Host Happy: Throw a Festive Friendsmas Party

Using dressed-up grocery store items and our decorating tips, we'll help you throw a festive fête that only looks fancy.

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Heather Baird SprinkleBakes.com

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Heather Baird SprinkleBakes.com

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Sarah Busby; Styling by H. Camille Smith

Feast Festively

What’s a get-together without lots of tasty nibbles? For our spread, we turned grocery-store staples into easy-to-munch snacks. Providing handheld snacks that are just a bite or two eliminates the need for utensils and makes it easy for guests to try one of everything without feeling stuffed.

Create Zones for Guests to Gather

To make it easier for your friends to mix and mingle with the maximum number of folks, space out the areas they’re most likely to gather — like the buffet, crafts table or bar. Creating separate zones ensures everyone can mix, mingle and enjoy themselves without feeling claustrophobic.

Make It a Gift Exchange

Whether your friend group prefers Dirty Santa or to exchange gifts that the recipient will actually use, a casual get-together is the perfect time to make the swap. And, don't forget the package is part of the present. Need some help wrapping like a pro? Check out our top tips.

Serve a Signature Sip

Free yourself from bartender duty by using a large punchbowl or apothecary jar, as we did here, to mix-up cocktail magic before guests arrive. Our boozy bourbon-cranberry cocktail is a not-too-sweet way to sip the season. Get the recipe.

And, Provide Non-Alcoholic Options

Ensure that guests who want to celebrate without partaking in a boozy cocktail have plenty of non-alcoholic options, like water and soda or tea. Also, a few guests may not be cocktail fans so be sure to provide bottled beer and both a red and white wine option.

Serve Buffet Style

No need for a sit-down dinner or passed appetizers — these are your friends, after all. Keep it casual (and minimize your pre-party stress) by serving foods that don't have to be kept warm and can easily be served buffet style. This way, partygoers can snack as they wish while the focus stays on mingling and enjoying each other's company.

But, Don't Forget Dessert

The holidays are a time for indulging, right? And, what better way to indulge all your friends' sweet tooths than with a dessert bar that offers up a few seasonal favorites — with a boozy twist. One of our faves? These mini rum-soaked bundt cakes with a butter-rum glaze. Yum! Get the recipe.

No Tablecloth Required

Instead of a fabric cloth that would need to be laundered at the end of the evening, we put leftover gift wrap to use. First, we wrapped the tabletop with black-and-red buffalo check paper, securing the ends to the underside of the table’s top with double-sided tape. We topped that with glittering gold gift wrap for a little holiday sparkle.

Include Healthy Options

While for most of us, 'diet' is a 4-letter word during the holidays, there are always a few friends who are still sticking to their goal-minded guns. So, be sure to provide a few healthier nibbles, like fresh fruit, sliced cheese and nuts.

Every Table Needs a Centerpiece

But, flowers aren’t required. For ours, we filled a copper tray with fresh-cut evergreens, seeded eucalyptus, aromatic eucalyptus, pomegranates, an antique Moravian star and a trio of glass topiaries.

And, So Does Every Room

Don't stop at the table's centerpiece. The fireplace is the visual center of any room that's lucky enough to have one — so be sure to deck it out. For ours, we lined the mantel with a mix of faux and fresh-cut evergreens, intertwined with long sprays of red berries. The perfect finishing touch to any holiday mantel? Lots of sparkly twinkle lights that not only light up the party, they also provide a pretty backdrop for all the evening's pics.

Let Guests Get Crafty

We’re a crafty bunch here at HGTV so for our get-togethers, we often incorporate a crafts table where guests can DIY a take-home favor. Bonus: At a party where some guests may be meeting for the first time, an activity helps to get them chatting and turns acquaintances into friends. Learn how to upcycle old flannels into cute ornaments.

Then, Show Off Their Handiwork

Provide a spot for guests to hang their finished ornaments, both so they beautifully add to the party's decor and so guests will remember to grab them as a party favor before they head home. Craft your own with our step-by-step instructions.

