Learn how to decorate a Christmas tree step-by-step with these simple, budget friendly, easy to follow Christmas tree decorating tips!
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Cue the music, because it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Have you put up your tree yet?
Decorating the tree is one of my favorite holiday traditions. I look forward to it every year, and it puts me right in that festive spirit. Especially if hot chocolate and Christmas music are involved ... which they pretty much always are!
I have tons of ornaments, so my tree looks a little different every year. But no matter how I decorate my tree, I always do things in a certain order.
Today, I'm sharing my tried and true Xmas tree decorating tips. Whether you're envisioning a simple tree or something totally over-the-top, follow these easy tree decorating ideas. You'll end up with the prettiest tree ever!
How to Decorate a Christmas Tree Step-by-Step
There are so many ways to decorate a Christmas tree. And I'm not here to tell that there's a wrong way to do it. Personally, I've never met an Xmas tree I didn't love!
However, adding your lights, garland, and ornaments in a certain order will make the job much easier and the results more professional.
And the best part? These easy Christmas tree decorating ideas work for any kind of style, whether you prefer traditional, modern, farmhouse, classic, etc. So follow these decorating tips, but add your own creative spin to personalize your tree.
1. Pick a Theme
Okay, first things first. Before you hang a single ornament, you need to decide on a Christmas tree theme.
A theme will help pull your whole tree together, and it doesn't have to be anything over-the-top or crazy. Unless you want to totally splash out, that is!
There are so many Christmas tree theme ideas out there. I'm not advocating that you should be a ton of money here, or that you shouldn't include your favorite homemade ornaments.
Your theme might be as simple as a color scheme (I love the combo of gold, blue, and white) or something like favorite handmade (or vintage) ornaments. Or you could go all in on an elaborate theme like Santa's workshop, Christmas village, candy cane Christmas, or bird's nest.
2. Fluff Branches / Let Tree Settle
Now that you've settled on a theme, it's time to pull that tree out of the box ... or stop by that tree farm!
If you're using an artificial tree, you'll want to spend a lots of time fluffing those branches. When you think you're finished, walk around the tree looking for any gaps, then make adjustments to the branches.
If your family prefers a fresh tree, the good news is that there's no fluffing required. That really is once of my least favorite parts of this process, so yay for you!
Before you even bring your tree home though, you'll want to invest in a high-quality tree stand. A good tree stand will save you and your Christmas tree decorating partners time, headaches, and probably an argument!
And if your fresh tree has been wrapped, don't hang those ornaments just yet. Unwrap the tree, then let it sit for a few hours or overnight. That way, the branches can return into their natural position. And if any holes appear, you can rotate the tree and hide them before decorating.
3. Add Christmas Tree Lights
Next come the lights, which should always be the first thing to go on your tree. Trying to weave lights around ornaments and garland is a recipe for extreme frustration and possibly disaster (i.e., broken ornaments), so add lights first.
You will need about 100 lights for each 1.5-foot section of tree. You can always add more if you love a sparkling tree ... and who doesn't? So make sure to get an extra box or two (there never seem to be enough in my opinion).
For those of you considering a faux tree, I implore you to get a prelit artificial tree ... it's will make your life so much easier! Seriously, I will never purchase a tree without lights again.
If you do need lights, look for clear lights with green wire (the green wire will blend into your tree). If you have a white or flocked tree, you'll need lights with white wire. Of course, you can always use colored lights for a traditional look. And colored lights also come in a white wire variety for white trees.
Need help adding lights to your tree? This articles has great tips for adding lights to your tree, whether you're going for a subtle or showstopping effect.
4. Hang Christmas Tree Garland and/or Ribbon
After adding lights, the next step is draping your tree with garland and ribbon.
Garland and ribbon create a backdrop for your tree, as well as help lead your eye around the tree. Think of it like an arrow!
For best results, hang garland and ribbon at an angle. This will lead the eye up and around the tree. And don't just wrap your ribbon around the edges of the tree, weave it in and out of the tree branches a bit. This will add visual interest and depth.
I used my DIY Origami Star Garland which I made a few years ago. It's still going strong, and I love the unique, handmade touch it adds to my tree.
5. Add Filler Elements
Next, comes the filler ... think floral picks, pine cones, leaves, berries, etc.
Filler elements are optional, but I love them. They can add so much sparkle, color, and texture to your tree! And they're an affordable way to create a fuller, more lush tree without purchasing expensive ornaments.
Michaels is my favorite source for Christmas picks and filler. They have so many cute options!
You'll want to space these elements evenly around your tree. Picks can be rested on top of and in between tree branches. If you're using something heavier like pinecones, look for an option with wire attached. Then, wrap the wire around branches to hold these decorative elements in place.
6. Hang Basic Ornanaments
Okay, now it's time for the fun part ... adding the ornaments! Before you add anything unique, you'll want to start with basics, like balls or any ornaments you have in sets/multiples.
I love using ball ornaments when decorating a Christmas tree. They can add tons of sparkle and color. And they create a cohesive look, which is especially nice if you plan to mostly decorate your tree with one-of-a-kind ornaments, like I do.
