There are four Saturdays in the entire holiday season. Seriously. The good news, though, is that there are plenty of other opportune times to host a holiday party—you don’t just have to wait until the weekend. If you’ve got a holiday event in mind and need to know the magic hour for it or if you have a limited timeframe and need to know how to fill it, here’s how to host it brilliantly.
When to host a family-friendly holiday party with kids
Youth is wasted on the young, as any parent who’s dared keep their kid out past bedtime can attest. If you want to throw a party that includes families and children (perhaps even your own), we do recommend waiting until Saturday, but stay away from cocktail hour and start the party in the early evening: say, 5 p.m. The upsides: the childfree can put another engagement in after your party ends, the parents can get some well-deserved shut-eye, and the children won’t succumb to post-9 o’clock madness.
When to host a holiday party for the grown-ups
Now we’re talking. If kids haven’t encroached on your partying schedule, or if you want to use your designated sitter night to hang with more grown-up company, we encourage you to stick with tradition. Host your big holiday party on a Friday or Saturday night, to make sure people have time to recover. Traditional party o’clock is 8 p.m., but starting later signals wildness over mildness.
When to host a casual holiday cocktails party
But: what if you want to have friends over, and don’t have a weekend night to spare? Set the literal and figurative volume down a notch at your party, and you can easily throw something during the week. We find that Thursdays work really well for a casual holiday cocktail party at home or nice drinks out—though others have sworn by Tuesdays. Nobody looks forward to a Tuesday, so give your friends something to put on the agenda. Think “happy hours” when it comes to setting a time—if not literally 6 p.m., then a time that allows your guests a commute from work and reasonable return home.
When to host your office’s holiday party
If you’re putting together the company holiday party, you might already be wrestling with a big schedule and other forces out of your control. As we asked users and other successful office party planners, one time kept coming up: Thursday, an hour before close of business. It keeps your staff from sacrificing one of their precious weekend nights, and, if people are feeling worse for wear, a slow Friday is a great time to muddle through. If you must move it to another night in the week, offer a catered mini-breakfast the next day. Or at least free aspirin.
When you don’t have a weekend night free for a holiday party
We admit, a holiday party held outside peak party hours lacks a bit of the reckless abandon that makes a get-together really hop. But, there’s still a way: if you only have daytime free, have a holiday open house. Make (or order) some catered small bites, stock up on wine or pre-mix a few drinks, and let the party come to you. Daytime on Sunday or Saturday is perfect for an open house—guests will appreciate the freedom to choose the hour, you’ll love the relaxed expectations, and if you’re feeling bold, you can go out after.
Since the holiday season is a fairly finite amount of time that tends to get jam-packed with plans, it can be tricky to figure out how far in advance to send out holiday party invitations. If you’re wondering how early to send holiday party invitations, you are not alone. Here’s our advice: Traditionally, it’s recommended that a host invites their guests two-to-three weeks before the event, with a slightly longer lead time for more formal parties. But since the last holiday season was effectively canceled due to the pandemic, your friends’ calendars might be filling up more quickly than usual. In that case, you can either send out invitations three-to-four weeks ahead of time, or start spreading the word a bit early. You can even send out holiday party save the dates if you haven’t ironed out all the small details but want to ensure your besties can make it.
Now that you know the date, go out and get it—browse our save the dates for holiday parties.