This Surprisingly Fun Icebreaker Turns Your Party Guests Into Fast Friends

published Nov 15, 2023
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Overhead view of a hand writing out a place card on a colorful holiday table.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Margaret Ward

Make holiday entertaining less frantic and more fun with our guide to the best hosting hacks and tips. This content is presented in partnership with Shipt; it was created independently by our editorial team.

You might not say it out loud, but almost everyone hopes their holiday party will be unique enough for guests to remember for years to come. With so many to compete with, it’s hard to imagine what kind of “it” factor sets a party apart. Well, look no further than this brilliant place card icebreaker idea. 

When Meg Glasser began planning her wedding in 2012, she and her now-husband, Jason, had a single goal: Everyone would have a good time. In the spirit of making a 120-person reception more intimate, she created a surprisingly fun icebreaker, taking inspiration from how she’d usually introduce guests at a party: “I’d say, ‘This is so and so; they [insert fun fact].’” For the wedding, Glasser melded her simple intro with a formal dinner necessity: place cards. 

“I saw an idea on Pinterest of putting information inside or on the back of name cards,” she says. “That’s when I had the inspiration to combine the two.” Glasser wrote a fun fact about each wedding guest on the back of their place card so the person across them could see it. The result made everyone feel like they were spending the night with old friends. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Margaret Ward

To help you borrow this idea for parties big and small, I asked Glasser exactly how she executed her plan and consulted a party planning pro about the best way to use this concept at your next holiday fete. 

Why You Should Embrace This Icebreaker

Glasser’s method takes forced introductions to a new, less corny level, says Lisa Lafferty, CEO and founder of Lisa Lafferty Events. Plus, you help guests come up with interesting conversation topics and avoid awkward silences. “It gives guests a sense of personalization,” Lafferty says. 

Glasser recounts how a fun fact about a chicken coop sparked a convo that led to her middle-school friends taking a trip to visit friends of her parents to see the animals. “They had such a good conversation!” she says. 

How to Generate Your “Fun Facts”

To make this project a reality, Glasser and her now-husband brainstormed ideas for each guest as RSVPs rolled in. “Some facts were decidedly more fun than others,” she says. 

Lafferty says you should choose a tidbit to make each of your guests feel special. “Just make sure that you aren’t doing a fun memory for every other guest and something that is clearly impersonal for [another individual],” she says. For guests they didn’t know as much about, Glasser and her groom turned to their parents for help with information. Glasser focused on low-risk options like “just moved to New York” and “has a new puppy.” She then seated people with guests they would have something in common with. This is a great way to break up groups who might naturally be seated together at your holiday party, like work friends or neighbors.

At more intimate gatherings where most people might already be familiar with one another, it could be hard to surprise anyone with a new fun fact. In this case, Lafferty suggests a pivot. “Rather than doing a fun fact, highlight the way that the guest met the host and the significance of that meeting,” she says. 

The Supplies You Need to Pull This Off

You’ll have to be extra organized since you don’t want to risk mixing up fun facts. Keep all your guests’ info straight in a spreadsheet, or jot down the facts and designate a place to store them. 

You’ll also need something to write the fun facts on, like tented cards or heavyweight cardstock, as well as lettering tools, such as fine-line pens, a calligraphy set, or a plain old printer.

If you’re hosting a more formal sit-down dinner, you’ll want a seating chart to keep everyone organized.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Stylist: Margaret Ward

Tips for a Party Without a Seating Chart 

Create a plan for how to get the cards to each person before they sit down to eat. For example, if you’re serving food buffet-style, you could put these place cards near where people pick up their plates and napkins, allowing them to take the cards and then find their seats.

If you’ll have people mingling throughout your home all night, you could put the cards near the drinks and ask each person to near wherever they hang out for the evening.

What to Do If You Get the Facts Wrong

Lafferty urges double-checking your work so you don’t make a “guest feel like you don’t know or care about them.” But if honest mistakes happen, she says to “pivot to a different story or anecdote in the moment and then apologize.” Make it quick and direct. 

You could even turn your misstep into a self-deprecating joke, saying, “I guess my next ‘fun fact’ will be about that time I mixed up icebreakers while hosting a dinner!” 

Facts to Avoid

“Stay away from anything risky, whether that’s an embarrassing moment … or something else they wouldn’t want the general public to know,” Lafferty says. A good rule of thumb is to not share anything you wouldn’t expect to see them posting about on their own social media accounts. 

How to Pull This Off for a Bigger Party

Be mindful of the additional time commitment. “For larger parties, this can also become a logistical nightmare,” Lafferty says. She warns hosts to think carefully about whether they can follow through with so many other moving pieces. 

One way to make this job easier on yourself is to create a list of your fun facts and then outsource the rest of the project to someone else. You can hire a letterer or calligrapher to put everything together while you focus on the other party details.