How to Host an Ornament Exchange

Four Parts:Arranging the partyPlanning the activities for the partyIn the lead up to the partyOn the day of the party

So you want to host an ornament exchange, eh? It doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, it's probably one of the easiest ever Christmas party ideas to plan! In the following steps, you'll learn how to cover all your bases.

Part 1
Arranging the party

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    Pick a date and time. Think about your guests' schedules. They're juggling work parties, church functions, gift shopping, and other happy nonsense. Will you compete for a spot on the weekend? Or will you host it on an evening during the week when their spouses can watch the kids? Do your guests need babysitters? Those can be hard to come by during the Christmas season. Ask these questions to help you decide:
    • When will this party best work in with my schedule?
    • Will I get a better guest turn-out on the weekend or a weeknight?
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    Decide how long the party will last. It is recommended that you run the party somewhere between an hour or two. The longer the party, the more activities you'll have to plan, but also allow for a little mix-and-mingle time after the games are over.
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    Choose a place. Are you planning to host five or 25 people? Make sure you can comfortably seat all of your guests. If you're hosting the party at your house, you'll need time beforehand to set up tables, chairs, refreshments and d├ęcor (if you don't already have that up). Otherwise, you'll need to book a spot. Reservations fill quickly during the holiday season, so book it ASAP. Don't forget the tables! You'll need at least one, if not two, tables for the food (depending on how many people you're hosting) and another table for the wrapped ornaments. Some questions to consider include:
    • Can the space I'd like to use comfortably seat the number of guests I want to invite?
    • Does it have enough tables (or space to set up tables) for refreshments and ornaments?
    • Is it available when I need it?
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    Make your guest list. This is probably the easiest part. Simply ask yourself:
    • Who do I want at the party?
    • Can I host them all?
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    Time to send out the invites! Here are four different methods for you to think about:
    • 1) Use sites like or similar, where they have a wide range of awesome looking invitations to choose from for free; try to use one that is able to handle all the RSVPs. (That tends to only work if you have everyone's email address.
    • 2) Facebook also gathers RSVPs for you when you set up a Facebook event - this usually means less eye candy, but it's an easy option. All you need is to be "friends" with your would-be guests to send them an invite to your event.
    • 3) You can also use your mad graphic design skills to make your own party invitations and attach them to an email.
    • 4) And of course, there's the old fashioned snail-mail card. Frankly, everyone loves these still, as they're great to receive, hold and display. So even though they are more expensive than a digital invitation, they're worth mailing out just for the wow-factor.
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    When choosing the invitations, ask yourself:
    • Do I have the funds and time to get physical invites out to my guests?
    • Do I want to send digital invitations through email?
    • Would it be better to make a Facebook event and invite them that way?

Part 2
Planning the activities for the party

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    Here comes the fun part - planning your activities! On the one hand, gathering games can be a riot (for example, Christmas trivia or getting-to-know-you games). On the other hand, the ornament exchange might be "game" enough. Exchanges that involve one person opening at a time take longer with bigger groups. Exchange games, such as reading stories and passing the ornament left or right, take only as long as the story takes to read. But then again, if you go around and have everyone show off their ornament individually, it's going to take longer, which might be a good thing. Ask yourself:
    • Do I want to do a gathering game?
    • What game would make the exchange work best for my group of guests?
    • Do I want the guests to make some ornaments of their own? (If so, provide the crafting materials and a crafting space.)
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    Plan the food. Keep in mind that the more extravagant the refreshments, the more prep time and table space you're going to need. As the host, you'll be in charge of paper goods - plates, utensils, napkins, cups, and serving utensils.
    • What refreshments will I have time to prepare before the party?
    • Am I doing the whole yummy spread by myself? Do I have enough serving dishes to do that?
    • Should I do "pot-luck" style and have guests bring something to share? And if so, will I add a dish of my own?

Part 3
In the lead up to the party

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    Organize yourself. The invitations are out, the food planned and the games ready. What now? Make your To-Do list to prepare for the party!
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    Gather the stuff you need for your games. Do you need paper and pencils, a bowl to draw numbers for the exchange, or...? What about prizes?
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    Get or make your food. Sometimes you can make the food the day before, other times you'll need to buy it on the same day as the party. Plan that out now.
    • Buy any food, paper goods, and decorations you'll need (don't forget an ornament!) a few days before the party. Then if you forget something, you have time to go buy it.
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    Make a schedule for the evening. Here's an example:
    • 7 pm - Gathering Game
    • 7:30 pm - Ornament Exchange
    • 8 pm - Refreshments and Mingling.
    Of course, the games may take longer or shorter than planned, so just be flexible with your schedule.
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Part 4
On the day of the party

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    Decorate the area. Before the party starts, you'll need to decorate. Hang up ornaments, tinsel, Santa decorations, etc. as you wish. You can also add table centerpieces, a front door wreath, a Christmas tree, etc.
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    Prepare the party basics. Get your table spread ready with food and drinks, set up the chairs and rearrange furniture as needed. Don't forget to get your party music playing.
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    Enjoy the event. A stressed host can lead to stressed guests, picking up on the vibes. Relax a little. Eat some chocolate. Enjoy the company.


  • Consider providing goodie bags with ornaments in them.

Things You'll Need

  • Invitations (purchased, digital or homemade), plus contact addresses and guest list
  • Pen and paper for making lists, etc.
  • A space for the party
  • Sufficient seating for everyone
  • Buffet table or similar for food serving
  • Food
  • Drink
  • Decorations
  • Goodie bags (if using)
  • Prizes (if using)
  • Crafting materials (if you're organizing a craft table for making ornaments)
  • Music (Christmas theme)

Article Info

Categories: Event and Party Planning