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Guide to Corporate Holiday Party Planning

Guide to Corporate Holiday Party Planning

The festive season is a time for cheer, and what better way to celebrate the year's successes than with a holiday party? As the year winds down, there's no better way to cap off all your team's hard work and achievements than with an event everyone will remember for all the right reasons.

Planning a corporate holiday party is simple when you break it down into manageable steps and delegate with a dedicated team. This guide will give you all the information you need to start organizing your event, from setting up a budget to choosing a venue and everything in between.

How Do You Plan a Corporate Holiday Party?

Before you start researching or making decisions, assemble a party planning committee. Your team should include diverse individuals from across the company with different strengths and perspectives to ensure the event meets everyone's needs and expectations.

Then, outline the planning tasks you need to complete as a team and delegate them accordingly. For example, you can have two people work on designing and sending invitations, and you might ask another few committee members to find a venue. By creating a plan and giving everyone a specific job, you avoid becoming overwhelmed and ensure you check everything off your corporate holiday party planning checklist.

As you go through the planning process, always remember your employees. This event is meant to celebrate them, so you want to include their input as much as possible. Sending out a poll or another type of form with questions and spaces for recommendations can help you create an event that truly impresses everyone.

If you need professional help, Food For Thought can help you plan your corporate event and take care of all the delegations for you.

Key Considerations for Your Party Budget

Every great holiday party begins with a budget. As you plan the key aspects of your event, create a budget to help make sure you don't go overboard on spending. Here are a few essential expenses to consider:

Key Considerations for Your Party Budget
  • Venue: Get quotes for several venues in the area and compare them. While your budget shouldn't be the only determinant in which venue you choose, choosing a place you can afford is important.

  • Catering: Your catering budget should likely include appetizers, a main course, desserts and drinks. If you're planning to supply alcohol, you could offer a cash bar or cap each attendee at two drinks to save money.

  • Entertainment: Choosing a local band or DJ is often your best bet for entertainment that doesn't cost too much. Otherwise, you may want to think about more unique entertainment options, like magicians or comedians.

  • Decorations: The venue you decide on may have some decor you can use for the party, but you should expect to supply some of your own, too. This is a great task to allocate to someone on your team.

  • Gifts: Putting together a small gift bag for each employee to take home can be a terrific way to express your gratitude.

As with all financing, it's a good idea to create cushioning in your party budget — 10% is a helpful buffer for a "just-in-case" situation.

How to Choose the Right Event Venue

Selecting the right venue is one of the larger challenges in party planning. The location will set the tone for the experience, whether it'll be a large, chic affair or an intimate gathering. The venue's site needs to be convenient for the majority of your attendees and ideally accessible by public transportation with ample parking.

Note that your chosen venue may impact the kinds of entertainment you provide. Does the venue have audio-visual equipment? Is there a stage or dance floor? Consider this aspect of each venue you tour to ensure you can offer your attendees the most fun possible.

Catering is also a top consideration when choosing between venues. Some venues request that you use their catering services, while others allow you to bring in your own catering. Depending on your guests and budget, one option may be better than the other, which we discuss in more detail below.

Overall, the venue you decide on with your party planning team should be accessible for all guests and accommodate the activities and entertainment you plan to have.

Planning Themes and Decorations for Your Office Christmas Party

The theme is your party's personality, so pick one that fits your company culture and excites your team. Similarly, the decorations you choose are the finishing touch to creating a festive atmosphere that invites warmth and camaraderie.

In need of some inspiration for a party theme? Here are a few classic holiday party ideas:

Planning Themes and Decorations for Your Office Christmas Party
  • Traditional Christmas: Think silvers, reds and whites. Add in twinkling lights and some artificial snow to finish it off.

  • Tropical holiday: Step away from cold, wintery nights and go for a “Christmas in July” atmosphere. Use bright colors and set up floral arrangements with some inflatable palm trees and surfboards.

  • Retro party: Bring out the neon lights and add the disco balls. You could also use black light and tell your guests to wear white to make themselves glow on the dance floor.

Focus your decor on these areas:

  • Lighting: Use soft lights for intimacy or bright lights for energy. You can add lights on stands or hang them around the venue — see if the venue can help you achieve the perfect lighting arrangement.

  • Centerpieces and tabletops: Your venue will likely provide tables, so you can add centerpieces and other table decor to tie your theme together.

  • Entrance: A well-decorated entrance can set the expectation and excitement as guests arrive. You can have a simple welcome sign or a festive archway. Include a photo backdrop for your employees to take pictures together.

If you're struggling to come up with ideas for decor, or you don't want to go out of your way to purchase decorations, ask your caterer if they can help. This option may cost extra, but you can save time by allowing the catering and venue staff to decorate instead.

