feed those heathens.
What to Wear to Thanksgiving with Family – This is one of the few times a year you get together with your entire family and answer awkward questions (yes, an assistant is a real job, mom!)
Wear something that gives you confidence. Pick out a super cute skirt and an adorable top. Obviously, an essential holiday party tip is to always include a forgiving elastic waistband because your know Aunt Rachel is making her famous mac-n-cheese, and you know you’re going to devour four plates of it.
Decorations for Thanksgiving with Family – CLEAN YOUR HOUSE.
All those aunts and cousins are coming and they are going to juuuuudge you. Prepare.
Also, prepare for children. This probably means putting away anything inappropriate, covering up things you’d rather keep hidden, and making sure all of your unmentionables actually remain un-mentioned.
Music and Entertainment for Thanksgiving with Family – The beautiful thing about Thanksgiving is the entertainment is built right into the day thanks to your local cable service. Watch the parade in the morning, enjoy the dog show in the afternoon and of course, clear the room for the big game(s) throughout the day.
It’s always fun to have a few extra activities to keep little ones occupied so the adults can visit. Have a little craft table with paper turkeys or Christmas letters to Santa.
CHRISTMAS PARTY TIPS
Christmas With Friends
Food for Christmas Parties with Friends – Awwwww yeah. Back to easy holidays!
Christmas parties are all about finger foods, your guests are probably sick of feasts. (Not me, though, feasts all the time). But the reality is, people are more interested in mingling (and drinking), and catching up with old friends (while drinking) and dancing (and drinking) or maybe even playing a few games (drinking games) more so than they are worried about what you’re serving in the kitchen.
So keep it easy and offer a few of your best and most delicious finger foods for easy munching throughout the evening.
Drinks for Christmas Parties with Friends – Obviously, drinks make the best gifts. Stock the bar parties are great for getting what you want while getting to see who you want.
One essential holiday party tip: Stay clear of eggnog and the like. I get it’s seasonal and cute and whatever, but it tastes like I’m drinking the inside of a donut. Which sounds good in theory, but I might go into diabetic shock.
Keep enough booze around to keep everyone happy and rockin’ around the Christmas tree.
What to Wear to Christmas Parties with Friends – UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER. There’s nothing else more appropriate for a holiday party than a sweater that sings, lights up, or has more appliques than is ever socially acceptable.
Decorations for Christmas Parties with Friends – If you enjoy decking the halls, go for it, but don’t worry about creating a winter wonderland.
If you want to be a little classier, now is not the time. You’re with friends! Enjoy their company rather than fusing with how things look.
If you’re still concerned, hit up Hobby Lobby. Those Christmas sections are off the chaaaaaain and literally dripping in holiday party tips. Throw up all the garland and enjoy the season.
Music and Entertainment for Christmas Parties with Friends – Obviously there’s nothing better than Christmas music. We only get it for 45 days out of the year, so let’s enjoy it. For entertainment, it depends on the group.
Christmas karaoke can always be a good time. Of course, there are a barrage of Christmas drinking games, maybe a little dancing could be involved, but for my friends, nothing beats a simple fire to sit around and enjoy at Christmas time.
Christmas With Family
Food for Christmas with Family – The Christmas ham, the stuffed goose, the prime rib, the enchiladas. Whatever your family tradition is, Christmas dinner is often the second biggest meal of the year. It’s a time for family to come together and gather around the table for one more awkward conversation before we start again next year.
To make things easy, you can invite your aunts or sisters over early to help with the meal preparations, or go potluck (potluck is the foremost essential holiday party tip).
Drinks for Christmas with Family – Keep the drinks family friendly at Christmas time. We want to keep everyone safe and sane during the holidays, so go for hot chocolate, apple cider, sparkling juices, and cute seasonal drinks.
What to Wear to Christmas with Family – I still enjoy wearing pajamas all day in the spirit of opening gifts like when you were a kid, precious and sweet. (I also enjoy wearing pajamas all day the other 364 days of the year for no good reason).
However, later in the day, change into something a little more respectable especially if you’re expecting visits from other family or friends. You are a little bit of an adult.
Decorations for Christmas with Family – Christmas gatherings are usually at Mom’s house, but every family is different. The location should be somewhere that is classy, traditional, and welcoming to everyone that is in town.
