20 products to help you host an epic holiday gathering
Get this party started
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Hosting a holiday party can be incredibly fun, but if you’re underprepared, it can also be pretty stressful. In between setting a playlist and crafting the perfect menu, there are a million logistics to figure out, from staying on top of holiday home safety to figuring out how much ice you need for your party.
I’m from the South, which means I was raised with proper hosting etiquette in my blood. No, I wasn’t a debutante (which is a real question people ask me), but I can tell you which side of the plate your salad fork belongs on and how many appetizers you need to prepare based on the number of guests you’ve invited.
If you’re hosting a big holiday get together soon, here are my top product recommendations broken down into four categories: music products that can make your holiday tunes sound incredible, smart tech to make things more interconnected, kitchen gear to make food prep easy, and games to keep everyone entertained while they mingle.
To nail the music
1. A soundbar that will fill the house with holiday music
This soundbar from Sennheiser isn’t cheap, but it can turn your home into an immersive holiday music center. We’re big fans of Sennheiser’s headphones, and while we haven’t tested this soundbar yet (we’ll update this feature once we do), it claims to offer a fully integrated 3-D sound experience that can adapt to your living room and provide sound tailored to your home’s acoustics.
This impressive soundbar comes packed with a built-in equalizer, AMBEO 3-D technology modes, high-fidelity tweeters, and six long-throw woofers. And if you didn’t understand any of those words, don’t sweat—just know it comes with enough technology to make your living room sound like a live Mariah Carey concert.
2. A karaoke microphone to get the party started
Karaoke machine? No thanks—if you already own a smart speaker (or honestly, a smart TV that streams YouTube), you don’t need a machine to play wordless tunes. You do, however, need a microphone that can you and your guests can use for your karaoke competition. Have you ever wondered if Aunt Mildred can hit those notes in “All I Want for Christmas Is You”? Now’s the time to find out.
If you sing karaoke often, record videos on your computer, conduct podcasts, or record audio files to your phone, consider investing in a real microphone made for smartphones and computers, like this Sennheiser Digital Microphone. Otherwise, if you’re just in it for some fast and fun karaoke, get a microphone with a built-in speaker, like the Fede Wireless Bluetooth Karaoke Mic.
Get the Sennheiser Live Vocal Microphone from Sennheiser for $99.95
- Get the Fede Wireless Bluetooth Karaoke Microphone from Amazon for $25.99
3. Our favorite portable Bluetooth speaker to play tunes on the go
If you think there’s a chance your party will gravitate outdoors or take place at a public location, consider investing in a portable Bluetooth speaker you can carry and set up at your convenience. We tested the best portable Bluetooth speakers and found the JBL Flip 4 to be our favorite. This speaker can connect to more than one Bluetooth device, delivers impressive bass, and easily moves from one location to another without losing sound quality.
4. This adorable turntable for the vintage audiophile
If you own records, you need a stylish record player that will stand out at your holiday gathering. This turntable from Nordstrom features a record player inside of a suitcase—can you get more “Mad Men” than this? It comes in four colors and plays real records, but it also comes with Bluetooth connectivity in case you guests get sick of flipping records every 20 minutes.
5. Spotify Premium
Is it really a party without a playlist? Spotify has an incredible collection of music, but if you’re signed up for one of the free plans, you’ll be stuck listening to commercials every 10 to 15 minutes. Take the plunge and sign up for a Spotify Premium account, which lets you listen to commercial-free music and even download songs to your device.
To stay in control with smart tech
6. An Amazon Echo to connect everything with your voice
Nearly every smart device on the market is compatible with the OG smart speaker, the Amazon Echo, or as my editor keeps reminding me, “It’s not called the Alexa.” You can control your home’s lighting, music, and temperature from this device. And for those lulls in your gathering, you can ask Alexa to give you holiday-themed trivia questions.
7. Christmas lights you can control with your phone
Did you know you can set up smart Christmas lights? These smart WiFi LED strip lights can be attached to any surface in your home, from under counters to around televisions. You can control which color the lights should be with your phone or Amazon Echo—which is literally the definition of a cool party trick.
8. An in-wall light dimmer that helps you adjust the atmosphere
We tested to find the best smart in-wall dimmer switch and found that the Lutron Caseta Smart Start Kit performed the better than the rest. It’s compatible with the Amazon Echo, Apple HomeKit, and Google Home, so you can use voice controls to adjust the lights during your gathering. A smart in-wall dimmer offers a cool way to set the mood during your party without having to do too much work.
