Event Planning 101: The Office Holiday Party

School has started and the fall weather is creeping in. It may feel like planning for the holidays is still in the distant future. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the time to plan for the office holiday party is now. Lucky for you, I’ve done this hundreds of times, and I am here to guide you along the Christmas party planning process. Here are the things you need to consider when planning your corporate holiday party.


The Holiday Event Planning Timeline

If you think that holiday parties are planned in December, then think again. The planning timeline typically begins as summer is coming to a close, and sometimes even earlier depending on venue availability.

We suggest the following holiday party planning timeline to keep you on track:

  • Summer – Start brainstorming who will attend, budget, and possible venues
  • Late Summer/Early Fall – Book your venue!
  • Early Fall – Plan the details: theme, decor, food and beverage, entertainment, gifts (if they need to be ordered in advance!)
  • Late Fall – Consider the extras: dress code, transportation, awards, miscellaneous details, etc.
  • December – Get final guest counts, final details, and put on the finishing touches

PRO TIP: Save yourself the trouble and hire someone to do the planning for you! We know just the person that can help you out…

Prepare the Guest List

The very first thing to do in the planning process is to decide who will be invited to your office holiday party.

  • Is this going to be an employee-only holiday event? That is typical for events held during work hours or for smaller events themed around giving back to the community.
  • Will you allow employees to bring a guest? For evening and weekend events, it’s a nice gesture to let employees bring a spouse or guest with them.
  • What about a family affair? Sometimes it’s hard for your team members to find childcare during the holiday season. If there are many employees with children, consider having a family-friendly holiday party.
  • Did you think of including business partners and vendors? Depending on your budget, you may want to include your vendors and business partners as a token of appreciation for the work they did throughout the year.

PRO TIP: If you’re flexible, then ask your employees what they would prefer.

Decide on the Type of Holiday Event

Your office holiday party can take on many different forms. What is important is that you pick an event type that will best fit your audience and budget. Here are some of the most popular types of holiday parties.

  • Formal Event – These usually include dinner, dancing, and an upscale entertainment option
  • Casual Get Togethers – Something more casual but still tons of fun and very memorable. Can include children or be kept as just adults.
  • Themed Party – Think ugly Christmas sweaters, favorite holiday movies, a winter wonderland, Santa Claus is coming to town – the theme possibilities are endless!
  • Group Experience or Activity – Take your team on a Holiday Lights Tour around town, bring in someone to lead a holiday painting activity, or complete a community give-back with a holiday CSR event.
  • In Office/Home Event – Catering and entertainment can be brought into any venue, even your home or office. Make the most of your holiday time with everyone in a recognizable location that fits your budget.

PRO TIP: Not sure what type of an event your group would like? Send them a quick survey to find out!

Select the Event Venue

You’ve got your guest list and you know what type of an event you would like to have, now what? Well, next it’s time to secure a venue. This is a big step in the process because everything else will need to fit within the confines of the venue.

There are a number of different types of venues that would be perfect for an office holiday party.

  • Restaurants
  • Bars & Clubs
  • Sporting Arenas
  • Parks & Outdoor Areas
  • Mansions & Estates
  • And so many more places!

PRO TIP: It pays to work with a corporate event planner that has connections to the top venues in the city. They usually can get top availability because they are constantly working with popular venues.

The Best Time to Book your Event Venue

ASAP! Honestly, don’t waste any time. As soon as you know whether a venue will fit your budget, guest list, and date options, then book the venue! Top venues can start to book up as early as the spring, or sometimes even the year before for reoccurring groups. Don’t delay at all when you find the perfect venue. We suggest booking sooner than later.

PRO TIP: If you find a venue you love but you need to get office approval before booking, then ask if they will do a complimentary hold while you get approval.


Office Holiday Party Themes and Décor

You have secured your venue, now you need to figure out the décor and/or theme of the event.

There are many options when it comes to the look and feel of your party. If you aren’t sure where to start, then sometimes selecting a theme can help to guide your décor choices. For example, a winter wonderland theme could include fake snow, snowflake decor, and glistening lighting throughout the venue.

Figure out what décor you like, and then start securing your décor elements. Don’t forget to include table décor, buffet décor, stage décor, perimeter décor, and props!

PRO TIP: Book a venue that decorates the space with their own holiday décor. This will save you some extra money that you can put towards entertainment and holiday gifts.

Holiday Party Food and Beverage

The next big thing you will want to plan is what food and beverage you will include at your event. Will the event be buffet style? Will you offer a plated dinner? What about just doing passed hors d’oeuvres? There are so many food-related things to consider when planning an event like this.

And beyond worrying about the food, you need to also decide on beverages. Will you serve alcohol? If so, are you going to offer an open bar? Or maybe you just want to give out a set amount of drink tickets? Select what works best for your group, and then get started on curating the perfect menu for your guests.

PRO TIP: Don’t forget to plan for dietary restrictions and food allergies!

Holiday Entertainment and Activities

What is a holiday party without a little bit of fun and entertainment? Without entertainment your party is just another work meeting. So why not get some fun entertainers lined up to show your employees that you really care about them. Here are some great entertainment ideas:

  • Full Bands
  • Interactive Song Writers
  • Magicians and Strolling Entertainers
  • Jazz Trios
  • Aerial Acrobats
  • Photo Booths
  • Event DJ
  • A Visit from Santa Claus
  • And so much more!

PRO TIP: Book more than one entertainment element and rotate them throughout the night to keep the event exciting.


Now that you have the major items covered, don’t forget about the finishing touches and extras.

  • Dress Code – Is your event formal or casual? Are you asking everyone to dress in a specific theme, like ugly Christmas sweaters?
  • Gifts – Are you giving away employee holiday gifts? If so, this would be a good time to do it. Or maybe your group is the type that would like to participate in a white elephant or secret Santa gift exchange at the event.
  • Transportation – If you’re offering an open bar, then consider having a shuttle service for attendees. Or you can offer Uber expense reimbursement to your budget to make sure everyone gets home safely.
  • Awards and Recognitions – You have everyone together in one room, so if you are looking for a time to honor anyone, this would be a good opportunity.
  • Onsite Execution – Event planning doesn’t end once you’ve planned everything. You need to make sure there is support from your team to properly set up and execute the entire event that you carefully planned.

PRO TIP: Hire an event professional to handle everything – from planning through to execution – so that you can relax and have a fun time at the event like everyone else!

Well, that’s office holiday party planning in a nutshell! We know from experience that it can be a lot of work. If you’re in need of some assistance with any step of the process (or all of it!) then drop us a line. We are happy to help plan the holiday party of your dreams. But you’d better hurry. The time to start planning is NOW!