I know you've got lots going on this holiday season. (It is the holiday season after all!) BUT...if you can only host ONE event, a Girlfriends Wrapping Party is a fabulous choice!
The premise is straightforward. Guests arrive on your doorstep with their unwrapped gifts for family and friends. They spend the next few hours wrapping gifts in the company of others while Christmas music plays. There's copious amounts of food and drink because wrapping can take a lot out of you! 😉 Guests leave with their wrapped gifts and have YOU to thank for helping them get it done!
A Wrapping Party helps your friends complete one of their holiday tasks in a fun and social setting. As the host, you get to share the spirit of Christmas, catch up with friends and even steal a few last-minute gift ideas just by watching others.
(Did our grandmothers feel this way about quilting circles? 🤔)
Keep reading or jump to a particular section by clicking on the link:
- Why I Love This Wrapping Party
- Wrapping Party Basics: Who, Where, When and What Food/Drink to Serve
- The Best Set-Up for a Wrapping Party
- Gift Wrapping Supplies Needed
Why I Love This Wrapping Party
My mom was a single parent and our only parent. She supported my sister and me by working as a waitress in a smoke-filled diner. Though she struggled to make ends meet, she loved Christmas and everything about it.
Prior to December 25th, she'd stay up late wrapping our gifts with perfectly creased corners and beautiful bows she made. The fact that she couldn't afford the gifts and wouldn't pay them off until sometime in late spring was a detail she couldn't be bothered with. It. Was. Christmas!!!
One year (I think I was 8 or 9 years old?), my mom taught me how to wrap gifts just like she did. I not only learned her techniques, such as how to make the perfect bow---at least 6 layers of ribbon; the edges neatly cut into bunny ears; a tight cinch at the center for maximum fullness---but I learned her mindset.
My mom believed EVERY gift was worthy of gorgeous wrapping. She wanted the recipient to feel special as they held a beautifully wrapped gift in their hands, knowing this generous investment of time and creativity was done especially for them.
Though the paper and ribbons were discarded as soon as the gift was opened, the way that thoughtfully wrapped gift made someone feel lasted much, much longer.
Several decades later, a friend asked if I could teach her how to make a bow. Another friend, the self-professed queen of gift bags because she had never learned to wrap, wanted to join us and before I knew it, I was hosting my first wrapping party.
Wrapping Party Basics: Who, Where, When, and What Food/Drink to Serve
When: You know your people so go with what works best for them! I've found that the second Sunday afternoon in December is a great time for this event. You're not competing with evening parties and there aren't as many activities that you need to chauffeur the kids to. (Before I had kids, I hosted it on a Thursday and that worked out well.)
Which Hours: I prefer to make the party an Open House, say between 2-6pm. It takes pressure off people to know that they don't have to arrive at an exact time.
Who to Invite: This is a great party to mix different groups of friends (or family!). Everyone is there for a shared activity so that makes it easy. It's fun to see people who've never met before discussing the gifts they're wrapping up asking for opinions on what wrapping paper is the best choice for a particular person.
Where to Have the Party: Wherever you have have room! I usually have wrapping in the family/living rooms and spilling over into the kitchen. I set-up the food in the dining room, buffet-style.
If your home doesn’t allow for this or if it sounds like too much work, a garage or any other open space works. A friend of mine once hosted a similar event in the clubhouse of her neighborhood!
Food to Serve: I've served soups and sandwiches, heavy appetizers and a variety of Christmas cookies. Last year, I ordered several sushi platters. Let people know you will be having food, especially if the party is mid-afternoon.
Drink to Serve: You know your people best! 😀 I like to offer a signature holiday cocktail (a cranberry pomegranate punch for example) to guests once they get settled at their wrapping spot. I have other beverages on hand as well.
The Best Set-Up for a Wrapping Party
Setting up for a wrapping party is easy, but strategizing the layout is a MUST! Just think of how much space you take up when wrapping gifts. Now multiply that by the number of friends at your party!
(For those of you thinking, "This section doesn't reply apply to me...I know my house. I know my friends...", please keep reading! I want to help you be the hostess with the mostess. 😉)
1. Make room for the wrapping and the wrappers! I clear the furniture out of my family room and set-up in there. The more space your guests have to move around, the better, especially since they'll be wielding wrapping paper rolls!
