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How To Plan a Cozy, Sexy Holiday Date Night

No matter which holigay you celebrate (or ignore, you do you), this time of year is often stressful, exhausting, and expensive. And in spite of the wide variety of Hallmark films and happily-ever-after novels to the contrary, romance can feel out of reach at this time of year. With the pandemic still impacting our world and the holidays around the corner, expanding your idea of what a gift can be might help you feel more inspired, excited, and eager to connect with your favorite person or people. Gifts don’t have to be physical objects — we can also give the people that we love our time, attention, and energy in more experiential ways, showing them that they’re a priority with our words, actions, and intentions. Setting up a sweet, sexy date-night-in for your partner or polycule can be an incredibly meaningful experience, as well as a beautiful way to show your care and affection. If your holidays include sharing a meal, exchanging presents, or visiting family, you might find that integrating some or all of these suggestions can help you carve out intentional time for your special someone, and make sure that they feel cared for apart from everything else that may be happening. And if you’re in a long-term relationship or live with your partner, this can be a thoughtful and loving way to shake things up. (As a note: while this guide was put together with a romantic holiday date night in mind, you could absolutely tweak this to make a sweet and platonic gift evening for a friend, roommate, family member, or anyone that might be craving some love and care. Take what you need and leave anything that doesn’t apply!)

Whether you make this a special date night all its own or incorporate these ideas into a larger celebration, I’ve got everything you need to make a cozy, sexy, romantic holiday date night for your beloved.

Choose the space & time

First, figure out where this date is happening. If you live alone or with your partner, this might feel like a no-brainer, but if you share space with roommates or family, this could take a little more planning. Ideally you can set things up in a room where you won’t be disturbed, like a living room, bedroom, sunroom, indoor patio, basement, attic, or den. If you need to, ask anyone that shares your space if you can have an area or the whole space to yourself for a designated time. And if the only way to guarantee privacy is to set up the date in your bedroom, that absolutely works too.

Pick an evening that you know you and your partner will have free, or are already planning to spend together. If your person likes surprises, this can be a fun thing to have ready and waiting for them — just take care to ensure that they’ll actually show up at the right moment.

Ask them out

You know your person best, but in my experience, building up a little anticipation makes evenings like this even more lovely. Don’t underestimate the magic of saying, “I want to plan a special night for us and I’d like to do it at {this place and time}. I’ll take care of everything — you won’t have to lift a finger.” Planning is sexy, and I will die on this hill. Make sure they have the night free, that they know where to be and when to be there, and then you can start your prep.

Figure out the mood

Are you going for sexy and romantic, or cozy and comfy? Do you want to facilitate intimate conversation, help your partner relax and have fun, or drag them off to bed as quickly as possible? There are no wrong answers, but depending on the vibe you’re going for, you can choose music, activities, and your outfit accordingly.

two smiling black queers reading together in bed

i love when you read me audre lorde

Think about what would be special for both you and your partner, and how you can create the mood you’d like without putting too much pressure on the evening going one way or another. Has your partner been running a mile a minute and is in desperate need of some quiet downtime? Have they been bored and restless, feeling a little stir-crazy with the lack of travel or holiday parties? Has it been awhile since you’ve had time together, just the two of you? This is an evening for them, but you can include aspects that you love as well. Blending your individual interests and needs together can make for a special and personalized night that you both love, and thinking about what they might be craving can help you build a date that inspires and excites each of you.

Gather supplies

Making sure that you have everything that you need ahead of time will make the date itself feel fun, relaxing, and intimate, so do yourself a favor and get organized in advance. Depending on where you’re hosting, you may need to find specific items to help create the atmosphere that you want, or might need to bring things from one place to another. This could mean shopping, borrowing things, or simply gathering items together, but anything you can do to transform the space will make it obvious that you’ve put effort into this event.

Don’t overthink this part! With the pandemic, we’re all spending a lot of time in our private spaces already, so in making an effort to transform a familiar room, you’ll already make the whole event feel special and exciting. You don’t have to do (or spend) much to make an impact.

