Just when you thought you’d seen it all, your bestie shows up in a sweater that actually lights up and plays a tune. It must be Ugly Sweater season! This year, do more than just uglify a sweater: host your own Ugly Sweater Party. Because humor is at the core of the idea, it’s a low-pressure way to throw a holiday shin-dig and well-suited to a kid’s-allowed party. Think cheesy, gaudy and absolutely outrageous. Read on to throw your best worst party yet!

ugly xmas sweater ugly christmas sweaterphoto: Lynn Friedman via flickr

Sweater Swap

For those guests who arrive too plain to qualify as ugly-sweater attendees, set up a sweater box. Just wrap up an open-topped cardboard box to make it look ultra-festive, and add to it a handful of sweaters in varying sizes. Stop by a local thrift store to score a few tacky items, wash them up, and throw them int the box. Don’t forget: hideous holiday vests count too. You can also just add a few plain, inexpensive sweatshirts that can be fixed up at the uglifying station (see below). Be sure and get a variety of sizes and a few kids versions too. Throughout the evening you can encourage guests to swap sweaters to see how good (or bad) it can get.

craft stationphoto: Stephen Kennedy via flickr 

Uglifying Station

When in doubt, use sequins. Set up an easy-to-uglify station at your party. Little cups filled with glitter, sequins, googly eyes, feathers, pom poms and more. Get fabric glue to hold everything in place, along with a few fabric pens or paint. Set things up on a spare table or folding table with a wipeable or disposable festive tablecloth. You can also let folks know on the invite that they can bring a plain sweater or sweatshirt (or even t-shirt) to uglify on site. For more ideas on how to uglify any sweater, read our post here.

ugly sweater cheese ball photo: Overduebook via flickr 

Feed Them

Of course you’re going to have plenty of food and drink on hand, and any kind of holiday party fare will do. Cut down on prep time by whipping up some of these appetizers requiring 3 ingredients or less. Get the kids involved in advance to whip up a few of these dishes they can help cook

Reward Them

Set up a voting system. Tie a bright ribbon around a large jar and place a pad of paper and pen next to it. Ask guests to vote on the ugliest sweater winner. Toward the end of the evening, tally the votes. Winner takes home a prize: simply stick a bow on a box of cookies or bottle of wine or sparkling cider.

Regifting!

Since the party theme is already humorous, it’s the perfect chance to do a White Elephant gift exchange. Just ask each guest to bring something silly/outrageous/as-seen-on-TV as a wrapped present. That Mrs. Claus wine cozy your cousin sent you? Wrap it up! The Shake-Weight you got last year as a gag? Yeah, bring that. Want to know how to do an official White Elephant exchange? Click here for the “rules.”

ugly sweater party photo photo: Will Richardson via flickr

Take a Picture, It Will Last Longer

Don’t let a single guest get away without documenting their hideous attire for future generations can appreciate. Stage a small area in your home for a photo booth. Use a festive empty picture frame for each person to hold up to add consistency to the photos (perfect for assembling a photo book later!). Wrap up a small cardboard box and fill it with props like antler ear headbands, candy cane scarves and elf hats. Be sure you have a couple of lamps there, or do it in the kitchen where the lighting is usually kept brighter. Bonus points for covering a wall in a festive background cloth, faux wood or faux brick.

Have you thrown an Ugly Sweater Party? Got any tips to share in the comments below? 

—Amber Guetebier