On the evening of my Christmas party, I saw so many things:

12 guests a-vomiting
11 cousins crying
10 bowls a-breaking
9 policemen a-warning us about the noise level
8 ladies dancing. Naked.
7 cups of eggnog a-spilling on my $8000 antique Oriental rug (dammit!)
6 hundred dollars a-spent on bottles of RC cola that no one drank
4 calls to the ER
3 mental breakdowns
2 stray dogs
...and Keith Partridge on my now broken TV

In the past, you've gone to Christmas parties only to sing off-key Christmas carols and get drunk on eggnog. But this year, instead of doing these things in a corner by yourself, why not get some friends and family together and host the event? That way, you can subtly point out to all of your guests the many items that you need in your house that would coincidentally make great Christmas gifts. So whether you want to host an elaborate gala or a last-minute fiesta, this is the SYW for you.


If possible, you should start planning your party early; this is because - as we're sure you've noticed - the month of December gets crazier and crazier as the days go by. So it's a good idea to take care of all the big things first (date, location, menu) and not worry about all the tiny details until a couple of days before the big soiree.

Here are some things you should get done within the first two weeks of December:

Make a guest list
Send out invitations
Plan a menu
Set a budget for food and decorations

Make a guest list

Invite only the number of people that you can handle. Remember that because of all the present shopping you'll be doing this month, you'll probably be on the verge of bankruptcy, so don't throw a shindig for 50 people if you can only afford to feed ten. Also take into account the size of your place and the fact that some of your guests will probably bring a friend or two without asking you. Finally, if you have to keep your guest list short, then cut out your work friends - you'll probably have a separate holiday party with them at the office/garage/zoo anyway.

Send out invitations

Once you've settled on who you're going to invite, it's time to invite them. Start inviting people as soon as possible because your guests will probably be busy with their own holiday chores and will need a lot of notice. Here are some rules on proper party-inviting so that you don't commit some egregious faux pas you didn't even know existed:

  1. Do all your inviting at once so that nobody feels like he/she was invited as an afterthought or a replacement for another guest who couldn't make it. Either send out written invitations on the same day or just pick up the phone (the method that we prefer). If all your guests are technologically inclined (read: computer dorks), send out e-mail invitations through sendomatic.com or evite.com. (But call anyone who doesn't respond within a week, just in case).

  2. Invite everybody yourself (as opposed to asking someone to pass the message along to others) so that everyone at the party feels comfortable showing up.

  3. If it's OK for your guests to bring dates or kids, indicate it on the invitations; otherwise ask your guests to alert you in advance about anybody they're bringing. In either case, you should ask your guest to RSVP with an exact number of tag-alongs. It's not unreasonable for you to know how many people to expect and prepare for.

  4. Give clues so that people will know how to dress and what to expect on the menu. Words like "causal" will indicate that jeans are OK, while words like "fancy-shmancy" will create a different set of expectations.

  5. Set the date of your party on any Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday, or Sunday before Christmas or on Christmas Eve. Most people spend time with their families on Christmas Day, and after the 25th, everyone will be concentrating on New Year's, so don't plan on throwing your party then.

Plan a menu

You can always make it a potluck party, you cheap bastard. If this is your choice, then keep the menu light with some Christmas treats and eggnog and supplement them with chips and soda, since it'll be cheapest and easiest to prepare. Just be sure to remind people to bring a big bowl of their favorite dish. But if you're the type who really enjoys feeding people, buy one of those monstrous six-foot heroes. By the way, we've included a whole step in this SYW on how to prepare some special holiday grub - for standard foods, you're on your own. Some suggestions: deli platters, vegetable platters (for the vegetarians), and anything that you know you can cook well and in huge portions. Or you can always call a caterer and not worry about it.

Set a budget for food and decorations

Figure out exactly much you need before heading to the store - this way you won't come away with 20 bags of miniature marshmallows and a battery-operated belly-dancing Santa. Here's the way to do it:

  1. Write down everything you definitely want to have and estimate a reasonable cost next to it. Include everything from chip dip to poinsettias.

  2. Always overprice when in doubt. If you think hot chocolate mix costs between $2.00 to $3.00 a box, mark it down as $3.00. This way, you won't be caught without enough money at the supermarket.

  3. After you've made up your list, total the cost of all your items, and add another 10% to the price. Don't forget the paper napkins, plasticware, and extra toilet paper.

  4. If the budget comes out to be way over what you expected to spend, critically revise your list. (Do you really need to personalize each guest's paper cup?)

  5. Expect to spend about $50 on food and drink alone-more if you're entertaining more than ten people, and a lot more if you're planning to have a party where people might get, shall we say, "sloshed" on the eggnog.

  6. Once you're at the supermarket, don't buy anything that's not on the list, unless it's something important that you forgot. Impulse buys are the bane of a good budget.