How to host a virtual holiday party
that doesn’t suck

Entertaining in these unprecedented times

How many times this year have you read something about how we are living in unprecedented times? Yeah, we’re sick of it too, but 2020 has truly thrown us all curveball after curveball. Now that we’ve arrived at the holiday season, maybe it should even start to feel “precedented,” but living through a full year of whatever this has been doesn’t make it any less weird.

Since gathering in large groups is highly discouraged across large parts of the U.S. right now, we’re taking our holiday celebrations online. It might not be the in-person merriment we’re used to, but there are ways to make a digital get-down feel just as festive. Behold: our favorite virtual holiday party ideas for connecting with friends and loved ones from the comfort of your own home.


Treat your virtual holiday party just as you would an IRL one and send a proper invitation. It might be a little late in the game for paper invites at this point (unless you’re planning a digital NYE shindig), but we love the old school/new school mix of mailing a physical invitation for an online party. If you want to go the online route, there are so many great sites with holiday invitations for every mood, whether you’re feeling elegant, sassy or somewhere in-between.


To make sure no one mistakes your virtual holiday party for a work meeting (the horror), encourage attendees to deck out their spaces and dress in festive attire. We highly recommend either the ugly sweater route or the glam and sparkly route for the dress code. Both are fun.

Since this party will be hosted via your online platform of choice, your decor becomes just as important as what you’re wearing. Follow the decorating advice of some of our favorite designers and deck your space in sophisticated whimsy, or craft a showstopping holiday garland like this one created by stylist David Anger. If you’re stuck in an awkward corner or a space you’d rather not show off, we recommend a chic virtual background—and we’ve got a whole collection of those for you to download here.

Virtual holiday party ideas: dress up

It’s even possible to make a virtual holiday party a full 360-degree experience through shared playlists and streaming apps that let multiple people watch the same thing. Cue up a classic holiday movie everyone can play in the background; some of our favorite options currently available to stream include “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “A Muppet Christmas Carol” and “White Christmas.” You can also set up a collaborative playlist on Spotify so everyone can add their holiday favorites to the evening’s soundtrack.

Virtual holiday party ideas: what to drink


We love a good cocktail, and what better way to bring some festive spirit than with literal spirits? Crowdsource a favorite seasonal drink from your guests that everyone can enjoy (spiked hot chocolate, anyone?), or try a fun vintage recipe. Of course, champagne is always a good idea, and even Veuve and Moet are conveniently available in individual bottles. So no need to worry about the hangover that follows having to polish off an entire bottle of bubbly on your own.

Champagne is always a good idea.


Lively gift exchanges are often one of the highlights of the holiday season—and you don’t have to give them up just because you’re celebrating online. Coordinate a good old-fashioned Secret Santa exchange through the mail. Except instead of pulling names out of an actual hat, use a website that allows you to draw names and addresses online. Two that we’ve found online and like are Draw Names and Elfster. You can even share wishlists to help guide your Secret Santa to what you really, really want.

Pro tip: When mailing your gift, make sure to indicate somehow that it’s from Secret Santa and not to open until the party. Adding “S.S.” to the recipient name is an easy way to do this.

We’re also huge fans of a thoughtful party favor. You may not be able to hand them out in person, but a small gesture for your guests goes a long way. These Jennifer Fisher Tag the Tree ornaments are perfect, and work well as gift toppers or in a place setting, too.

Because while we may want to leave 2020 in the rearview, it doesn’t mean we can’t host a a memorable virtual celebration to see it out.

Virtual holiday party ideas: Secret Santa gift exchange
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