It’s that time of year, and the pressure to throw an office holiday party that tops last year’s, is REAL. Whether a large or small company, holiday parties are a great way to show appreciation, celebrate the year’s success, and generate camaraderie in the office. Most importantly, they should be stress-free and fun for all. But, unless you are a seasoned pro, the process of planning can create stress, which no one needs more of this time of year. That’s why, as expert party planners (and party go-ers), we have created this ultimate office holiday party planning checklist to help you plan a memorable bash that will keep office morale way up into the new year. We broke down the planning process into stages to make the everything simple.
1. THE ESSENTIAL TO-DOs
• CHOOSE A DATE & TIME.
When it comes to holiday parties, be aware of the demographic of your office and plan around office holiday hours. Some popular dates for 2016 are December 9th, 15th and 16th. You don’t have to plan around those dates, but if you are, be sure to act fast before as spaces will get booked! Evening events are a fun way to let loose, but may have less attendance depending on employee’s schedules. Luncheons are a great way to up attendance and offer employees the “gift” of having the rest of the day off. If you are on a tight budget, luncheons are also a money saver, as evening events tend to be pricier.
• NAIL DOWN THE GUEST LIST.
Depending on the type of party you are hosting, will play a factor in the guest list. Are you inviting employees only to lunch, having a “significant others included” evening affair, taking a family-included outing to a bowling alley. The number of guests doesn’t have to be finalized until later, but it is good to have a ballpark range. This will help narrow down food choices and venues option for your soiree, which comes in the next step.
• CHOOSE YOUR PARTY PLACE.
Now it’s time to get creative. What type of vibe or ambiance do you want to create? Do you plan to bring in entertainment and decor, or prefer to host the event somewhere like a bar or restaurant, with a pre-determined feel? Restaurants are great for smaller groups, while rooms and event spaces serve a larger crowd. The stress-free luxury a caterer offers is becoming even more popular with office holiday parties. Many organizations choose local venues that already have a caterer, or have a list for you to choose from. Staying in-office? Many caterers offer full-service or drop-off options, making it easy to bring the party to you.
• GET THEME-Y
Now that you have some experts in your arsenal after choosing a venue and/or caterer, talk to them about crafting a theme that suits your office’s personality. Brainstorm with them what an ideal holiday party would look like to you. They are professionals and most likely have a solution to make your vision a reality.
2. MENU & BAR IDEAS
• CHOOSE YOUR FOOD SERVICE STYLE.
Your venue size, guest count, budget, theme and tastebuds, will all help to determine what style of food service will be best for your event. If you envision something casual, stand-up hors d’oeuvres or food stations would be a great choice. If you desire a more formal, upscale feel, a sit down dinner with a nice bar will be right up your alley. Talk to your caterer about choosing an option that will make food fun for your guests.
• HOPE YOU’RE HUNGRY – IT’S TIME TO PICK A MENU.
This step is an important one. You want to make sure you have your menu picked out and approved, before setting other tasks into motion. Many caterers offer a special holiday menu (view ours here!) or will offer suggestions based on your theme. If you are keeping it simple, choose a variety of meats, veggie options and something allergy-free, so all employees can join in on the fun. Schedule a tasting with your caterer if you are really unsure of what you want.
• DON’T OVERLOOK THE DRINKS.
Depending on your office, drinks may be the reason employees attend your holiday party. Speaking with your caterer about their alcohol policy and establishing your own, will keep everyone safe and under control. Drink tickets and a cash bar allow guests to let loose, but also helps to control consumption. But for corporate parties, consider covering the drink costs entirely. Employees work hard during the year, so treat them to an evening where they don’t have to whip out their wallets for anything extra. Consider tying in your theme with a fun signature cocktail. Be sure to include non-alcoholic options for those who prefer to skip the booze.
3. THE FINAL DETAILS TO FINALIZE YOUR OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY
• HIRE ENTERTAINMENT.
Keeps things festive and fun. If your event is more casual, have an activity like Ugly Sweater decorating or trivia. If the event is more formal, consider hiring a DJ. Your theme will help you choose entertainment. If you are hosting your event in St. Louis, check out some of our favorite DJs here.
• CREATE A EVENT LAYOUT & TIMELINE
Create a timeline ahead of time so that the event runs smoothly. Your caterer can assist you with this, but writing it all out is useful for you when planning the event. If you plan to have some sort of entertainment or a speaker, work around when they will perform or speak Other items to outline are arrival, cocktail/bar hours, food service, speaker or speech to employees, employee recognition, gift-giving, more entertainment/mingling and conclusion. Drawing up an event layout helps determine what you can and can’t bring in. The layout also plays a big role in how the evening and traffic flows. Again, talk to your caterer or venue host about this.
• CONSIDER GIVING A GIFT.
Whether a gift is given directly to employees or to charity in the name of employees, ’tis the season. Employees will feel appreciated and you will get the warm-fuzzies all over. Also, recognizing employees verbally is a great way to let them know you appreciate them.
• SEND OUT THOSE INVITES.
If you have a larger office, communication is important in getting the word out for your party. Design a simple flyer/email (you can find many great templates on the web), or even put personal invites in everyone’s mailboxes. It gives employees a sense of exclusivity and you will more likely elicit an RSVP versus having to track individuals down.
• DOUBLE CHECK
The week of, go back through your checklist, check-in with your caterer, venue, and entertainment to make sure everything is ready to go. Take a deep breath and get ready to have an amazing office holiday party!
For Party Planning Tips in The St. Louis Area
If you are in the area and need a little help with party planning, give us a call today to speak to one of our expert event planners–> 314-991-6700 or browse a sampling of our menu options HERE. We would love to help make your party not only dazzling, but exceptionally delicious!
Interested in some of the latest Fall Food Trends? Check out our favorites here.
Download the ultimate office holiday party checklist HERE for yourself!