Creative Holiday Party Ideas to Make Things a Little Extra This Season

Because we all need to make up for lost time this holiday season.

Last year's holiday celebrations tended to be a bit well, underwhelming. As many of us canceled our Christmas and New Year's parties—or took our celebrations virtual—we missed getting to raise a glass of bubbly or eggnog and toast to better days ahead with our loved ones.

This year looks to be more promising for the ability to get together, as COVID vaccination rates continue to climb. So how do you create a holiday party that'll be festive and fun (and still safe)? Try these tips from entertaining experts to add a little extra wow to your holiday celebrations this year.

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Make it a little more intimate

Even if you're usually the-more-the-merrier type, the trend toward smaller, more intimate parties may be something you want to jump on. It lets you spend more quality time with each guest—and perhaps splurge a little more on luxe details for your celebration.

"Keep your list to those people who make you feel special, who you really want to be there," says entertaining expert Lory Parson of To Have + To Host.

02 of 08

Give your party a glow-up

"This year is all about sparkles—glitter, sequins, and glam," says entertaining expert Julie Blanner. "You can add in subtle touches by rimming cocktail glasses with clear or gold sanding sugar, adding a touch of edible gold dust to desserts, or laying it in on your table."

03 of 08

Optimize your holiday decor

Christmas tends to have a more-is-more aesthetic. But to really add oomph to your holiday decorating, choose a single theme and run with it.

"If you tend to spread your Christmas decorations on every available surface, wall and window, you can lose the impact of how special each element might be," says Benjamin Bradley, host of Netflix's Holiday Home Makeover With Mr. Christmas. "That is why a theme oftentimes works, or selecting certain areas of your home to focus upon."

Bradley suggests using themes based on characters (such as Santa, the Grinch, or Elf), objects (candy, cookies, or winter forest), or even just colors, such as a silver-and-gold or red-and-white theme. "This allows us to group like themed items or colors and immediately create impact and order."

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Let your guests know how much they mean to you

If there's one thing we've learned over the past year, it's how much we love the people in our lives. And the holidays is the perfect time to let them know.

"Anything you can do to add an extra personal touch to your event will always go a long way," Parson says. She suggests placing a handwritten note on everyone's seat, letting them know how much you care about them.

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Add a little wanderlust to your party theme

Travel may not be in the cards right now—but you can bring the world to your front door by theming your party around your favorite destination.

Parson is a huge fan of creating global celebrations—like a Venetian feast with pasta and Tuscan wine, served with ornate gold plates and goblets. "Another year, I did a Nordic Christmas with very minimalistic decor details like white birch branches, lots of candles, glass terrariums, and sheepskin blankets over the chairs," she says.

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Edit your menu artfully

Not ready to manage a dozen different dishes? Less can be more when it comes to your menu. "When it comes to food, pick four favorites—relish dish, shrimp bowl, cheese or dip, and one warm element—and serve those in abundance," Bradley says. "Put your dollars into quantity, not variety. Mounds of shrimp, bacon-wrapped dates, overflowing relish trays, and scrumptious cheeses will look festive and provide something for everyone."

Just make sure you're attentive to your guests' food preferences or intolerances. "One of the easiest ways to make guests feel special is to ask ahead of time about any food aversions, restrictions or allergies," Blanner says. "Being considerate of our guests' dietary needs is one of the most thoughtful ways to approach an event with food."

And don't forget dessert! Individual tiny cakes or treats will be a perfect finish to your party.

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Find the fun in any safety precautions

If you're looking to eliminate high-touch spots like buffets or make-your-own bars, plan your menu accordingly.

You might create individual grazing boxes, single servings of charcuterie, cookies, or other tasty goodies that guests can grab and go—mason jars are great for this!

As for the bar, choose a fun signature big batch cocktail that can be simply served.

And a tweak on the traditional ugly sweater party might just be a hit. "I think it could be fun to have an ugly mask contest since masks will most likely still be a part of our attire," Bradley says.

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Offer a parting gift

Party favors are always a hit—especially if it's something tasty and tasteful. "If we do a party favor, it's often something homemade that our guests can enjoy as a consumable treat later," Blanner says. "It's easy to send guests home with homemade cookies, breads, or hot chocolate bombs."

Consider offering a little something they can enjoy the next morning, such as homemade granola, your favorite coffee or tea, or even a pair of muffins for their morning breakfast.

Blanner is also a fan of letting guests take home their favorite treats at the end of the night—so she doesn't end up with too many leftovers. "We will often include some cute little takeaway treat boxes near our desserts at gatherings. Guests can grab what they'd like on their way out the door at the end of the party."

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