9 Simple Steps to Decorate a Christmas Tree Beautifully

Pictures of Decorated Christmas Trees

If you're wondering how to decorate a Christmas tree like a pro, you're not alone. Hanging a bunch of ornaments, garland, and tinsel on a tree without any thought or plan can end up looking sloppy. Creating a tree that looks like it belongs in a storefront window takes practice, but the task will be easier if you keep in mind a few basic tips.

Steps for Decorating a Christmas Tree Like a Pro

Follow these steps to get the Christmas tree decorated picture-perfect:

Step 1: Select a Tree Location

Before decorating a Christmas tree, make sure it is in the perfect spot. The ideal location for a Christmas tree is in front of a large window in the living room or family room, although homes with pets and/or small children may find this is simply not a practical choice.

Step 2: Gather Matching Decorations

Although a Christmas tree theme is not strictly necessary, many of the professionally decorated trees on display during the holiday season are decorated to create a specific look. Whether you go with a theme or without, now is the time to gather all your ornaments and decorations, so everything is ready for decorating and you can be sure things coordinate. Simple themes are usually the easiest for decorating novices to pull off successfully.

candy cane themed tree

There are a variety of possible themes such as:

  • Blue and silver snowflakes and other winter ornaments would look great on a white flocked tree.
  • Red and white candy cane Christmas tree is fun and whimsical.
  • Rustic ornaments and wild bird decorations looks great in a cabin.
  • Hallmark Christmas ornaments with dates written on them create a memorable tradition.
  • Certain colors, like red, blue, green, gold or silver may stand out in an overall theme, even if the actual items are not related.
  • Parents may want to decorate their live Christmas tree with homemade tree decorations that their children have created.
  • Bakers, cooks, and those with a youthful perspective on the festive tradition may want to create a theme based upon Christmas decorations made from candy.

Step 3: Hang Lights

As a general rule, plan on using at least 100 lights for every vertical foot. This means a 7-ft. Christmas tree would need 700 lights. If your tree is fuller than average, or you like a more sparkling appearance, you may need to use 150 lights for every vertical foot.

Test the Christmas lights before you start to hang them. Start at the top of the tree, leaving approximately six inches between strand loops with larger spaces for a larger tree. Wrap around every major branch, and work your way down. If you are using white lights as your background, consider wrapping a few strands of colored lights around the outside for a special finishing touch.

Artificial Christmas trees often come with lights attached, eliminating the need to add a strand of lights separately.

Step 4: Add Garland

Most experts recommend using two strands of garland for every vertical foot of tree. Beaded garlands look best draped from branch to branch, while ribbon or foil garland is most attractive when draped loosely around the entire tree. Start hanging garland at the top of your tree, gradually increasingly the amount of garland used as you work your way down. Wrap garland around the tree, not vertically.

Step 5: Hang Ornaments

Start decorating your tree with the largest ornaments, spacing them evenly apart. Fill in the gaps with the medium and small ornaments, balancing the shapes for an even appearance. Choose a variety of ornament shapes including traditional ball ornaments, icicles, teardrops, bells, and snowflakes.

If your ornaments have different colors and finishes, hang the shiny and brightly colored ornaments before those with matte finishes and muted colors. Make sure the ornaments hang suspended instead of touching the branches. You can also try hanging some of the ornaments deeper inside the tree to add a sense of depth.

Step 6: Step Back

balanced tree decorations

One thing to keep in mind when setting up the Christmas tree is that it's not uncommon for a tree to look different from various angles. Take a step back to see how everything looks and is spaced. If adjustments are needed, try to adjust one or two ornaments at a time. Moving multiple ordainments at once can create new gaps.

Balanced tree decorations are especially important if the tree is in a rotating Christmas tree stand. These stands turn the tree 360 degrees, allowing a view from every direction.

Children are likely to enjoy decorating the tree, but will not notice if their parents adjust the ornaments slightly after they have gone to bed. However, completely redoing a tree may hurt a child's feelings and may not be worth it, even if it means sacrificing a professional-looking tree.

Step 7: Add Tinsel

Use a little tinsel to fill in any overtly blank spots on the tree. Tinsel can add a lot of sparkle to trees and though it is not appropriate for all tree themes, it can be beautiful when added to certain trees. It is necessary to do this as one of the final steps in decorating. If the tinsel is done earlier, it will be knocked-off when the ornaments are added.

Step 8: Place the Tree Topper

Add the tree topper. There are many different types of toppers on the market. Some families like using the same one every year, while others like to purchase a new one to match their tree's theme. Stars and angels are traditional and are still popular. Alternatively, add a large bow in a color that matches the theme and finials.

Step 9: Add a Tree Skirt

The purpose of a tree skirt is to hide the tree stand and trunk, while catching the pine needles that may fall from a live tree. Even though most of the tree skirt will be covered by your Christmas presents, it's still a good idea to choose a design that coordinates well with the rest of your tree. Making your own Christmas tree skirt isn't too difficult, since there are many free patterns available online. Just keep in mind that the Christmas tree skirt should extend approximately one yard from the base of the tree.

Take Pride in Your Professional Looking Tree

Decorating a tree can create as many good memories as viewing it afterwards, so remember to have fun with the process. With a little planning and some careful attention to detail, almost anyone can create a tree that looks like a professional decorated it. Take pride in your tree and all the work you put into decorating it.

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9 Simple Steps to Decorate a Christmas Tree Beautifully