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9 Awesome Ugly Sweater Party Ideas

The Christmas sweaters of the 1980s have become a holiday icon — they even inspire parties and merchandise! An “ugly sweater party” usually just means a regular ol’ party where everyone happens to show up in the most obnoxious Christmas, Hanukkah, or winter-themed sweaters they can find — but the party doesn’t have to be boring or unoriginal. Here are ugly sweater party ideas that will take this classic winter party to the next level.

1. Decorate your own ugly sweaters 

Instead of sending everyone out on their own to find the world’s corniest sweater, why not create some masterpieces together? Ask everyone to show up in plain, solid-colored sweaters (Savers, Goodwill, and Old Navy are great places to find some) and request that they also bring decorating materials like felt, pompoms, dolls, random plastic toys, tinsel, pipe cleaners, patches, pins, and whatever else you can attach to a sweater that is festive.

Then make sure you can provide glue, sewing supplies for the serious crafters, an iron and ironing board. This crafting session may get messy, so make sure you have table covers and a floor area you don’t mind vacuuming later. 

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2. Host an ugly sweater fashion show

The ugly sweaters don’t have to be just a small feature of the party — they can be the central theme! Set up a runway (you can buy a red carpet from Oriental Trading) and host a fashion show! Have each “model” choose a song to walk to and offer prizes for the best sweater and the best model. For affordable prizes, check out the Target Dollar Spot for candles, holiday decor, or holiday socks. Or, purchase some classic Christmas sweets!

3. Set up a hot cocoa or coffee station

Ugly sweater weather calls for warm drinks! Hot cocoa or coffee is the perfect thing to serve to your party guests. Don’t forget the whipped cream (which comes in different flavors and non-dairy options now!) mini marshmallows, snowflake marshmallow cutouts, sprinkles, cinnamon sticks, cookie straws, and festive syrups like peppermint, gingerbread, and caramel.

Gather up or buy a set of the most Christmas-y mugs (or ask everyone to bring their own favorite mug). If you don’t have a Keurig for making single-serve Swiss Miss, you can make a large batch of hot cocoa using a crock pot. For a decadent hot cocoa bar, check out this how-to guide.

4. Pour Christmas cocktails

The tree isn’t the only thing that will be lit at your party. Get in the holiday spirit with festive spirits. Think sangria, hot cider, and mulled wine; ditch regular old eggnog for eggnog coladas. Serve the drinks in holiday-themed stemless wine glasses and get paper straws for extra flair. For an extensive list of decadent drink recipes, check out this Delish slideshow.

5. Lay out yummy appetizers and desserts

It’s not a party without snacks and sweets. Serve festive appetizers at your ugly sweater party like cheese and Ritz snowflake crackers, a colorful fruit-and-veggie plate filled with red and green fruits and vegetables (e.g. strawberries, green grapes, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber slices), puff pastry bites, or bruschetta. No time to make your own snacks? The frozen section of Trader Joe’s is packed with appetizers you can just pop in the oven.

For the dessert table, set up a self-serve dessert bar featuring mini pies, sugar cookies, whoopie pies, cake pops, snowy brownies (brownies dusted with powdered sugar), mini Bundt cakes, Christmas crack, red velvet everything, cupcakes, peppermint bark, peanut brittle, and toffee. Buy a stack of festive paper plates and use cake stands, colorful platters, and trays to display everything.

A chocolate fondue fountain with fruit and angel food cake bites or a s’mores bar could be another perfect winter dessert station option as well. You can find inexpensive fondue or an indoor s’mores maker online or at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. For fancy s’mores, buy an assortment of different graham cracker flavors (including cinnamon and chocolate-covered crackers), colorful marshmallows, and different kinds of chocolate bars. 

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6. Make the perfect party playlist

Set the mood for your ugly sweater party by curating the perfect Christmas playlist with all of the classics and the latest Christmas albums. Stumped on what songs to include? Check out this list for the ultimate playlist or check out Spotify’s premade ones.

7. Play your favorite holiday movies

Get everyone in the holiday mood with classic Christmas movies like A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, The Santa Claus(e), Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Love Actually, A Christmas Carol, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Jim Carrey live action, of course), Home Alone, The Holiday, The Polar Express, Christmas with the Kranks, and It’s A Wonderful Life. 

Or, if you are a little unconventional, you can go with Die Hard, The Nightmare Before Christmas, or Edward Scissorhands. Just don’t forget the popcorn!

For an adults-only ugly sweater party idea, pair the movie marathon with a drinking game! This works best with Hallmark or Hallmark-style Christmas movie (like Netflix originals) that are so ridiculous that it’s hard not to laugh (Love at the Christmas Table is a great one). Come up with rules like take a shot every time someone mentions a small town, magic happens, a plot hole makes things confusing, or another holiday movie cliche occurs. Please play responsibly!

8. Party in the perfect venue

Even if you don’t have the perfect party house, that doesn’t have to stop you from hosting the best party of the year. Peerspace can help you find a cozy venue with all the amenities you need to bring these ugly sweater party ideas to life. Find a space with a fireplace, kitchen, couches, and cozy rugs for a home-sweet-home feel. Impress your guests by hosting the party in a spacious loft, mansion, historic home, cafe, or vibrant bar.

9. Decorate for the occasion

Create an immersive ugly sweater experience. Decorate your party venue with the tackiest holiday decor. Think giant red bows and ornaments, vintage snowmen and Santa figurines, wrapping paper wallpaper, and cheap snow globes.

When everyone is hosting an ugly sweater party this season, these ideas will make your invite will stand out. Happy holidays!

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