Ideas for Party Entertainment and Games

Entertainment and activities ensure your event is a memorable party. Music can come in the form of a DJ spinning tracks or a live band with a guitar and drums. If you're unsure what to choose, poll your office to see what they'd prefer and choose the highest-voted option to please as many people as possible.

Usually, a presentation or speech happens at end-of-year parties to acknowledge everyone's work for the year. You can add to this by recognizing specific achievements or handing out employee awards. Putting together a video compilation can ensure you have a great visual backdrop to keep people interested during this part of the party.

Activities are a necessity for keeping your guests entertained and encouraging interactions among them. Here are some ideas:

  • Holiday trivia: Put together trivia with fun facts about the holidays, like traditions, movies and songs. If you want to do a more company-focused trivia session, ask employees to send you facts about themselves before the party, and everyone can try to match the facts with the employees at the party.

  • Photo booth: Photo booths offer guests a fun way to make memories with each other. You can have a themed photo booth with a backdrop and props or opt for a classic white background, depending on your company and your party's theme.

  • Best-dressed competition: If your event theme involves a specific attire, consider having your guests vote on the best-dressed attendees.

  • Scavenger hunt: You might create a scavenger hunt for each department to complete as a team throughout the night. For example, get everyone to find the mistletoe, the singing elf or complete random tasks like do the hula-hoop. Offer a prize for the team that completes the scavenger hunt first.

  • Gingerbread wars: Organize teams and give each one a gingerbread house kit. After each team builds their houses, have them vote to determine the best one. The winning team gets a prize.

  • Karaoke: Karaoke is a classic party activity. Set up an area with the right equipment so people can perform as they like, or hold a tournament for a bit of competitive fun.

Putting Together Event Invitations

A general rule is to send party invitations two months in advance of the day of the party. This way, you give your employees ample time to determine whether they can make it.

Use invitations that mirror your planned theme and include all the necessary details, including the date, time, location and dress code, if applicable. Ideally, your invitations will answer all your guests' questions about the event. Otherwise, it may help to create a website for your event and offer an FAQ section, so you don't burden your team with answering questions throughout the planning process.

Include RSVP cards with your invitations or provide instructions for how recipients can RSVP online. These numbers are essential for helping you decide on catering and seating. Be sure to set a specific RSVP date, so you can make all of your accommodations in advance.

How to Decide on Party Catering

In many cases, party catering is what guests look forward to most when attending these events. You can wow your attendees with delicious and unique food and drink options that impress them from the first appetizer all the way to the last bite of dessert. Hiring a caterer for your event is the best way to ensure you provide a tasty menu while meeting all of your guests' dietary preferences.

How to Decide on Party Catering

Your caterer will help you plan the perfect assortment of dishes that match your theme and provide variety. Some questions to ask yourself and considerations to discuss with your caterer include:

  • Will you serve a sit-down meal or offer a buffet?

  • Do you want to provide dinner, or is a variety of appetizers and desserts better?

  • What allergies and food preferences do guests have?

  • What will you provide? Is there anything you need to supply?

If possible, schedule a tasting and bring members of your planning committee with you. This way, you can get a better idea of which foods and drinks will work best for the majority of your guests. It's also a great idea to ask your employees for food allergies and preferences before you set the menu — including a section for this on the RSVP cards or sending a quick email can ensure you accommodate everyone.

Beverages are another consideration. Make sure you provide various drink options for guests, including water, soda and fruit juice. Coffee and tea are also standard drinks to serve during dessert. If you plan to serve alcohol, ask your catering company how they can help you craft themed cocktails and mocktails.

Bring in Food For Thought for Your Corporate Holiday Party

At Food For Thought, we like to think of ourselves as more than just a catering company bringing food to the table — we aim to craft menus that ignite conversation and complement your celebration with creative, delicious dishes. When you work with us, we can create an entire meal experience for your employees, from a diverse buffet with accommodating options to custom-built food presentation pieces.

Did you know we even plan your corporate party for you? Food For Thought Event Group includes a team dedicated to logistics, operations, admin and culinary leadership, allowing us to plan every aspect of your corporate holiday event. Let us handle choosing the right venue, setting up custom signage, creating interactive experiences and much more.

It all starts with a consultation, where we meet with you and your team to determine your goals and expectations. With over 40 years of experience catering and planning events in Chicago, we have an extensive list of vendors and venues that can meet your needs to create a memorable event. Throughout the process, we'll check in with you to ensure every aspect of planning is on the right track.

Whether you're interested in planning your own event and hiring us for catering or allowing our experienced team to plan everything for you, Food For Thought can work with you to build a corporate party this holiday season. Ready to start planning? Contact us online today!

Bring in Food For Thought for Your Corporate Holiday Party


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