9. This smart projector that lets you stream your favorite holiday movies
Ever wondered if you need a smart projector? Now’s the time to splurge. We tested the Nebula Capsule II smart projector to see if it was worth it—the smart projector offers a great way to display a large screen during your festivities. Stream “Home Alone” on the dining room wall while your family acts out its own daytime drama—and remind them all to save you a slice of cheese pizza.
10. Our favorite smart thermostat ideal for temperature control
Know what mixes well with a group of 15 adults who are crowded in the same room and literally sweating turkey from their pores? A way to easily regulate the temperature from your phone. The Emerson Sensi Touch WiFi Thermostat is our favorite smart thermostat and can be a true lifesaver during your next get together.
To prep the best snacks
11. An air fryer because you’ve been looking for an excuse to buy one anyway
You’ll likely be using your oven, your stovetop, and potentially your microwave when prepping your big feast—save yourself time (and stress) by picking up a countertop appliance that can prep one of your favorite appetizers or side dishes. We recommend the Philips Avance Airfryer XXL, which came in first place when we tested for the best air fryer. It can fry your favorite dishes without using oil, and frankly, it’s just a really cool appliance to own.
12. A big ol' smoker for treats both large and small
We had an absolute blast testing the best smokers, with the Masterbuilt MPS 340|G easily rising to the top of our list. This is another cooking tool that’s ideal for freeing room in your kitchen—prepare everything from large meats to side vegetables without having to do much manual work during the cooking process. Plus, you’ll have a blast walking guests to your backyard and saying, “Have you seen my smoker yet?”
13. A durable pie dish
Dessert is key to any gathering, and around the holidays, there’s one dessert you can’t go without: pie. And when it comes to baking the yummiest pie, you need a high-quality dish that will cook your dessert evenly and display it gorgeously. Our choice for the best pie dish is the Emile Henry Modern Classics Pie Dish, which comes in five colors and costs less than $30.
14. Our favorite digital thermometer
You won’t impress anyone with that turkey recipe if your bird comes out dryer than Uncle Larry’s jokes. Get a high-quality meat thermometer that will tell you the bird’s temperature by the second. When we tested the best meat thermometers, our favorite was the ThermoWorks ThermoPop, which only costs $34. Personally, I swear by the ThermoWorks Thermapen, which costs a little more, but is literally one of the best things I own.
15. Storage containers that allow guests to take food home
Not to make you feel bad, but I’d estimate about 40% of your holiday party guests are just coming for the leftovers. Don’t send them home with your favorite storage containers—pick up a cheap set of 50 from Amazon that you can pack and gift to each of your invitees.
To keep everyone entertained
16. Our office’s console of choice: The Nintendo Switch
Can you think of a better way to bring people together than by having them smash each other apart? Whether you need a fun activity for kids or an engaging game for adults, the Nintendo Switch is a great choice—it connects to your television and can allow multiple players to join in on the fun. I recommend pairing it with “Super Smash Bros.,” which we love playing in our Reviewed office during the lunch hour.
- Get the Nintendo Switch from Amazon for $298.99
- Get “Super Smash Bros Ultimate” from Amazon for $59.99
17. A team-based board game that keeps guests guessing
Another great game highly recommended by our editorial staff is Codenames, which requires teams to pair up and guess terms using cards and tokens. It’s a fun game for adults and kids alike, and a great way to keep guests entertained when food time is over.
18. For holiday parties after dark: Cards Against Humanity
Can you argue with 30,000 5-star reviews? If you’ve never heard of Cards Against Humanity, it’s an incredible card game for adults that allows people to respond to prompts with cards in their hands. It is not a game to play with children around (or awake), but makes a fantastic party game for adults.
19. An entire Bingo set for the whole family
If you need a fun game to keep everyone engaged, go with a classic—like Bingo. This Bingo set comes with an interactive roller, which is incredibly fun to pull out at gatherings, because honestly, have you ever seen one of these in real life? It comes with eight wooden boards, but if you’ve got more party goers who want to play, you could make your own boards, too.
20. An air hockey game to keep the kids engaged
You likely won’t want to purchase an entire air hockey table for a holiday party, but check out this tabletop version instead. It sits on top of flat surfaces and allows two people to play the classic arcade game. It’s a perfect way to keep kids entertained, but don’t be shocked if the adults flock to join in.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.