Foolproof Festivities — Top Tips for Holiday Party Planning

‘Tis the party season! Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, people have incredibly busy schedules, but somehow, you must entice them to put your holiday party on their calendar. That’s why we’ve pulled together some expert tips on how to do just that!

Q. How far in advance do you begin planning a holiday party?

A. If you’re putting together a big company party for all your employees and their partners (more than 200) you should begin making arrangements 6 months ahead of time, at a minimum. Some planners even start planning a year before their party to give themselves more options and flexibility. That’s because venues and vendors book up quickly. If you’re planning the festivities for a smaller group, 3-4 months out is a good time to start.

Q.The holidays are a busy time for everyone. What factors do you consider when choosing a date for your event that will allow for optimal attendance?

A. As we mentioned earlier, attendees have a lot of commitments around the holidays, so you want to make sure you pick a date and time that works for everyone to optimize your attendance. For an upscale, sophisticated evening gathering, if your heart is set on a December date, book early in the month and be sure to give guests lots of lead time before they’re too booked up to attend. For a smaller gathering, a lunch time event can be a great solution. Who doesn’t like to leave the office early for a good meal and some relaxing down time? Finally, consider holding your event after New Year’s. Once the holidays have passed, guests are more likely to have lots more free time.

Q. What do you look for in a venue?

A. As with any other gathering, choosing a great venue is critical to a successful party. Will your event have a theme? For example, Winter Wonderland. Does your venue’s décor work with your theme and can they accommodate you with décor, furniture, linens, and lighting? What is your budget? Experts recommend that you spend no more than 1/3 of your budget on venue rental. Will there be entertainment at your event? Does the venue offer space and AV equipment to support that? Does your venue cater, or will you have to hire an outside vendor? What about staffing for meal service? Does the venue offer that?

Q. What factors do you consider when creating the menu?

A. Of course, your budget will likely play a big role in determining whether your event is a simple cocktail party, a formal plated dinner, or a casual buffet. Once you’ve decided, it’s time to start planning your menu. Cold weather lends itself to hot dishes, so your guests might enjoy a soup course rather than a salad. For a cocktail party, warm passed hors d’ oeuvres like mini quiches or bacon wrapped water chestnuts are always enjoyable. A buffet is ideal for lots of food choices, from chicken to carved roast beef. Make sure to always include a vegetarian option too. When planning your menu, work closely with your caterer who can tell you which foods are most popular at this time of year.

Q. Do you have any “must-do” or “make sure to avoid” tips?

A. If you decide to serve alcohol at your gathering, it’s a good idea to offer guests some alternatives for safe transportation home. Additionally, you might consider limiting consumption by giving every guest just 2-3 drink tickets. It’s also smart to offer a non-alcoholic option for those who don’t drink.

Remember, your holiday gathering is a great way to build a stronger team because employees can interact with one another in a more relaxed, casual setting than at the office. It’s also an effective way to show your company’s appreciation for all your employees do year-round.

Kris McNeely, Content Editor | meetingpages |

As a freelance editor and writer for more than twenty years, Kris McNeely has had the opportunity to write and edit everything from non-fiction books to blog posts, web content to white papers, ads to articles. She was named an Erma Bombeck Humor Writer of the Month, has been featured in multiple anthologies, and was selected by Amtrak Railway Service as one of five travel writers from among a pool of 1500 applicants nationwide. In her free time, she likes to jog, garden, travel, and spend time with her two kids and three grandchildren.