‘Tis the season for celebration! With the wintertime bringing dark days and cold temperatures, a holiday party is the perfect way to bring cheer to your friends and family. With everyone together, sipping something warm and snacking on treats, the winter feels a little less harsh. Of course, you don’t have to plan an extravagant event if you don’t want to. But there are a few things that will make your holiday party extra festive.

As with all parties, the details make all the difference. Upbeat holiday music can get guests singing and ready to break out the board games. On the flip side, calm instrumentals prepares the group to chat around the fire. Before you implement these seven holiday party must-haves, figure out what type of party you want. Do you want a casual hang with games and a sweater competition? Or would you prefer a more formal dinner with a holiday toast? Once you have a vision for your party, it’s time to make it festive.

1) Festive Invitations

Whether you’re mailing invites or sending them via social media, add some holiday cheer! Mailed invitations can be anything from reindeer themed to a picturesque winter wonderland. And of course, the envelopes can be festive red, green, or gold, too. If you’re keeping the invites digital this year, consider creating an animated email to send to guests or designing a simple website with all the details. No matter what type of invitation you send, it should match the atmosphere of your party. That means no elf cartoons if you’re planning a black tie holiday party!

2) Ambiance with Candles and Lights

When the temperature drops and the days get dark, many people want to cozy up inside. Warm lighting from candles and twinkle lights will create that cozy atmosphere for your guests. Instead of turning on all the overhead lamps, find ways to brighten the rooms with softer lighting. This can include table lamps, candles in the windows, and even tree lights wrapped around banisters and furniture. You don’t need a lot of extra lighting—after all, it’s wintertime and a little light goes a long way. But try to avoid too many harsh, bright lights, especially for an evening party.

3) Cozy Appetizers

cozy appetizers for your holiday party

Of course, no holiday party is complete without food. Whether you’re serving finger foods or appetizers and a meal, focus on flavor and warmth. Yummy winter flavors include chestnut, fig, peppermint, cranberry, and chocolate. You can incorporate them and their complements into your treats for a festive touch. And when you can, opt for warm foods over chilled. Not everything has to be warm, but the heat from the food will help your guests feel cozy on the inside.

4) Background Holiday Music

Just like every party needs food, every party needs music, too. While you don’t want to turn the music up so loudly that guests can’t talk, background music does help ease any social awkwardness and adds the final touch to your winter wonderland. Setting up the music is simple, too! If you have a subscription to a music streaming service, just search for holiday playlists or stations. Take a listen ahead of time, and save your favorite one. Then, while you’re preparing and decorating—press play! That way, you don’t forget to turn it on before the first guests arrives. It will help put you in the holiday mood, too.

5) Clearly Communicated Dress Code

7 must-haves for a festive holiday party

Are you having a holiday sweater contest? Should guests come dressed in red, green, or white? Maybe you want everyone to dress up as their favorite holiday character. If there’s any sort of dress code—tell your guests! Put a note on your invitations and post it on your website or online event page. Make the instructions clear, including whether there will be a contest or not. (Hint: If there’s a contest with prizes, more people will dress up!)

6) Outdoor House Marker

Because it gets dark early in the day during the wintertime, finding an unfamiliar house can be difficult. It can even make familiar houses difficult to find! Whether you’re planning a holiday party at home or not, give guests an easy way to locate your venue.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to include parking directions and signage!

If you have decorations in your yard, you can tell them to look for the house with the ten-foot light-up Santa. Or you can light the driveway with battery-operated candles. Just give them a way to find the party in the dark.

7) Warm Beverage

Baby, it’s cold outside, so you have to stay warm at holiday party! Aside from turning on the heat, offering a warm drink is the most festive way to chase away the cold. Mulled cider, sangria, and hot coco are all perfect drinks for your celebration. You can offer any combination of those drinks, and you can make them booze-y or child-friendly. It’s completely up to you and your guest list!

If you want an interactive element, you can set up a DIY hot cocoa bar, where guests can pick and choose their cocoa flavors and toppings. On the other hand, mulled wine or hot sangria are perfect for your formal affair.


There’s no wrong way to throw a holiday party—but there is a festive way! These seven must-haves will make your party cozy and warm in the middle of a cold winter. If you live somewhere with snow, be sure to include a snow date, just in case the weather has different plans for the day of your party. And make sure there’s room for guests to park; your city may have street parking limitations during peak snowy season.

What else do you use to bring in the holiday cheer? Share it with us below!