How to Decorate a Christmas Tree Step-by-Step

Follow this guide for decorating your Christmas tree for a perfectly decorated tree every time! These step-by-step instructions are easy to follow and give great results. Your tree will be the centerpiece of Christmas entertaining.

How to decorate your Christmas tree, best tips and step by step

Best Tips for Decorating Your Christmas Tree

I know it’s early but I want to chat about decorating your Christmas tree and give you some tips that can really make a difference. PLUS I’ll tell you how I do it so it’s easy to switch up the look and theme each year.

Just so you know, we’ve ALWAYS purchased a real tree. I just love the smell of the fresh greenery. But now that we’ve moved, our ceilings are higher and the regular trees look miniature in here. I knew the time had come to bite the bullet and get an artificial tree.

I chose an 8 foot pre-lit tree and couldn’t be happier with how it looks or how it saves time! There’s no more shopping, loading the tree to take home, or trimming of branches.

Tips for decorating your Christmas tree

Since we’ve upgraded to a bigger tree I had to update and add to my Christmas decorations collection too. I don’t want to spend a fortune on seasonal decorating so thanks to a few smart purchases I’m able to do it without breaking the bank.

Buy Decorations that have Flexibility

Create a foundation for Christmas tree decorating that will flourish and give you more options year after year.

These tips for decorating your Christmas tree will insure you can change it up year after year.

  • Buy a large boxed set of ornaments. I bought a set of 82 ornaments {Sam’s club for $32} in a gold and silver combo. There’s a mix of shapes, sizes, and textures to keep it interesting, and it blends in perfectly with any room.
  • Choose neutral colors. I chose the pack of gold and silver ornaments for a few reasons. First of all, I get bored easily and like to change my decor every year. Having a basic set of gold and silver ornaments means I can buy fewer “statement” pieces and fill in with the gold and/or silver to cover the tree. This same rule will work with an all white set or clear ornaments too.
Christmas decorating tips

HOSTESS TIP: Buy a large set of neutral ornaments to start your collection. Gold, silver, white, or clear can mix and match with any other Christmas theme you may want to create going forward.

When you have a collection of ornaments that are in a neutral tone, you can alter the look or theme of your tree each year. Use them as the base for the décor and then add 10-20 specialty ornaments to create a specific theme.

The specialty ornaments will stand out as the theme of the tree while the neutral set simply adds filler.

gold and silver decorations on Christmas tree

Decorate Step by Step

Here’s some advice I’ve gotten from design professionals over the years, as well as things I’ve discovered on my own. Everything is done in layers following a specific method. Follow these tips for decorating your Christmas tree. *affiliate links included

Start with Lights

Buying a pre-lit artificial tree makes it so much easier to decorate. The branches stand up to the weight of the ornaments without sagging, and you can bend them when needed to help support hooks or other decorations.

  • If you do use your own lights, use the same number of strands (100 mini lights per strand) equal to the height of the tree. For instance an 8 foot tree would have 8 strands, or 800 lights.
  • I have found it’s easiest to add lights in an up and down pattern, moving around the tree as you go. Just start at the bottom making sure you can plug the cord into the outlet. Nestle the lights into the branches all the way to the top, and then back down again, back up, down, and so on. It’s a lot easier than adding lights horizontally and moving around and around the tree.
  • Add lights to the inside near the trunk to add dimension to the tree. It’s one of the most overlooked parts of decorating but it makes such a difference.
How to decorate a tree for Christmas

Add Garland or Bows

After adding lights, move on to garland. You can use wide ribbon, beaded strands, or any number of styles that can swag around the tree.

  • Space the garland evenly around the tree so there’s about the same amount of distance between each horizontal row.
  • As you hang the garland make sure to give it some “movement.” If you’re hanging ribbon twist it, bend it, and lay it loosely on the limbs. If you use beads make sure you let it hang and droop as it wraps around. You don’t want your garland to look like it’s pulled too taught.
  • If you don’t want to add garland you can add thick ribbon knots or bows. Place them in a zigzag pattern equally distanced from each other.
  • In lieu of hanging strands of garland, you can place a large bow on the top of the tree and let matching ribbon hang down from it so you get a vertical affect instead of horizontal. 