Add one type of ball ornament at a time, spacing them around your tree. Then, add another type. As you do this, step back to make sure everything is evenly distributed. I used a combination of blue, white, and gold balls for my tree.
If you have any special ornaments that would break your heart if they broke, attach them to your tree with floral wire. This is a great way to kid or pet proof your tree, too!
7. Add Special Christmas Tree Ornaments
If you are anything like me, you've collected tons of unique Christmas tree decorations over the years.
I've received ornaments as gifts, and I've created handmade ornaments, too. Each of these ornaments has a story and special place in my heart!
These are the ornaments you'll want to add last ... that way they'll stand out.
Start by hanging the largest ornaments first, spacing them evenly around your tree. This will create balance. Then fill in the empty spaces with smaller ornaments.
In my opinion ... the more ornaments, the better! And again, make sure to attach those fragile, one-of-a-kind ornaments with floral wire.
8. Add a Tree Skirt
As far as I'm concerned, no tree is complete without a skirt!
A pretty tree skirt is the perfect way to cover an ugly tree stand, and it makes the tree look more complete. I love the White Faux Fur and Linen Tree Skirt I got last year ... so cute right?
Don't want to spend money on a tree skirt or can't find one you like? Get creative!
I love the look of Christmas Tree Collars! Or you could place your tree in a large basket or a galvanized tub. If you choose a basket or tub, you'll also need a smaller tree stand that will fit inside of it. You could also wrap a blanket or large scarf around the base of the tree. And since blankets and scarves come in so many colors and patterns, your options are practically endless.
9. Top Your Tree
Finish your tree by adding a beautiful Christmas tree topper.
You could add your topper sooner, but I love adding it last. It's the like the cherry on top of the sundae, you know?
I like using a big topper ... something that's sparkly and stands out.
Many tree toppers won't stay in place without a little help. If this is the case with your topper, don't risk it falling off your tree. Simply use a little floral wire to hold it in place.
10. Stand Back and Admire Your Gorgeous Tree
Okay, one more step ... stand back and admire your tree!
As you do so, keep an eye out for any holes or blank spaces. Then adjust the ornament placement as needed.
Wasn't all that effort worth it? There's nothing better than a gorgeous Christmas tree!
FAQs About Christmas Tree Decorating
Now that you know how to decorate a Christmas tree, here are some FAQs (frequently asked questions) about Xmas tree decorations that will help you create that picture perfect tree!
What goes on an Xmas tree first?
The first thing that should go on your tree is lights, then garland, then ornaments ... in that order.
Do you put lights on a tree first?
Always add lights to your Christmas tree first.
Do you put garland on the Christmas tree before or after the ornaments?
Garland should go on your Christmas tree before the ornaments.
Do you put ribbon or ornaments on the tree first?
If you are using ribbon, add it to your tree after the lights, but before ornaments.
How many lights do you need for a Christmas tree?
You will need about 100 lights for every 1.5 feet of tree. If you love lights (and who doesn't?), add more. I would always err on the side of buying an extra box or two, because there never seems to be enough.
How many ornaments do I need?
The number of ornaments needed will depend on a few things: how tall your tree is (more height = more ornaments); how wide your tree is (wider trees = more ornaments); and how full of ornaments you prefer your tree. A good rule of thumb is 10 ornaments per foot. So for a 7-foot Christmas tree, you'll need about 70 ornaments (minimum).
Don't have enough? Make your own or purchase inexpensive balls to fill out the tree.
How do you add height to a short tree?
Christmas trees are pricey. If you're making do with a too short tree, you have a few options. Try placing the tree on a decorative box or table ... you can see how I did this when we lived in our Dallas loft. You could also place it one a plain box, then cover the box with a tree skirt or decorative fabric. Finally, add the tallest tree topper you can find ... just make sure it's in proportion to your tree (think tall, not wide).
How do I choose a Christmas tree?
How to choose a Christmas tree ... that's kind of the age old question, isn't it? Ha ha!
There are many things to contemplate when choosing a tree. You need to consider cost, size, and desired longevity of the tree. Think about what kind of tree you prefer ... short and fat, tall and narrow, classic cone shape, etc.
Apart from cost, size is probably the most important factor. To find the perfect tree, measure your ceiling height. Your tree should be at least 6-inches shorter than your ceiling height (preferably a foot) to ensure you have enough room for a topper. Width is also important. Figure out how much space you'll have around your tree and choose accordingly. If you live in a small apartment like me, look for a slim Christmas tree.
If you're purchasing an artificial tree, you should seriously consider getting a prelit tree. They are more expensive, but they'll save so much time and frustration.
Looking for a real tree? You'll find the freshest trees at cut-your-own farms, obviously. But whether you're cutting your own tree or buying one on the street corner, run your fingers along the branches to make sure needles feel soft, fresh, and do not fall off en masse. Give the tree a little shake, too. When you get home, cut at least an inch from the stem, then get your tree in water asap.
I hope you enjoyed these easy tips for how to decorate a Christmas tree! I'd love to see your finished tree ... tag me on social media with #HelloLittleHome so I can check it out!
What is your Christmas tree decorating style?