The Holiday Office Party

How To Throw a Seasonal Soiree That Your Employees Will Actually WANT To Attend!

partyIt’s that time year again, when most employees are dreaming of hopeful bonuses, time off with their loved ones and some much needed relaxation. But if you are the one who has been tasked with organizing the annual holiday office party, the overwhelming feelings of stress, uncertainty and downright dread may have your seasonal spirits sinking to an all-time low.

After all, for many employees who have spent the past year working over time and attending mandatory client dinners, off-site meetings and around-the-clock email check-ins, the thought of a company party is about as enticing as their annual review.

But, after many years in the business of event planning and helping companies just like yours organize fabulous and fun parties, I am here to save you from the pitfalls of party planning with these four easy steps!

Determine Your Budget
As a party-planner, our first question to each of our clients is always “what is your budget?”. We can create any kind of event you like, but without knowing what monetary constraints we are working with, it’s difficult to begin the planning process. When determining your budget, don’t just think about the food, either. Other important factors to consider are: location (i.e. are you having it at the office or off-site?), liquor, entertainment, decorations, and, of course, how many people will be attending?

Decide What Type of Event to Host
Once you determine your budget, the next step is to decide what kind of party you want to throw. The event should be reflective of your corporate culture so that your staff does not feel uncomfortable and your boss approves of your choice. If your business is very conservative, opt for a party that lends itself to a more buttoned-up crowd.

Make no mistake, this doesn’t mean boring!

It is a celebration, after all. One theme that I find that works well is a wine or beer tasting. This invites employees to interact while engaging them in something that may have otherwise never tried.

For the more adventurous organizations, why not try a cuisine-based theme? Some of the most fun parties we’ve thrown are Southern-inspired seasonal soirees, complete with fried chicken, biscuits, mac n’ cheese, seasonal sangria, and other “down-home” dishes. Or try a “Taste of Italy” with signature Italian dishes and a variety of Italian wines, sodas and gelatos for your guests.

If you are looking to host a non-alcoholic event, why not try a seasonal brunch that features fresh fruit juices, smoothies, a variety of teas and coffee drinks and an assortment of delicious pastries, bagels, omelet station, sandwich and salad counter? This type of party is a lot less formal and allows employees to relax and enjoy themselves without the pressure of dressing up and worrying about drinking too much or finding a ride home. Some companies have even hired a massage therapist or manicurist to come in and give brief massages or manicures to further relax workers and allow them to be pampered for the day.

Announce the Party Early …and Let Employees Know What To Expect
As we all know, the holidays are hectic and trying to carve out time for one more event just adds more stress to an already overwhelming time. So, when you are planning your office party try to organize the event during (or partially during) office hours, if possible. Maybe plan the party to start at 5 PM and allow employees to leave early to prepare? If that’s not possible, make sure to give your staff as much notice as possible to plan ahead. Etiquette typically calls for at least four weeks. But don’t stop there. Make sure that invitees know what to expect when they arrive at the party. If you are not serving dinner, indicate that on the invitation by saying “light fare will be served”. This way, employees know to eat dinner before they arrive or make arrangements for dinner after if they wish. A dress code should also be included on the invite so that no one is left feeling uncomfortable. There is nothing worse than showing up in a pants suit in front of your co-workers who are decked out in ball gowns!

Last, But Not Least…Have Fun!
After all of your work preparing for the perfect party, remember that the point of all of this is for you and your co-workers to have fun! You’ve worked hard all year long and now is the time to enjoy your successes. So, make sure that the event isn’t too stuffy and that guests are taking the time to enjoy themselves. I always suggest imposing a “no shop talk” rule at my events. Meaning that the office party is the one time throughout the year to get to know the nice woman in accounting a little better or to take the time to finally ask your assistant how her honeymoon was—so take advantage! You never know what valuable information you may find out and you may just surprise yourself at how much fun you really can have with your co-workers.

BIO: Marianne Gere and Kim Strengari own three successful restaurants—Stella Blu, Gypsy Saloon and Southern Cross Kitchen — in Conshohocken, PA, (right outside Philadelphia, PA) and ConshyGirl Events and Catering. For more information, visit