Extra blankets can help you make an ideal snuggling space on a piece of furniture, or turn an area on the floor into a cozy nest with pillows, rugs, throw blankets, or a thick comforter. Gather up everything soft that you can, or you can purchase some new items to freshen up the space. If your date is happening in a bedroom, this can be a thoughtful way to make a comfortable space separate from the bed.

Candles, either flameless or unscented, instantly make any room feel more beautiful. My favorite trick: tea lights in inexpensive holders can be a great way to transform a space with minimal money and effort. (Plus, most have a burn time of 2-6 hours, so if you wander into another room or get distracted, they’ll eventually safely burn out on their own.) If you want to include a favorite scented candle or two, that can be lovely, but don’t go overboard — you don’t want the fragrance to be too strong, especially if you’re in a small space or will be eating together. You can also use thin strands of battery-operated string lights to add a festive atmosphere.

Music makes a big impact, so consider queueing up a favorite album or two, making a playlist, or finding a readymade music collection that sets the mood you’re going for. If you want to listen to a full album or two, dump them all into one master playlist and let it play through. And if you and your person love to dance, keep that in mind when you’re picking songs — include a few favorites that might encourage you both to get moving and get closer. I took the liberty of making a few different Spotify playlists that you can use: one with holiday instrumentals, one with sweet romantic favorites, and one for cranking up the heat.

Snacks and drinks are a nice touch, particularly if you can put together things that you know your person loves. Wine, cider, sangria, tea, hot chocolate, or mocktails are all great beverage options, and having frozen appetizers, cookies, chips, candies, popcorn, or other things to nibble on can make a simple and inviting spread. A cheese board can make an evening like this feel really special, plus it’s easy to put together ahead of time (or purchase pre-made from places like Whole Foods, FreshDirect, or Murray’s). If you want your date night to include dinner, consider takeout from a favorite local restaurant, or a meal that you can fully prepare in advance like pasta, soup, a sheet-pan dinner, or an InstantPot recipe. (This isn’t the time to try a new dish or go super fancy, unless you truly get pleasure from that idea! Choose something easy that won’t distract you from the most important part of the night: your date.)

Depending on what you’re including, you can set up a sweet little picnic on the floor, or you can set the table for more traditional dining. Do what makes sense here — lasagna might be tough for a picnic, but would make a great sit-down meal.

If you want to include a physical gift or two for your person, consider a gorgeous robe, luxe pajamas, comfortable slippers, a cozy blanket or throw, hot lingerie, a favorite candle, or that sex toy that they’ve had their eye on. Giving them something that goes with the vibe of the date is a lovely and thoughtful touch. And if it’s something that they can wear or use during the date, they’ll also remember how amazing you are every time they enjoy it in the future.

Lastly, consider any extra little touches that might make the space feel particularly special. If your person loves fresh flowers or a particular treat from a nearby bakery, pick some up! If you know they’ve been wanting to hear a new album from a favorite artist or watch the latest episode of a favorite show, have it queued up and ready to go. You know your partner best, and thoughtful details like this can go a long way.

two queers laugh together on a couch while watching a laptop screen

i can’t believe you put clips of all of my favorite queer standup comedians into one perfect youtube playlist!

Organize an activity or two

The point of the evening is to spend time with your person, but sometimes an activity can help you both relax and enjoy yourselves without the pressure to immediately bare your souls or run off to bed. Again, this doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, but instead is about showing your person that you pay attention, that you know them, and that you care about spending time with them. Having a couple of options on hand means you get to choose whatever sounds fun in the moment, without having to scramble for ideas.

Play a card game or a board game. Rent one of their favorite films (consider something festive, something sexy, or a queer classic) and cuddle up. Read to each other. Go on a virtual museum tour, or watch a streaming Broadway musical. Plan a fantasy vacation or road trip. Color together. Put together a jigsaw puzzle. Grab your favorite oil or candle and give each other massages. Slow dance. Write each other personals ads. Tell stories, or write a story together. Make ice cream sundaes, cocktails, or mocktails. Play your favorite video games, and make bets for the winner. Have a singalong to your favorite album, movie, or musical. Read about your Venus signs. Look at old photos. Watch episodes of each others’ favorite television shows. Send each other sexts, or take thirst trap photos of each other. The sky is the limit, but focus on something that you’ll both enjoy, or something that your partner particularly loves to do.

