Party Time Plan the perfect ornament exchange party to get in the holiday mood

An ornament exchange is the perfect way to spur on the giving spirit for the holiday season. A decorated ornament can be an inexpensive way to show appreciation around the holidays. Here's how to make it happen.


First, don't throw an ornament exchange party. Ornament exchanges are best when held as an event within an event, says Qualena Odom-Royes, the principal event planner at Atlanta-based EventEssentials. Guests may quickly bore if there are no other planned activities other than the exchange. Odom-Royes suggests including an ornament exchange in a tree-trimming party. If you plan to exchange with family only, try it after Thanksgiving dinner.

Second, pick a theme. "Give your guest some sort of guideline so they know what to bring," Odom-Royes says. You can base your theme on a color scheme or topic, just make sure it's broad so all guests can participate.

Try a winter wonderland theme or ask guests to commemorate an event with their ornament. If there is a community benefit to your party, like donating the ornaments to a senior citizen's home, you can get people to come who don't necessarily celebrate Christmas, says Joan Burns of Oceanside, Calif.-based Sampson and Associates Meeting and Event Specialists.

"I think that it's important that people consider a theme of environmentally friendly [or] recycled ornaments," Burns says. Not only are you supporting the green cause, you'll be saving your guests money. While we're on the subject of ornament costs, both event specialists say it's a good idea to set a price range. "I think it keeps everybody on a level playing field," Burns says. They'll spend less time comparing ornaments and more time enjoying the festivities.

Your final step in preparation should be to get organized. An ornament exchange may seem simple enough, but little things can go wrong and turn your event sour. Prepare extra backup ornaments for forgetful and reckless partygoers. Make the exchange interesting by turning it into a game or a speech where guests can share how their ornament relates to the theme, suggests Odom-Royes.

Unfortunately, there are some holiday party poopers out there who won't participate no matter how much you plead. If you know there'll be adults who are less than enthused by the idea of an ornament exchange, plan an exchange just for the kids. Determine your crowd and plan accordingly.

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