How to Create a Luxe Holiday on a Paper Budget

By Elizabeth Mayhew
For as long as I can remember, I have loved and used all things paper and packaging: notecards, boxes of all shapes and sizes, stationery sheets, gift enclosures, envelopes, menu cards and more. I have also collected paper items; among my treasures are pastel patisserie boxes from Paris, round scallop-edged paper drink coasters from Rome, personalized stationery remnants from every address I have ever lived, and my favorite: place cards with my name from just about every party I have ever attended. These items are not mere pieces of paper, but rather souvenirs that connect me to a special time and place. It is because of this sentimental attitude about paper and packaging that, come holiday time, I like to use paper and packaging in all that I do, from sending out cards and wrapping presents with quality paper, to creating beautiful table settings with personalized touches. Paper and packaging allow you to be creative and personal, not to mention economical. They also look luxurious, making your friends and family feel special whether they’re coming over to celebrate the holidays or receiving a gift. Here are just a few ideas of how you can incorporate paper and paper-based packaging into your celebrations – I promise they are affordable and fun to create. And after the party, if you don’t want to save them, you can easily recycle them. No washing required!  

Idea #1

During the holidays, you likely have an influx of boxes arriving at your doorstep. This year, reuse them to make your holiday look luxe without the price tag. Transform these boxes into festive lanterns to add a unique, personal element to holiday celebrations. Start by flattening a box you already have at home. With an X-acto knife, cut off the top flap of the box and recycle. Once you’ve removed the top, cut out holiday shapes (stars, trees, snowmen, gingerbread men, etc.) on each of the four sides. You can use cookie cutters as your templates; just trace them onto the four sides of the flattened box, then cut them out. Once shapes are cut out, pop the box back into shape. Place a battery-powered tea light inside each box and place on your table. Pair boxes of different sizes together to create an unexpected yet impressive tablescape that will be aglow.

Idea #2

Instead of a traditional tablecloth, use kraft paper as a table runner. It’s a super simple way to decorate your holiday table and it makes for easy clean up. No washing or ironing required – just recycling! And if you want to take your table up a notch and customize it, write classic holiday wishes or phrases directly onto the paper looping around each place setting. Write out fun phrases such as “Cheers!” around the wine glasses or “Eat, drink and be merry!” across the runner.

Idea #3

Create a place card that’s sure to stand out. Buy small useful gifts for each of your party guests (favorite hand cream, lip balm, socks, hair ties, golf balls, etc.), place them in boxes tied with festive paper ribbon then add a handwritten name tag to each. Use the gifts at each place setting; they will make your table look more festive and they will double as unique place cards.

Idea #4

Fun party games can be great conversation starters or a way for you to get your guests to linger at the table. Have everyone at your party write down a question like: "What is your most embarrassing memory from high school?” Collect all the questions in a small box then have each player take a turn picking a question. You can decorate the cardboard box (consider repurposing one you have received from a delivery) to coordinate with the rest of your table decor. When it's your turn, pick a question and read it aloud. Everyone should write down his or her answer and pass it to the player on your right. That player reads out all the responses, and you have to guess who wrote which answer. Give yourself one point for every one you guess right.   Bottom line, personalizing your holiday using paper-based packaging and paper takes your celebration to the next level and gives you endless possibilities for creativity and personalization. The effort and time you put into each project from wrapping a present to setting the table will not go unnoticed — your guests will be impressed and appreciate every detail.