If you like, there are also companies that put together date-night-in-a-box kits and subscriptions, giving you a collection of items and activities that you can use to create a special night together. I would still recommend doing some extra things to make your night more personalized for your partner, but this can be a great place to start if you’re feeling stuck.

Plan your outfit

It’s a date — so plan accordingly! You likely already know what your partner finds sexy on you, so wear something that makes you feel good, and something that you know (or suspect) they’ll love. Pajamas with a robe layered on top, cozy loungewear, your favorite lingerie, a comfortable favorite or something new — no matter what you choose, put together an outfit that gives you a kick of confidence.

And if in doubt, you can always pick up some canonically gay matching pajamas for you and your partner.

Set the mood

You’ve already gathered your supplies, so now it’s time to put it all together.

two white queers cuddle in bed, wrapped in string lights

babe i just don’t think string lights make functional restraints

Start with textiles. Arrange any pillows, cushions, blankets, rugs, or soft items into a cozy space, leaving plenty of options for snuggling and cuddling. Lay out the biggest pieces first, then arrange smaller items on top. Make it as inviting as possible.

Then set up the lighting and sound. Light candles and arrange them all around the room, and if it feels too dark, turn on a few small side lamps — I highly recommend avoiding overhead lighting for this, since you want the space to have a homey, flattering glow. If you like, it can be fun to play a crackling fire video on your television, computer, or tablet for some additional atmosphere (or, if you’re lucky enough to have an actual fireplace, light a fire). Get your music queued up, testing to make sure it’s loud enough to hear but soft enough for conversation.

Next, make sure your food and drinks are ready to go. Set out anything that you want to be immediately available, and make sure you have glasses, plates, napkins, or anything else that you’ll need to enjoy yourselves.

Lastly, get yourself ready! Put on that cozy, sexy outfit, spray your favorite perfume or cologne, and get excited for your evening together.

Enjoy yourself

Remember, this is a special night for you too! You’ve orchestrated a beautiful gift and have already taken care of everything, so now you can relax and enjoy spending time with your beloved. Be present with them, and have a great time together. You deserve it.

a candlelit room set up for holiday date night with a fireplace on the television, and throw blanket visible on the corner of the couch

my naturally dark living room, prepped and ready for holiday date night

coffee table loaded with snacks, drinks, sweets, and a cheese board for holiday date night

a light dinner spread with some of my girlfriend’s favorite cheeses, cookies, and snacks

view of the living room looking at the front of the couch along with my coffee table

alternate view of my couch stacked with blankets and pillows, and my coffee table covered in candles and snacks

view of the coffee table with half-eaten snacks and critical role playing on the television

partway through the date, cheese board partially demolished, critical role on the television. nailed it

Have you planned an evening like this for someone you love, or had a partner do something like this for you? I would absolutely love to hear all about it in the comments.

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Meg is a freelance photographer, writer, and tarot reader living in New York City.

Meg has written 103 articles for us.


  1. This is so lovely, and I will absolutely use it come January to decomp after everything. It also made me think of another thing – if your partner has something they enjoy that you’re less good at, learn some more before doing it on date night! (It made me realise that I always agree I should learn more of their board games but never read the rules in advance myself – and that that would be a lovely surprise!)

    • oh that’s such a lovely thing! yes! secretly learning how to dance / play their favorite game / recite poetry / whatever they’re into is SUCH a thoughtful aspect to incorporate into this date. thank you!

  2. OK this is a great reminder that I haven’t planned a sexy date night for my partner in a really long time. She’s been out of town for a month so I think I have some ideas for when she gets home :) Thanks Meg!

  3. Damn, Meg, this is stellar. So many good ideas and tips and links! And you definitely crushed your own holigay date night :) I’m feeling super inspired to do a platonic rendition for a friend!

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