How to Hang the Ornaments

One of my favorite tips is to forego those awful old fashioned ornament hangers that are so annoying to bend back and forth onto the ornament. I love using a mix of these hangers and these. They both are easy to hook on to the ornament ring and come off easily when it’s time to pack everything away. 

I also like that I can get them in gold to match the decorations.

  • When adding ornaments, begin with the largest or most statement-making pieces. Place them in a zigzag or staggered pattern. This will keep the eyes moving around the tree.
  • Just as with lights, place basic ball ornaments on inner branches to help fill gaps within the tree, and to add depth.
Christmas gifts under tree
Christmas gifts wrapped

Don’t forget the Base of the Tree

  • Coordinate a Christmas tree skirt with the tree décor. Or, use an all-purpose white or off white skirt that goes with everything. 
  • You can also use things like throws or table cloths to wrap around the tree base.
  • Add something decorative under the tree to add interest. Add something other than, or in addition to gifts, like mini trees, deer, nutcrackers, mini Santas, snowman, train track, an old wagon or sled, etc.
  • Wrap gifts so they coordinate with the tree décor.
Christmas deer under tree

Coordinate Christmas Tree Details

Here are some final tips to keep in mind as you decorate your Christmas tree this year.

  • Create your own garland and tree topper with wide ribbon. I bought 2 rolls of gold mesh ribbon {2 rolls for $6} from Hobby Lobby. I used one roll to wrap around the tree, and the other to create a “poof” for the top. There’s still plenty leftover to incorporate into other areas, like gift wrapping or the fireplace mantel.
  • Although the ornament sets may come with traditional hooks, get some decorative ones to use instead. They look so much prettier and are much easier to use.
  • For this tree skirt I used a gold velvet throw with feather trim. It’s a great FREE solution for something that can otherwise be pretty pricey.
  • Wrap gifts in paper that coordinates with the tree. Here, I love the music motif on the paper. It’s a neutral theme and has a gold-ish tint. Holiday music is truly one of my favorite things about Christmas! See my coordinating music theme Christmas table here.
  • Using large decorative pieces under the tree is a great way to add another layer of interest to the Christmas tree.
  • Don’t forget to coordinate other areas of your room like the fireplace mantel, bookcases, stair railing, etc. You can see how I coordinated my mantel décor for Christmas here.

Are you excited about decorating your tree and Christmas entertaining? What’s your color palette or theme?

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    1. Erika, it looks like they don’t have the set that I bought, on the website. I don’t know if it’s in the store or not. However, the closest thing would be the Natural Wonder, as it’s in the gold, silver tones.

  1. I’m hosting Christmas for the first time in years which means I have to put up the tree. I love the tree when it’s done but it’s so much work. I use gold, chocolate brown and copper colored glass ornaments, along with some white (or clear) and lime green for punch. I stopped using my Hallmark ornaments sometime ago but still buy them every year. Chris, which tree did you use and was it a one connection, one plug in assembly? Think I’ll go for a slimmer look this year.

    1. Karen, I got the 8 foot tree – it’s linked at the top of the post (3rd paragraph). It comes in 3 layers so each layer plugs into the one it’s attached to. One plug at the bottom goes into the wall with a foot press to turn it on and off.

  2. The tree looks amazing! Love the deer. Puts the finishing touches on it. My own family usually thumb tacks a skydiving bear ornament on the ceiling above the tree. It puts the finishing touches on it.

  3. I am a huge fan of Christmas decoration.Love your Christmas decoration…This Christmas tree is truly magnificent and these silver and golden look wonderful, Chris!This will definitely brighten up your holiday season.

  4. I always do mine early because we host a 100 plus person cocktail party in early December. This is one thing I can control early. We did gold and silver last year and I agree, you can reuse those ornaments with anything. This year, I’m shooting for more of a white look, but the gold and silver look great with it all.

    1. Same here, Jessica. I’m usually scrambling as soon as Thanksgiving is over to get everything ready!

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