30 Ugly Christmas sweater party ideas

What’s not to love about an ugly Christmas sweater party that encourages you to come cozy up, get toasty, and celebrate the season in a very low-key way? Nothing, if you ask around the Paperless Post office. An ugly sweater party is fair game for your team’s holiday happy hour, Christmas Eve with the family, or a class reunion party. We’ll dive into our best party ideas (for virtual or socially-distanced parties), including the newest ugly sweater party invitations, tried-and-true decorations, the down-low on DIY ugly sweaters, and the best ugly sweater party games.

Ugly sweater Christmas party invitation featuring that says "ugly and proud" and features snowflakes and Christmas trees“Flashy Sweater” Flyer ugly sweater party invitation by Paperless Post.

What is an ugly sweater party?

Guests are encouraged (or required!) to wear ugly sweaters, but it’s more of a spirit than a party prescription. The allure of an ugly Christmas sweater party is that everything is in bad taste—from the dress code to the evening’s activities and the menu. It’s freeing after a season of formal parties, heels, and good behavior. Once guests arrive, what you do next is up to you: karaoke, games, an ugly sweater contest, or even a gift exchange.

When did ugly sweater parties start?

You’re probably wondering how this fascination with ugly Christmas parties started in the first place. As the holiday became more commercialized in the 1950s, people began adding jingle bells to Christmas sweaters. Then came the ugly sweaters of classic 1980s sitcom families like the Huxtables. In 1989 Chevy Chase’s ugly sweaters in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” walked a fine line between earnest and ironic. Then Colin Firth’s reindeer sweater in “Bridget Jones’ Diary” was unfortunate. The first recorded ugly sweater party took place in 2002 at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, and it has become a mainstay ever since.

The ugly sweater party invitation 

Every tacky Christmas sweater idea makes way for festive fun, but one thing is missing from the party. Set the tone for your party with the perfect invitation; our ugly sweater party invitations are a favorite year after year. We have a range of styles—from sweet to very saucy. Let guests know if ugly sweaters are required (they are) with the invitation and if there will be a contest, as a little spirited competition can give people a nudge to buy or DIY their ugly sweater. The wording of your invitation will let guests know what kind of party to expect. For example, phrases like “It’s going to get ugly,” “Who is the ugliest of them all?” or “Holiday sweater get together” are great.

 

What’s your invitation style: Flyer or Cards?
Both Christmas party invitation styles allow you to track RSVPs, follow up with guests, and set a location. With those features in mind, simply pick the style that matches your party best. With either option, you can invite a cohost, reply to guests at any time, ask guests questions, or even upload your own photo.

ugly sweater party featuring party animals invitation from Hello!LuckySweater Party Animals” ugly sweater party invitation by Hello!Lucky.

 

Ugly Christmas sweater party themes

Once you’ve set the date and thought of the perfect ugly sweater invitation, it’s time to think about your party theme. An ugly sweater party theme sets the tone for the rest of the night, and it will help your guests plan ahead for the type of experience you’re hoping they will come away with, whether it’s a night full of Christmas-themed games or a full-blown ugly sweater pageant.

1. ‘70s basement party – Think embarrassing family holiday photos and Elton John on the playlist. Pass around disposable cameras or an Instax and take group photos next to the fireplace (or the crackling logs station on Netflix).

2. Hygge party – Go in a Danish direction with a hygge vibe complete with tea lights, smorrebrod, ginger cookies, and plenty of aquavit.

3. Christmas-themed game night. From Christmas Carol charades to pin the nose on the reindeer, this party theme is sure to keep your guests playing all night long. (Need game ideas? We’ve got them!)

4. Christmas movie marathon. Invite all your friends over to watch your holiday favorites wearing on-theme Christmas sweaters. Yes, you need to watch “Home Alone,” and yes, you need to wear a “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals” shirt. 

5. Ugly sweater beauty pageant. Everyone’s a contestant, and only the best, ugliest sweater will take home the crown.

 

Create a cozy ambiance with Christmas decor

For an ugly Christmas sweater party, the tackier the decor, the better.

6. Santa kitsch items. The more Santa figurines, the better.

7. Themed tableware. Get your plates, napkins, and bar items in the Christmas spirit. For an ugly sweater party, it’s all about clashing, so mix and match gaudier options with classic Christmas staples like buffalo check or red and green.

