Are you one in your group of friends who loves to entertain? There’s no better time of year than the holiday season to throw a festive gathering. With so many décor options, games to play, and foods to taste, the possibilities for a holiday party are seemingly endless.

However, with so many events on everyone’s December calendar, some parties are destined to flop—and feel more like an obligation than celebration. To make sure your soiree stands out above the rest, and to leave your guests eager for next year’s event, be sure to follow the following steps when planning your holiday party.

Set a Time and Place

As Thanksgiving passes and we enter into the final month of the year, people’s schedules become increasingly chaotic. The most common calendar filler-uppers include office parties, holiday parades, family gatherings, and out-of-town guests. To ensure your event is one that your guests make it to, it’s imperative to get the invitation out early. Pick a date past the first week of December, but not too close to Christmas day. Generally, weekend nights are most accommodating, but bear in mind that your competition will be choosing from these few select days, too. Pick a date early and get the invitation out with enough advance to secure your guests RSVP. Use a site like Evite to quickly and conveniently relay the information and track your attendees. Be sure the invitation includes the place in addition to the date and time. Most party planners opt to host holiday parties at their homes, but if you want to go the extra mile by renting out a venue, be sure to book your location several months in advance.

holiday party

Choose a Theme

Themed parties are fun for any occasion, and the holidays are no exception. In need of some wintery, whimsical ideas? Have your guests purchase ugly Christmas sweaters from Tipsy Elves – or encourage them to make their own! – for a fun-filled party that’s sure to draw laughs all not. Ugly sweaters, not your thing? Try putting a 1920’s spin on your soiree and have guests feel like their partying with Gatsby himself. If you choose to go without a theme, at least request your guests to wear holiday attire on the invitation to spread the spirit of the season.

Pick a Game

How do you plan to entertain your guests? While drinks and hors-d’oeuvres will capture their attention for some time, your partygoers are sure to get restless without anything to do. To make your holiday bash a hit, have a game or activity planned. Some of the most common holiday party activities include secret Santa or white elephant gift exchanges, ornament or cookie decorating, caroling, pin the nose on Rudolph, and many others. To keep these games fresh and prevent them from feeling too overdone, put your own spin on the game to make the experience truly unique.

holiday party

Plan Ahead

It’s important to give yourself enough time to send out invitations, but be sure to plan ahead for all aspects of your party. Once you have an approximate headcount, make sure you have enough seating arrangements. If you’re cooking for your guests, allocate the proper rationings to ensure no one goes hungry. Do as much decorating as you can prior to the weekend of your party; if you’re not rushed, you’ll have more time to come up with creative ideas to stun your guests with, such as eco-friendly wrapping paper or a dazzling display of birch branches.

Decide on Gifts

Depending on your budget and the number of attendees, it might be worth your while to send your guests home with gifts or party favors. Who doesn’t enjoy going home with a nice memento of an evening well spent? If you do decide to get gifts or give out presents, be sure to refer to a Black Friday shopping guide to save yourself a lot of money. Gifts can range from ornate items to heartfelt cards. Keep in mind that if you’re not getting everyone the same thing, your holiday party might not be the best time to pass out presents.

Once you have all the wheels in motion, it’s time to put the finishing touches on your event. Leave no detail overlooked, and give your guests a night that’s impossible to forget.