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How to Plan a Corporate Christmas Party

Updated on August 12, 2013
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Strategies for Planning a Black-Tie Christmas Party for a Corporate Office

In the beginning stages of planning the corporate Christmas party, you must first find out what the budget will be and get approval from the management on what you can spend for the party. Once you know how much money you can spend, the next thing to do is estimate how many employees will actually attend.

A somewhat accurate headcount is mandatory before you can move to the next step -- you can base this number on the previous years’ party, or you can simply count how many employees there are, and add one person as a guest. For example, if there are 80 employees times 2, the estimated headcount would be 160 people.

It is better to have too much space than not enough space at all. Try to secure a venue in February or March of the same year – this way you can have your choice of dates, rather than taking the leftover dates toward the end of the year.

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When selecting a venue, there are several options available such as a local Marriott or Hilton (or any nice hotel chain), a country club in your town, or a banquet center. Country Clubs usually require an employee of your company to have a membership before they rent out their facilities. Call around to these different places to find out if the venue can hold the number of people you need and also do they have free parking. If a venue does not offer free parking, either your company will have to pay, or the employees themselves will have to pay – neither option is good so move on. Local hotels usually have large meeting spaces. Also local hotels and Country Clubs usually employ their own chefs to prepare meals for all their events.

At each venue, make an appointment with the Catering Manager to visit the facilities and to ask questions and discuss the layout of the floor plan, look at menus, and to find out the cost per person. Do you want a sit down dinner or a buffet table? What kind of holiday menus will be offered? Are the menus suited for vegetarians as well as meat eaters? (You have to find out if there are any vegetarians in your office). If you decide on a buffet table, what location in the room will the buffet tables be set up? Which direction will the lines start at? When will the venue need a final headcount (you are supplying the estimated headcount today)? Type up an Agenda for the evening and give that to the Catering Manager as well. A sample Agenda would look like this:

  • 6-7pm Arrive for Appetizers and Socializing
  • 7-8pm Announcements, give outdoor prizes
  • 8-9pm Dinner
  • 9-1am Dancing All Night and Having Fun

If you have a DJ who needs space to set up, ask where will the DJ and the dance floor be set up? If you are not sure which DJ to hire, ask for recommendations from the Catering Manager. More than likely they have hosted many corporate Christmas parties and have connections. Tell the DJ what age range your group is and you would like music played that will get people up there dancing. Also request dinner music for the mingling hour and through the dinner hour. The more details you can supply the better – Catering Managers like it. It makes you look like you have it together. Other questions you should discuss with the Catering Manager:

  • What is the cost for bartenders to man each cash bar?
  • What are the prices for each drink?
  • Which dates are actually available to book the facility? What hours are available?
  • What appetizers are available to choose from?
  • What kind of table decorations can be set up? What color are the tablecloths?
  • Will there be Christmas trees set up for your party? Will there be wreaths to hang around the party facility?
  • Will there be coat racks for employees to hang their coats?
  • Is there an actual coat room, and if so, what are the security arrangements so no personal belongings are stolen (sometimes you can’t be too careful)?
  • Is there a deposit to rent the facilities? If so how much and when is the deposit due?
  • For the smoking employees, is there a place outside they can go to?

Take the time to visit several venues. Take a camera with you and ask the Catering Manager if you can take pictures to show your management team what the place looks like. They probably will not mind you taking photos. Also management will need to decide if this will be a black-tie affair, a business casual affair, or a casual affair, because employees will (not if but when) ask how they should dress for this party.

If any employee happens to drink too much during the evening, country clubs and banquet centers do not usually have rooms to offer for the night. Hotels of course do offer rooms. If you book your party with a hotel, put in your contract you would like to reserve a block of rooms for your party and make sure it is in the contract that if the blocked rooms do not get booked that your company will not have to pay for the unused rooms. Let the employees know that if they want a hotel room for the night, they must book on their own before the deadline (unless of course you have time to do that for them – then you can offer to book their rooms for them). Some companies will offer to pay for a cab ride home for any employee that may drink too much and don’t feel they can drive home. If this is the case, communicate this to the employees a few weeks in advance before the event takes place. Let the venue know this as well – they may have to call a cab.

If you are having a black-tie dressy party, it is okay to have a buffet table and not a sit down dinner. A buffet table does not make a party less classy. My company wants everyone to have a good time and my goal was to make the party as simple, yet elegant, as possible. The buffet table always was a big hit with everyone and it saves so much time versus having a sit down dinner. Employees could go up to the buffet line whenever they felt like it and the line moved quickly. Ask the Catering Manager if the buffet table can be set up so that employees can be on both sides of the table instead of just one side, so the line moves quickly.

Coming Down To The Wire

Type up in an Excel Spreadsheet (or a Word table) the Questions at the left side and the venues which you visited at the top. Fill in the answers for each venue and present it and the photos to management. The first line should be the dollar amounts per person for food and drink. They will make a decision where they want to have the party, and on which date. Once management decides which venue and the date, do the following as soon as possible:

  • Call that venue and book as soon as possible and start processing the deposit check to mail to them.
  • Send out the invitation RSVP email to all employees as soon as possible with the Venue name, date, time, and dress code with a note more details to follow later. This is when you will have a more accurate headcount, especially when it gets nearer to the event. You will need to give the final headcount to the Catering Manager probably 1 week before event.
  • Book a Menu Tasting at the venue you have chosen. They more than likely will be happy to oblige. If there are 1 or 2 coworkers you want to invite with you to get an opinion, by all means invite them. Out of courtesy ask the Catering Manager if this is okay with them. They will say yes of course.
  • Discuss a time with the Catering Manager to go over the final details of the floor plan, menus, and cost per person.

About 2-3 months before the Christmas party takes place, send out an email to all the employees who have signed up to attend. Let them know the directions to the venue, including address and phone number, the agenda above, parking arrangements, the dress code, what to do with their coats, remind them about hotel rooms if necessary, cab rides home, list details about the cash bars, and what food will be served via buffet table or sit down. The employees will appreciate having all this detailed information. It eliminates them guessing when they get there, and helps them relax because they don’t have to think about it. It would not hurt to send out another short reminder to those attending about 2 weeks before the party as well, and then 1 more email reminder the week of. Have a great time!!

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© 2012 Efficient Admin

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    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      at my company a "C-party" meant a lawsuit. And it got worse. Alcohol... liability. Location... insurance. Food... sensitivity. How the world changed.

    • Efficient Admin profile image
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      Efficient Admin 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Hello Mhatter99 - yes I can see how liability could result in many bad endings. Another option would be to have catered lunch in-house at the office during lunch hour. I got the impression at my office that everybody was so happy that we got to even have parties that nobody complained. We are fortunate also that all the employees are responsible drinkers so it all worked out. Thank you for reading and for your comment.

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