We decided that we needed to start doing more family events in our ministry. This is our first official family night and we thought the best time to kick it off was during the Christmas season. People love Christmas events, and it’s easy to put together a night that will be fun for the entire family. I have seen family nights be successful in some churches, and not so successful in others. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so we did require families to register online before the event. This helps a ton with planning. If you don’t know who will be coming, you will end up either over buying or under buying, and neither of those is a good thing. We charged our families a flat fee of $10 per family to make it affordable for families of all sizes and raised the price to $15 for late registrations. Everyone seemed to think it was a fair price and we had a great turnout for our event.
We went with the ugly Christmas sweater theme for the night, and it was a hit! We decided to create a photo booth for the event because of course, you want to capture lots of pictures of all those horrendous outfits. However, we really wanted to create an above average photo booth that would make the families really want to go for it! I think we definitely accomplished that. We found this tutorial on Pinterest, and tweaked it a bit to fit our materials. We had some large 4×8 ft pieces of insulation foam board, so we used that instead of the plywood they used in their tutorial. It makes it lighter for transportation and bigger. We bought two large ugly frames from thrift stores for the frames, and took out the pictures and glass which makes them much lighter weight for the project. Before attaching the frames, I traced them on the foam board where I wanted them and cut the holes for the frames with a large x-acto knife. It doesn’t need to be a perfect cut because you are going to cover it up. Once you have the holes for your frames, you may want to reinforce the sides if they are too thin. I used some gorilla tape to make the sides more sturdy, and it worked great. Next, cover the entire front of your foam board with wrapping paper. You can wrap the edges like a present and tape them to the back of the board. You can choose any wrapping paper you want, but I do suggest using heavy duty wrapping paper. If you buy the cheap stuff, it may tear before it makes it to your event. When you have it all wrapped, cut the frames out using an x-acto knife. Leave some edges to wrap over the sides, and tape to the back to cover up the inside of the foam. The hard part is over at this point. We attached the frames to the front of the paper using hot glue, and it held together really well.
You can get creative with the rest of the front of your photo booth. We bought three large stockings of varying sizes from thrift stores and hung them on the front using command hooks. We went the extra mile with our garland at the top. We made our own ugly sweater garland using cheap garland from the Dollar Tree. We made tiny red and green sweaters out of craft felt, and hot glued embellishments on the front like Christmas foam stickers, pom poms, bells, and pipe cleaners. We bought all of the embellishments at Dollar Tree. We made 10 strands of ugly sweater garland, and used it for the photo booth, photo booth props and around the room for decor. Once you have finished decorating your photo booth, you will need to make a stand. We had some 2x4s that were already attached to wood bases that we hot glued to the back of our photo booth. We also had someone help us screw a piece of flat plywood to the wood bases to create a stand. This helped some of our smaller kids become tall enough to stick their heads through the frames. Photo booth props were easy for this theme. We purchased some adorable ugly sweater photo booth props from Oriental Trading as well as this giant cardboard ugly sweater for anyone who “forgot” to come in their ugly sweater. We also had a strand of our homemade ugly Christmas sweater garland, Santa hats and Christmas headbands (purchased at Dollar Tree) available for families to use in their pictures. The photo booth was a huge success. Everyone loved it, and best of all, it didn’t fall apart!
We kept the table decorations simple. We bought gold and green garland-covered trees from the Dollar Tree for the centerpieces, and we hot glued foam bowls to the bottom of some of them to make them appear taller for depth. We purchased these ugly sweater stickers from Oriental Trading and when we received them in the mail they were huge! We cut the sweaters and the cute little signs out with scissors and used them as confetti on our tables around the trees.
Ugly Sweater Contest
We had a lot of fun with the ugly Christmas sweater contest. Our families really went all out for this event. I don’t think there was one person who didn’t wear an ugly sweater of some kind. We saw everything from Donald Trump on a sweater to a lady who attached a large smartphone to her sweater with a digital fireplace on the screen. We set up a voting table where everyone could go and vote for their favorite person or family. We printed these free printable voting cards for people to fill out and this sign for the table. To make the table extra special, we bought an ugly sweater from the thrift store and covered the voting box with the sweater leaving the neck opening as the place to put your votes in the box. We added a large bow for a final touch.
We had several categories of ugly sweater awards to give out. We purchased these hilarious ugly sweater trophies from Oriental Trading to give to the winners. They come with stickers you can put on them with different categories to choose from. They have already discontinued them on their website, but you could used these trophies instead, and it would be just us funny. We also purchased some sweater ornaments we found at Walgreens for each of the winners to take home and put on their tree, or re-gift at their next Christmas party. We allowed people to vote most of the night, and tallied the votes up at the end of the night. Our award ceremony was the grand finale of the night. We gave awards for Ugliest Sweater, Ugly, but Classy, Creative, DIY and a Family award.
Food/Hot Cocoa Bar
We prepared lots of yummy treats and snacks for our families to munch on during the event. We set up three 8-ft tables in a row in the center of the room for our food and hot cocoa bar. You could serve yourself from either side of the tables. We found some cute disposable tablecloths at Dollar Tree in the Christmas section that actually had hot cocoa cups all over them. They were perfect, and after the event was over we could just throw them away. The food table included cracker trays, cheese trays and homemade chex mix for non-sweet options. We used mini metal cookie cutters in Christmas shapes to cut slices of cheese for the cheese platter. It took about 10 minutes to cut the cheese into shapes and it made the cheese look so cute. We made four batches of the Chex Mix, and ended up having a lot left over. People were definitely there for the cookies! I made several different types of homemade cookies and placed them on platters we purchased from the Dollar Tree. I made sure to avoid nuts in all of the food, and made a couple cookie recipes that were egg-free because I knew a couple kids had egg allergies. My favorite cookies were the ugly Christmas sweater cookies I made and decorated. I purchased an ugly Christmas sweater cookie kit from Big Lots for $5, and used the cookie cutter and the sprinkles inside the kit. I needed to make a lot more than 12 cookies, so I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe and made my own icing. The cookies turned out super cute, and they were all gone at the end of the night.
For the hot cocoa bar, we had a lot of fun collecting ugly Christmas mugs from people at the church, thrift stores and the Dollar Tree. We wanted everyone to have a real Christmas mug to drink their hot cocoa from. It was a bit of an investment for us to make this year, but we have already used them for three more Christmas events this year at the church, and we will use them again next year. It was a lot of fun for everyone to be able to pick out their own unique Christmas mug. At the hot cocoa bar we provided hot water and cocoa mix as well as lots of yummy mix-ins. We provided caramel sauce, mini and regular marshmallows, peppermints, caramels and several varieties of chocolate chips. We purchased Christmas buckets from the dollar section at Target for all of the mix-ins.