Serve Up Boozy Bites

A holiday tradition, bourbon balls are a Christmas classic that combine the party-starting kick of bourbon with all the savory sweetness of nuts and chocolate. Give our recipe a try, then package them in colorful card stock cones so guests can enjoy them at the party or savor them later as a festive favor.

Don't Worry, They Aren't Too Boozy

Our recipe includes just the right amount of bourbon to please both whiskey afficianados and non-fans. Best of all: You can always mix in a bit more booze if you want to give them more kick. Get the recipe.

Make It Easy to Munch

Handheld snacks, like these sweet potato sliders, are easy for guests to enjoy as they gab — no table or silverware required.

The Spread: Please Everyone's Palates

Offering a wide variety of snacks — some vegetarian, others dairy-, nut- or gluten-free — ensures each guest will find something delicious to nosh.

Let Them Eat … Salad

That’s right, even salad can be made bite-size and portable. We whipped up these (delish!) caprese salad skewers by layering ripe cherry tomatoes with fresh basil and Bocconcini - AKA small mozzarella balls. Drizzled with storebought balsamic glaze, these healthy nibbles were a snap to assemble and are equally easy for guests to munch.

Chicken + Waffles

Seriously, who doesn’t love this crunchy, hearty combo? And, best of all, they’re super easy to make using grocery-store ingredients. We used frozen, whole-grain waffles which we toasted, then topped with half of a deli chicken tender and another quarter of waffle, then drizzled with orange marmalade we warmed up in the microwave. Held together by a cocktail skewer and garnished with fresh rosemary, these mini mouthfuls are a total crowd pleaser.

Rotisserie Chicken + Sweet Potato Sliders

What do you get when you combine a sweet potato 'bun' with rotisserie chicken, and merlot-soaked cheese (Yes! You can actually buy cheese that has been soaked in red wine!)? A gluten-free mouthful of awesomeness that’s so delicious you won’t miss the bread. The sweet potato 'buns' are easy to make, just slice washed sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch slices, rub with olive oil and bake for 30 mins (or until thoroughly cooked but still firm) in a 425-degree oven. Top the spuds with shredded rotisserie chicken and a slice of cheese, pop back in the oven to melt the cheese, then add a flavorful finishing touch with a dusting of fresh-cut chives.

Mid Party: Replenish the Bar

Celebrating is thirsty work so don't forget to restock bar-cart supplies, like ice and garnishes, throughout the party.

Fancied-Up Flatbreads

These tasty bites started out as frozen thin-crust pizzas which we dressed up with a topping of fresh-sliced red, orange and yellow cherry tomatoes. Toasted in the oven, then given a final dusting of fresh-chopped rosemary and basil, these flatbreads look and taste just like expensive takeout without the high price tag.

Cherry-Pecan Brie Bites

For a nibble that looks fancy but requires just a bit more work than placing a cube of cheese on a cracker, these sweet + savory mouthfuls are super easy to assemble and even easier to munch. For ours, we topped table water crackers with cubes of brie, followed by tart cherry pie filling and a sprinkling or chopped candied pecans — all items we picked up at our local grocery.

Festive Favor: Shortbread Ornaments

Almost too pretty to eat, these beauties can double as place cards (for a formal get-together) or be packaged in clear bags as party favors. Learn how to bake up your own.

Or, Mistletoe ...

These cute cookie favors were such a big hit with guests that they even doubled as the kiss-inducing holiday greenery. Learn how to make your own edible ornaments with our step-by-step instructions.

Send 'Em Home Smiling

Before guests head off into the night, be sure they've grabbed a sweet treat, like our irresistible bourbon balls, the upcycled ornament they crafted, a mini rum-soaked bundt cake or their personalized shortbread cookie ornament. After all, what could be more festive than a take-home favor (or two) to ensure the good times will continue at home.

Shop This Look

More from:

Handmade Holidays