If you live in a one bedroom apartment, it’s probably not a good idea to host Christmas dinner for your family of 20 (that should be an obvious holiday party tip). However, you can still host the party and ask Aunt Linda or Uncle Paul to offer their home for the event if you’re wanting to switch things up. You can even rent a venue if you have that type of cash on hand. (Then let me know how you get extra cash at Christmas because mine is already gone).
Keep decorations simple and classy. The décor is not for your family – they love you anyway, but it is nice to add a little something special for the holidays.
Music and Entertainment for Christmas with Family – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and frosted window panes and all those traditional Christmas lyrics should be all the entertainment you need for a beautiful Christmas party. Create a playlist that includes all the classics, modern holiday favorites, and keep it going all night long.
We love to get out family photos, (especially ones of naked babies), and use the holidays as a time to reminisce about the past and catch up on new news.
Just go back to eating and everything will be fine.
NEW YEARS EVE PARTY TIPS
New Years With Friends
Food for New Years Party with Friends – Always drink a solid meal before drinking. Nuts or chips don’t count.
If you have every intention of making it into the wee hours of the morning ringing in the new year, you need to start with a decent meal. You’ll thank me for this essential holiday party tip later.
Sometimes, New Year’s is a great time to go out after so many dinner parties at home, so make a reservation early and enjoy a night on the town.
Drinks for New Years Party with Friends – New Year’s Eve is literally the national drinking holiday, THERE IS A DAY AFTER DEDICATED TO DOCTORING A HANGOVER. Enjoy the night, (safely), and make sure there is enough booze to last until midnight (at least).
What to Wear for New Years Party with Friends – Ring in the new year in your very best sparkles.
Glitter. Gold. Silver. If you don’t look like you bathed in a disco ball, you’re doing it wrong.
Decorations for New Years Party with Friends – For hosting New Year’s Eve at your place, bring on all the sparkles. You can add a glitter background to create a super adorable photo op, add glitz and glamour wherever you can fit it.
Keep the colors neutral and metallic and you’ll be set for the party of the year.
Music and Entertainment for New Years Party with Friends – Until it’s time for Auld Lang Syne, hit up your best CLUB TUNES. It’s a party. Make it feel like one.
Carson Daly and his team usually have the entertainment for the night covered up until the big ball drop. Make it a big deal, add in a kissing game (it sounds filthy, but it’s in the spirit of the holiday… right?). Don’t forget your pots and pans, noisemakers, fireworks, or whatever way you feel like ringing in the new year.
New Years With Family
Food for New Years Party with Family – If your family has a traditional New Year’s Eve meal, better stick with that because I don’t want to ruffle grandma’s feathers.
If not, go for whatever you like. Maybe a burrito bar, shrimp boil, or appetizer dinner. Mozzarella sticks are life. Some cheap takeout is always a family tradition in my household. And by that, I mean me and Atlas.
Drinks for New Years Party with Family – Some champagne is a necessity for the countdown, but it’s also important to provide non-alcoholic drinks for the kids and designated drivers. New Year’s Eve is a great time to brush up on your mocktail recipes to create non-alcoholic versions of popular drinks to help everyone feel part of the holiday party.
Plus, you can sneak drinks when you’re skirting around all those hooligans.
What to Wear to New Years Party with Family – If you’re not leaving the house, jam-jams with a New Year’s tiara is the perfect get up.
However, depending on the crowd and the atmosphere, you could always glam up to be sure you rock the last night of the year in style – just make sure that mini-skirt is mother approved.
Decorations for New Years Party with Family – Once Christmas is over, the last thing you probably want to do is spend the next 5 days un-decorating and re-decorating.
Take it easy, no need to go overboard with decorations for New Year’s Eve. All you need is a TV with a cable signal.
Music and Entertainment for New Years Party with Family – If you need a little something extra to pass the time, consider good old-fashioned board games, charades, guess the resolution. When the ball drop blare the loudest dubstep remix you can find and watch your little brother get down and then immediately fall asleep because it’s freaking midnight.
And there ya have it. Your go-to guide to holiday parties for any occasion!
Got any great tips that slipped my mind? Let me know in the comments below!