2. I like to set up cleared (empty) long tables and chairs as wrapping stations. You can plan for two people to comfortably wrap at a 6' folding table, one person on either side. Any flat surface works, so draft any coffee tables or kitchen counters into action.
3. My favorite approach is to place the wrapping supplies on a central table or two. I’ve tried putting paper and ribbons at each table, but they get in the way of wrapping gifts. (See note about wrapping supplies below.)
4. Provide trash bags or cans. This was something I overlooked the first year and had people trying to dispose of empty wrapping paper rolls in my kitchen garbage (much too small for the job!).
5. Expect friends to bring unwrapped Christmas gifts of all shapes and sizes, including oversized toys, power tools and bean bag chairs. The first time a guest showed up with a Big Wheel type bike to be wrapped, I was caught off-guard. (I thought there was no way I'd lug that bulky box anywhere but under my Christmas tree!) I came to realize that some of my friends use the wrapping party as The Time to wrap ALL of their gifts, regardless of size.
6. Think through the logistics of how/where people will enter and exit your home with their gifts, plus their coats and purses and any extras.
(Pro tip: when someone enters with a gift, discretely write the name of the giver on a PostIt. I always swear I'll remember, but by the end of the party, I have mush brain!)
7. Check the weather so you're prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws your way. It's sounds like such a simple thing to have towels on hand and a bucket/bin for wet umbrellas...but if you don't plan ahead, Murphy's law states the towels and bins will go into hiding the minute someone asks you for one! (Or maybe that's just at my house! 😀)
8. Welcome your guests with a drink, but keep the food in a separate area. No one wants to spill soup on their unwrapped Christmas gifts.
Gift Wrapping Supplies Needed
If you've made it to this point in the article, I'm guessing you're familiar with gift wrapping! As with most things in life, you can stick to the basics, zhuzh it up a bit or go over the top. Whatever works for you.
I've listed the supplies in priority order. The items with asterisks are ones I added in more recent years.
- Wrapping paper (variety is always good)
- Scissors (one pair/person is nice)
- Tape (one roll/person is also nice)
- Gift tags/labels
- Pens/markers (to write on the tags)
- Shirt boxes *
- Tissue paper *
- Gift bags *
- "Fancies" (bells, pinecones, etc,) to tie on to bows *
Long ago, I decided that I wanted my friends to be able to just show up for the party with their unwrapped gifts. Making it easy for them to get their gift wrapping done is a gift I give to them. In return, sharing this favorite Christmas activity with my friends always reminds me of my mom and how much she loved gifts and wrapping. 🥰
This approach may not work for everyone, or may not be feasible due to the number of attendees. If that's the case, here are some suggestions:
- Have guests contribute to a communal group of wrapping supplies
- Suggest everyone brings their own scissors, tape, pens and tags
- Ask people to contribute to a wrapping supplies fund
Hosting a Girlfriends Wrapping Party is a No Brainer!
A Christmas tree surrounded by attractively wrapped gifts is part of our collective holiday memory.
This image is literally included in multiple Christmas carols, including the classic I’ll Be Home for Christmas (I’ll be home for Christmas. You can count on me. Please have snow and mistletoe. And presents on the tree...) and the more recent Underneath the Tree by Kelly Clarkson.
A wrapping party works so well because:
- Guests complete a holiday task while they’re having fun.
- Christmas requires wrapping many gifts---in a compressed period of time.
- Wrapping presents encourages people to flex their artistic side as they select wrapping paper and ribbon for each gift
- It reinforces a sense of community and shared holiday spirit.
- You can easily mix and mingle different friend groups.
- It's interesting to see what others are giving as gifts and can provide ideas for people you still need a gift for
Last but not least, hosting a Girlfriends Wrapping Party is a great way to ensure your home is decorated in time for Christmas!
Written by Lisa Bader, who loves making celebrations easier and more convenient. Lisa will never say no to a Christmas cookie and always underestimates how long it takes to decorate the tree. Read more about Lisa here.