The appeal of holiday themes is that they can be silly and playful, but event professionals walk a fine line between embracing a festive spirit and entering childish territory (or worse, cheesy). Here are some guidelines from design experts around the web for maintaining this balance.

Set the Tone with a Festive Invite

The invite should signify the theme so attendees know what to expect. Rather than simply stating it though, this is an opportunity to show off some high-quality creativity.  If the invite is going to incorporate the theme, go big.  Metallic signage, glitter, ribbons, thick paper, sequins—anything that looks out of the ordinary will signify the holiday season. If you want to get really out-of-the-box with it, try a different format entirely. The coffin box above is a great example. Some other eccentric ideas we’ve seen around are a message in a mini bottle, paper fan and even a balloon (guests are instructed to blow up for event details).

Dress up the Table

The table is always central to any holiday party. Plus, it’s where attendees will be getting up close and personal with your decor. Incorporating natural elements gives that sought-after Pinterest style. When deciding on natural elements to incorporate, keep it seasonal with plants such as lush garland, cinnamon or pinecones. To ensure it looks neat, keep the table balanced and stay within the color scheme.

Placecards indicate the formality of the event so dazzle them up if you want to show off the event’s sophistication. Metallics may be mixed for table items, but keep in mind how this fits with the rest of your pallet. Silver and gold each have their own strengths, a frosty versus warm glow respectively. So picking a metal depends on the particular mood you’re setting.

Light up the Venue 

Lighting is crucial to setting the mood. Be sure to diversify lighting, and always choosing candles that appeal to smell and sight equally. If candles are a hazardous option for your particular event, some safe alternatives include: electric tea candles, string “fairy” lights, flameless LED lights, oil warmers, reed diffusers and air freshener dispensers. Also be mindful of which lighting you’re trying to highlight—will it be a frosty, warm or colorful and festive? Don’t forget to dazzle up the outdoors as well.

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Lighting isn’t restricted to the traditional. A plethora of 3-D projections can set a celebratory mood. For instance, Gobos can project different light shapes using stencils onto the floor.

Incorporate a Modern Flare

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Play with geometric shapes, metals, plant varieties, wool materials, faux fur—anything you can imagine. Gone are the days of old-school wreaths and ornaments. Juxtaposing traditional items with a modern spin can add an element of surprise. Plus, more responsible, energy-efficient options are now available. For instance, opt for LED bulbs and use them with motion detectors or timers.

Avoid Overwhelming

No clutter and no tchotchkes! Use the decorations to accentuate the structure and design of the venue. Don’t just place a giant inflatable snowman smack in the middle of the room. Make the elements interact by putting decorations in bowls and boxes. String lights around pillars. If you’re unsure, then use the rule of threes. For example, three primary colors for the scheme, three scents and three types of plants.

Open geometric and glass objects are terrific options when avoiding too many materials and patterns. Also mix up the layers and heights. If the table has objects that vary in height, it won’t look overcrowded. And by all means, go wild with ornaments! Just be mindful about scattering them around the venue so that they don’t end up looking untidy.

Give the People What They Want: Instagram Photo-Ops

Nowadays, it seems like the entire point of any outing is to post about it on social media. So you might as well succumb to the craze and offer a photo station. Both digital and Polaroids are good options for a holiday photo booth. As for the background, all colors pop against white and metallic. Not to mention, this eliminates any concerns about an outfit clashing. Inject playful hints of the holiday using sparkles, logos, props or effects.

Keep an Open Mind

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Holiday parties are all about letting lose and embracing a joyful celebration. Let your quirky ideas flourish with holiday themes. Sure there are some basic rules to keep in mind, but what beats going with your instinct?