Five Gorgeous, Unexpected Holiday Party Color Palettes

Trade in classic red and green for punchy citrus, bright primaries, and moody jewel-tones.

Woman Putting Table Cloth
Photo: Lumina / Stocksy/ Adobe Stock

You don't need to be a professional party planner to design a holiday party in red and green, white and black, or gold and silver. While the classics are beloved for a reason, choosing a nontraditional color scheme, like the five suggested here by our panel of experts, adds an unexpected dose of cheer to your annual celebration. "This year's holiday parties are going to be extra special, because for the first time since the pandemic, families and friends will be able to come together more safely," says Dani Blasena of HauteFêtes, who anticipates a season that focuses more on the warmth and joy of spending time with loved ones—and less on over-the-top excess. "Not that there's anything wrong with traditional color palettes of red, green and gold," she says, "but rethinking the standard palette and hitting the reset button to allow yourself to embrace shades that match your current mood and mindset is totally acceptable!"

Orange, Coral, and Pink

Sunna Yassin of Bash Please suggests planning your party around a bright and cheerful collection of citrus-inspired shades with "emphasis on the joy!" The same deep greens that set off metallics and bright reds allow vibrant tones on either side of classic red to pop, too. "A palette of punchy oranges and deep corals and pinks makes for a cheerful and welcoming entertaining environment," she says. "Make it easy for yourself and dress up some of your existing everyday items with a fresh garland, real oranges, and the best accent of them all—a roaring fire! When planning your food and drink menu, take inspiration cues from in season winter fruits like pomegranate, persimmons, or our personal favorite, golden pears."

Emerald, Teal, Gold, and Black

Gretchen Culver of Rocket Science Events built a jewel-toned palette around classic green and gold, adding a moody twist with deeper shades of emerald and teal alongside sophisticated black-and-gold accents. "These colors are rich and luxurious, perfect for the holiday season—plus, gold always feels festive!" she says. "It's easy to elevate your holiday tabletop by adding black plates and gold flatware. Put an emerald-and-teal runner down the middle of the table, add some gold candlesticks with black taper candles and, ta-da: You have a sophisticated and chic holiday look."

Orange, Gray, and Olive

One of Blasena's favorite unexpected winter palettes combines orange, gray, and olive. "I love this combination because it's earthy and rich, and at the same time pulls in that bright pop of citrus which is so festive and seasonal," she says. "Think bowls of kumquats, tangerines, and oranges in lieu of flowers at the table or interspersed throughout your home—they'll add color and a delicious fresh scent." Incorporate fresh greens, eucalyptus, and olive branches ordered from your grocery store or online floral companies with pine boughs from local farms. "Dress your tables with a beautiful slate gray charger, accented with gold-rimmed white china and gold flatware for an elegant take. Add charcoal-colored candles in lieu of traditional white ones for a dramatic and elevated holiday feel," says Blasena.

Red and Green with Pops of Primary Colors

Give your existing decorations a cheerful refresh by accenting traditional red-and-green elements with items in shades of bright blue, pink, and yellow. "Utilizing a mix of colors means your holiday décor isn't pigeonholed to one tradition such as Christmas—it is welcoming to all," says Culver. Add a rainbow selection of glass ornaments to your tree; hang a multicolored wreath on the door; or replace your white lights with colorful ones. "Bold colors are cheerful, and after the couple of years we've all had, I think everyone is ready for some major holiday cheer at their gatherings," says Culver.

Mixed Berry Shades

Take your design cues from the dessert table, where blackberries, currents, blueberries, cherries, and cranberries can inspire décor in a range of purple, mauve, and red shades. "I love red, but for the holidays I think a mixed berry palette is equally fun and just as elegant—if not a bit more romantic," says Blasena. "Berry tones tend to have a little more blue in them and lend themselves to mixing." Create a luxurious atmosphere with velvet tablecloths and rose gold accents, and make (or order) sumptuous floral arrangements in dark hues. "Today's garden rose varieties offer a wide range of beautiful tones," says Blasena. "Mix burgundy, mauve, dusky rose, and plum for a variety of highs and lows that create depth and contrast."

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