Everyone stands around and barely speaks to one another. Everyone over-drinks and trashes the venue. Your company holiday parties can be at either end of this spectrum or anywhere in between. Whether the company holiday party has fallen on your “to-do” list this year, or it’s always your event to make spectacular, consider this checklist for holiday party-planning that will keep you on the right track for a successful and happily memorable event!

Select The Type Of Event & Budget

These two items go hand-in-hand so you can’t choose one without some idea of the other. If you’re budget is tights, perhaps a casual luncheon would be the best option. Food would be less expensive and there is less expectation of offering alcoholic beverages. Will your event be more extravagant for just the management, or company-wide? Will clients be invited? Deciding on these variables will help you determine a reasonable budget, which you will want to have as you begin your planning, if one is not given to you. You don’t want anyone to be surprised at the final bill for your fabulous party.

Talk To Your Co-Workers

The best company parties are the result of including something for everyone. The only way to know what people think would the most fun is to ask. Create a party planning committee made up of a representative from each of the departments or areas of yoru company that will be included in the party. This group will be vital in collaborating about the type of party, the theme, the food, the decorations, the venue and the activities. You can even create sub-groups to handle each of these elements so you don’t have to do all the work. If a committee isn’t possible for you, consider using the expertise of an experienced party planner from your party supply vendor. They have years of experience and can make your planning easy and fun.

Make A Guest List

This is especially important and delicate if you are working with a limited budget. Setting a proper number of party guests before creating your list of invites can help you narrow the options. Decide if you will include spouses, dates and/or children at the party. Employees usually appreciate the opportunity to bring their family, but you don’t want to invite so many people that your budget will not properly feed and entertain your guests. You also don’t want to forget that important client or vendor. Once compiled, be sure to run the guest list by your boss to confirm your choices.

Choose The Best Date & Time

Most companies schedule their holiday parties on a Friday night during the second or third week of December. If you didn’t plan way ahead, you may find your venue and caterer options limited. Work with the options you have to create an available date and time for your holiday party. If all of the weekend nights are booked, think about hosting it on a Saturday or even a Thursday evening. Chances are you’ll get better pricing on those days anyway. Set a time that works for your particular company. If most of your employees have a long commute home, you may want to schedule it closer to the end of the work day. If transportation isn’t a problem or your inviting families, you may want to give employees time to get home, change, pick up family members and return.

Choose A Venue & Caterer

Once you have selected your date, the search is on for a caterer and venue that is available for your selected date. If your hosting your part at the office or at your employer’s private residence, the venue is clearly much easier to obtain. If you’re choosing an off-property party place, look for all available options and check pricing for each. Besides hotels and restaurants, you might consider a country club, a residential clubhouse, or a service organization hall such as the VFW or Eagles. Some companies find unique party venues by renting out public areas such as the zoo, museum or art gallery. Once a venue is set, you’ll know more about your catering needs. Some venues like restaurants and hotels, come with their own built-in catering and will not allow you to bring in outside food. For others, you can choose a caterer that meets the needs of your event – whether you’re having a fancy sit-down dinner or a dance party with hors d’oeuvres. You will want a caterer that can handle providing for food allergies or other dietary restrictions of your guests. Find out if your caterer can serve alcohol, if that is a component of your holiday party, and what types. Make sure your caterer has plenty of staff to provide the service you are looking for. Some caterers will already have holiday or other theme menus ready for your selection, which makes planning a little easier.

Organize Activities/Theme

One of the most important keys to a successful holiday party is planning for a theme and activities at the event. The theme or type of party you plan will also determine dress code. Do you want your guests to dress in formal or casual wear – or something in between. Perhaps your holiday theme can be coordinated with what your guests wear, such as a country, masquerade, or 80’s themed party. Or perhaps you want to stick with the holiday theme, you could choose White Christmas, Candyland or Winter Wonderland. If you want to request formal attire for an upscale event, just be sure your food, decor and activities match the same level of sophistication. Casual attire can lend itself to parties with many activities, games and for lower budgets.

Once your theme is selected, choose the activities and entertainment that fit with that theme. If you’re having an 80’s dance party, consider employing a DJ with lights and renting a dance floor for evening entertainment. If you aren’t keen on a DJ and dancing, consider a jazz ensemble or even creating a theme-related playlist for the overhead speakers. You could also ask local school or church choirs to perform at your event. You can add photo booths, karaoke stations, ugly sweater contests, gingerbread house building, giant Jenga and various other games and activities to add to the party atmosphere. And don’t forget decor. From elegant floral centerpieces and candles to disco balls and cardboard cutouts, party decor that compliments your theme will help make your theme come alive.

Send Invitations

Next on your list is to create and send out your invitations. Holiday party invitations set the tone for your event from the start so it’s important to take some time choosing the right one to fit your occasion. The invitations should reflect the holiday party’s theme as well as the dress code. Let your guests know if you expect them to show up in long dresses and bowties. Email invitations usually suffice for a company party, but if your party is a very formal event or has a theme, you may want to send out a mailed invitation. Send out invitations at least a three weeks in advance and request an RSVP by a certain date so you can plan for food, space or things like table and chair rentals.

Arrange For Gifts/Party Favors

Holiday parties are a perfect time to show your employees how much you value you them with a special gift. Whether it’s a company bonus, a gift card, or just a special party favor, those who attend the holiday party will feel gratitude for the gesture. Most employees appreciate party favors that reflect a personal connection such as a calendar with photos or even some homemade jams. Party favors can give guests a lasting impression of your special event and the more thoughtful the favor, the more positive the memory.

Make A Plan For The Event

Once all the planning is finished and the details are finalized, turn your attention to the actual day or night of the party itself. Create an agenda for the holiday party to make sure it runs smoothly. The agenda should outline timing for arrival, cocktails/appetizers, dinner/lunch, talking points, employee recognition, gift-giving, entertainment, and closure. You might consider designating a few people as hosts or hostesses and give them the job of welcoming all guests, make sure they are directed to their tables, know where the food is, and don’t have any questions. You may also want to designate who will speak to the guests at some point during the evening. Perhaps the president or owner of the company, if they are willing and available? Or, think about asking someone who is well-loved in the company, maybe an employee of the year?

We’ve made the list, now you can check it twice! Make sure you’ve arranged all of these details and you will have an amazing holiday party for all to enjoy! Remember, the most important thing is having time together with your fellow co-workers focusing on the atmosphere of joy and celebration. If you’re planning your event in or around New York City, consider contacting Cabaret Tent and Party Rental for all of your party supply needs. From tents and dance floors, to dinnerware and linens, we have the special touches that will make your holiday party truly special. Give them call at (718) 356-8500 today!