7 Christmas tree decorating mistakes everyone makes

Cluttered Christmas tree decor
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

There’s nothing quite like decorating a Christmas tree to get you into the holiday spirit. But it's easy to get carried away with wanting to create the perfect tree. In fact, these common mistakes could make our trees look more ghastly than glam, and should be avoided at all costs! 

Ranging from an overload of decorations to bare branches, if your Christmas tree is not ‘dressed’ properly, it could look either tacky or tired. Luckily, you don’t have to be a professional to create a tree straight from a Hallmark movie. Just be sure not to make any of these Christmas tree decoration mistakes, and impress your guests this holiday. 

Also, try not to make any of these Christmas decorating mistakes either! Also, ever wondered which is better: real Christmas tree versus fake? Here's the answer.

1. Not starting with the lights first 

Christmas tree lights

Christmas tree lights (Image credit: Shutterstock)

It’s a common mistake we all make, but it’s far easier to add the lights first before decorating the tree. This way, you won’t have to work around the baubles or other trinkets, and end up with a tangled mess of cables showing. What’s more, you don’t want to ruin the overall aesthetic of the tree. If you want to achieve brighter lights however, check out this TikTok Christmas tree lighting hack that is a game-changer. 

In addition, make sure you’re using the right lights for your tree, especially if you have a real tree. Typically, regular string lights emit heat which tend to dry out the branches, whereas LED lights don't give off as much heat — and are more energy efficient, too. 

2. Putting heavy decor at the top of the tree 

Woman hanging a bauble on a Christmas tree

Woman hanging a bauble on a Christmas tree (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best method of decorating a Christmas tree is to place the heavier or larger items at the base of the tree, and work your way up. Any medium-sized or smaller ornaments should be placed in the middle and top. Not only will this look more visually balanced, but will prevent the tree from looking as though it will topple over any minute by the heavier items.

3. Not spreading out the decorations evenly 

Clustered baubles on tree

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Another mistake we often make is to clump our decorations at the front or outermost branches, and ignoring the rest of the tree. Experts advise to evenly spread the decorations around the Christmas tree, but not symmetrically. Also, place some a few inches back into the innermost branches to add depth, and make it more layered.  Most trees are visible all around, especially with the lights on, so you don’t want any bare branches or patches on show. 

4. Far too many decorations (or too little!) 

Cluttered Christmas tree decor

Cluttered Christmas tree decor (Image credit: Shutterstock)

While we may enjoy shopping for new decorations, there is a danger of going overboard. Rather than cluttering every inch of the Christmas tree with dazzling decor, keep it simple. Instead, choose a few of your favorites, and  keep them to a minimum, ensuring you can see some greenery and lighting.  Having an abundance of festive ornaments and styles covering the entire tree can easily make it look tacky. Similarly, not having enough decorations to dress your tree, will make it look bare, and lacklustre. So it’s important that you get the balance right.  

5. Not choosing a theme 

A decorated pink Christmas tree

A decorated pink Christmas tree (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Another common mistake is incorporating a lot of themes or colors, instead of sticking to one. As a result, your tree will look like an overwhelming mish-mash of styles or colors. Just like decorating our homes, themes can make Christmas trees look more curated, and neat. Whether you prefer classic or contemporary, or purple and white, choose a theme, and stick to it. Once you have a consistent theme, and limited color scheme to work with, this will make the overall look more stylish, and easy on the eye. 

6. Tinsel overload 

Christmas tinsel on tree

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Tinsel is known to add a bit of festive sparkle to a Christmas tree, but draping too much can ruin the overall aesthetic. If not done properly, it can hide or drown out the beautiful festive ornaments on your tree. Worst case: too much tinsel can make it look garish and cheap. If you must, use tinsel sparingly or leave it out completely. You can always use stylish ribbon or other garland beads such as this Klikel Christmas Clear Iridescent and Gold Bead Garland ($19 (opens in new tab), Amazon (opens in new tab)), to drape around the tree, which looks far more sophisticated.  

7. Not having the right tree topper 

Christmas tree topper

Christmas tree topper (Image credit: Shutterstock)

A beautiful tree topper is the icing on the cake, but a common mistake is getting one that doesn’t suit your Christmas tree. With so many different shapes and sizes, it’s important to choose a topper that is in scale to your tree, or else it will look disproportionate. If you didn’t want a traditional star, why not tie a plush bow, opt for faux blooms or even fancy feathers? There is a topper style to suit every Christmas tree, and make an impression! 


If you're after alternative Christmas tree ideas, check out these 5 festive ways to decorate a Christmas tree. Or you can always learn how to grow a Christmas tree and keep it for next year.  And if you have pets, here's how to keep cats out of the Christmas tree. Want to recycle your real tree after the holidays? Here are 7 clever ways to reuse your real Christmas tree.

Next: Looking for something to watch this Christmas? Check out the 10 best Hallmark Christmas movies.  

Cynthia Lawrence
Homes Writer

Cynthia Lawrence specialises in Homes ecommerce, covering all things homes and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 


Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.


With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!