9 Essentials for Holiday Entertaining

Whether you’ve volunteered to host the office party, the friends’ gift exchange, or Christmas Eve with the family this year, we’ve got you covered with 9 essentials for successful holiday entertaining.

1. Music

First and foremost, the cornerstone of any good party, holiday or not, is music. It sets the tone–no pun intended–for the mood and theme of the event. Whether you opt for classic, orchestral Christmas carols a la Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby or festive contemporary tunes like our favorites from Mariah Carey and N’Sync, the music will determine the energy of the evening. Create the playlist in advance and make sure it’s long enough to last throughout the duration of the party. Then add about a dozen or so extra songs because every good party goes later than anticipated.

As for what to play it on, we highly recommend investing in a portable speaker with bluetooth like this BOSE SoundLink® Color speaker… (or add it to your Christmas wishlist and hope Santa is generous). The volume and quality will allow it to be heard over a large crowd, and the bluetooth enables you to play your favorite playlist from your phone or computer. Trust us, we’ve tried the “laptop as DJ” before, and the music gets drowned out as soon as a few guests arrive. A quality sound system with a great line-up of songs is a must. The compact size, portability, price point, and fun color options of this model makes it a really great option.


2. Festive Decor

One of the main ingredients that sets a holiday party apart from a regular party is the decor (and the already discussed music, of course). Glittering ornaments, a beautifully decorated tree, garland strung with lights… all of these lend that magical holiday cheer to the event.

Don’t own a lot in the way of vintage Santas and sparkly reindeer to spruce up your home for the holidays? Or maybe you don’t even have room for a tree in your apartment? Either way, worry not. Fresh greens do the trick just beautifully when it comes to festive decor. Holly, winterberry, and boughs are all lovely laid out on a table beneath serving platters or grouped together and placed in a vase. You can typically find this at your local grocery store or you can get thrifty, hit up a tree lot, and ask for branches that have been cut off! You can get creative and make a wreath or a centerpiece. Add a few candles and voila!


3. Group Games

Games are our favorite ingredient for any party, especially once everyone is a few eggnogs in. With a larger group, we recommend playing something that easily includes a lot of people and has few parts to it. (Save the board games for specified game night.) Our go-to in this situation is Celebrity–you can find the rules here. Feel free to mix it up by having people write in people, places, and things, instead of just celebrity names. Make it extra festive by requiring all of the words are holiday-related! Characters from your favorite movies, popular gift items, or your favorite holiday songs and books!


4. Holiday Scent

You know when you walk into an Anthropologie store and think “Oooo! What is that amazing smell?!” And it’s even better when it’s around the holidays, and the scent is Evergreen or Cinnamon Spice. We highly recommend recreating that moment for guests at your own home by lighting a scented candle or stirring up a pot of stovetop potpouri, where you mix fruits, spices, and other ingredients to cast a delicious smell in your home. Never heard of stovetop potpouri? Check out this tutorial and all of your questions will be answered.

And find our favorite holiday scented candles here, here, and here.


5. Candlelight

Candlelight goes hand in hand with festive decor. There’s something about the warm glow of a fire that beckons cozying up and staying in. No fireplace? Candles do the trick! Place a couple in any area will guests will be. Another option is to check your cable provider for YuleLog digital fireplaces!

Shop our favorite candlesticks and candle holders: frosted deco votives, golden berry votives, brass lantern, copper candlestick holder


6. Seasonal Cocktails

Sure it’s great to have beer and wine options on hand, but impress guests by serving a cocktail representative of the season! Think warming spirits, mint and cinnamon flavor, or chocolate-rimmed glassware. Offer drinks up in a gold-rimmed glass and add a cheery garnish or red stripey straw, and you’re good to go!

RECIPE: Suzy Homemaker
1.5oz Vodka
.75oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.75oz Simple Syrup
.75oz Pomegranate Juice
.5oz Napoleon Mandarin Liqueur (optional)

Add simple syrup, fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon), pomegranate juice, Napoleon Mandarin, and vodka and to an empty shaker and add ice. Shake for 30 seconds. Pour into the glass of your choice up or over ice. Enjoy!


7. Snacks and Light Bites

You’ll obviously want to prepare a simple appetizer or have snacks for guests to nibble on. But if you’re pressed for time when it comes to preparing for the party, we recommend swinging by your local Trader Joe’s; they have an amazing selection of holiday treats and easily-to-prepare appetizers. The Peppermint Jo Jo’s are our favorites, but they sell out fast!


8. Plenty of Plates and Cups

Maybe it’s just us, but drinking glasses and plates are always hard to come by at most parties. Even if you counted and had enough for all guests attending, sometimes a cup goes astray or gets picked up by someone else, then one guest needs a second or third glass before the night is over. Make sure to have enough and then some when it comes to plates, glasses, and napkins! And as for utensils, we recommend keeping it easy and serving food that doesn’t require utensils! Makes it easier on guests too who won’t have to find a seat and table just to cut into the flatbread appetizer.

9. Party Favors

It’s the holidays! Season of gift giving! So don’t let your guests leave your party empty-handed. But don’t think this needs to be an exorbitant cost either. We picked up these porcelain nutcracker ornaments from Ikea–only $2.99 for three!–and added some gold glitter. A lovely take-away for loved ones and friends.


bluetooth speaker, Bose
tree candle, We Took to the Woods
blanket (tablecloth), Schoolhouse Electric
gold-rimmed stemless glasses, West Elm
polka dot plates, Crate and Barrel (similar here)
gold pinch bowl, CB2
bottle brush trees, West Elm (no longer available)
nutcracker ornaments, Ikea
game bowl, One’s Nest
white bow vase, Kate Spade

This post is brought to you by Bose.