8. Play your favorite Christmas movies in the background. Keep the retro vibe going with films like “Die Hard,” “Home Alone,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Scrooged,” or “Bad Santa.”

9. Add a photo backdrop to capture ugly memories. Everyone went all out with their Christmas sweaters, so you need to capture the embarrassment forever. Put up a metallic photo backdrop and give your guests props like reindeer antlers and Santa beards to inspire their kookiest poses. Use a polaroid camera and let guests take photos home as a keepsake.

Ugly Christmas sweater games and activities

10. Christmas karaoke

11. Christmas carol Pictionary or charades

12. The ugly sweater game. Hand each guest an (unbreakable) ornament to hang from their sweater when they arrive. If someone says “holiday” or “Christmas,” the person that catches them gets their ornament. The person with the most ornaments at the end of the evening wins.

13. Ugly sweater contest. It’s not an ugly Christmas sweater party without an ugly sweater contest. Have a few categories on the ballot and let guests place their votes in corresponding bowls. After that, hand out cheesy trophies to the winners for a grand finale. Here’s what’s on our ballot:

Most Original Ugly Sweater

Best Couple

Most Likely To Get Arrested

Tackiest Ugly Sweater

14. Decorate gingerbread men with ugly sweaters of their own.

15. Decorate your own ugly sweater. Encourage all those guests that show up in tasteful ugly sweaters to get into the spirit with a craft station set out with glue guns, jingle bells, and tinsel.

16. Make your own ornaments. Keep it on-theme and challenge your guests to go gaudy or go home.

17. Christmas tree hairdo competition. Who can adorn their head with the most outlandish Christmas tree decor without it all toppling down? Anyone who can pull off a beehive is sure to win this one, but we love to watch everyone try.

 

Food ideas for your ugly sweater party

Now isn’t the time to break out the fine china. Instead, create a menu that gives you an excuse to indulge in classic Christmas party food that feels dated but delicious. 

18. Order fried chicken or pick up a honey-glazed ham. 

19. Serve retro apps like shrimp cocktail, Swedish meatballs, Jello mold shots, pretzels in a bucket, or a cheeseball in the shape of a Christmas tree.

20. Opt for one on-theme drink you can serve in a punch bowl, like eggnog or rum punch. Then, ladle into a festive Santa cup.

21. For dessert, serve classic candy cane, cookies, and chocolate on kitschy napkins.

 

What do you wear to an ugly sweater party?

Looking for an ugly Christmas sweater idea? The good news is that there is no shortage of ugly sweaters out there. 

22. Your favorite sports team

23. Southwestern sweater

24. Silly animals like pizza cats or naughty gingerbread men

25. Santa, elves, or snowmen

26. Ugly Christmas sweater dress

27. Couples sweaters—two Christmas elves, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, naughty and nice, two snowmen, or Christmas pajamas.

28. Pop culture references. From a “Party Planning Committee” shirt to a “Wet Bandits Plumbing Company” button up, your friends will chuckle when they get the reference.

29. DIY ugly Christmas sweater. After all, the absolute ugliest Christmas sweaters are DIY. Hit up your closet or a thrift store to start with a mildly ugly sweater, break out the hot glue gun, add ornaments, LED light strands, tinsel garland, bows, and gemstones or an oversized Christmas stocking that conveniently holds a bottle of wine.

30. Add accessories like tinsel hoop earrings or a pair of Christmas ornament earrings

It’s always the right night for an ugly sweater party-browse our ugly sweater party invitations to get started. For more holiday party ideas, try our article on actually fun gift exchange parties or fresh takes on a cookie swap party.

Craft Your Invites with Paperless Post

No matter what ugly sweater party idea you choose, complete the planning with the perfect invites. Whether you’re throwing a festive office Christmas party or hosting an ugly sweater contest, give your guests a sneak peek with holiday party invitations to get them excited. Craft your invites with the perfect holiday party invite wording, besides the important details.

If you’re looking for ideas, browse Paperless Post’s holiday and Christmas invites to get started!

 

Browse Ugly Christmas Sweater Invitations

 

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