Office Christmas Party Planning: The Ultimate Guide

office Christmas party

It’s that wonderful time of the year again and you can’t wait until all your gifts are wrapped so you can relax and enjoy your Christmas dinner, or if you choose not to celebrate Christmas, to just enjoy your free time. However, whether you celebrate the holiday or not, there is one thing you can’t ever escape – the office Christmas party.

Well, theoretically you can, but why would you pass up seeing your colleagues sing Christmas karaoke and drink just a bit too much free eggnog?

However, what if the unimaginable happened? This year it’s you who have been chosen to organise your office Christmas party. Well, obviously, there are two ways it can make you feel, either you’re: 

  1. Absolutely excited and have it all figured out; or
  2. You’ve been dreading it and have no idea where to begin.

Whether you’re closer to option A or option B, the bad news is that it’s very possible that you forgot about something in your planning. – that one small detail that can make or break your party. But the good news is that we’ve created a checklist that will guide you from start to finish, and help you remember all the tiny but “oh so important” details that will impress, not only your colleagues but the higher-ups as well.

Organising a Christmas party and looking for a venue that would suit your needs? We’ve got you covered! Check out our free venue finding & booking platform, Tagvenue.com.

Step 1: Start planning as soon as you can

The early bird catches the worm

“First come, first served” takes on a completely different meaning when it comes to Christmas party venues. As funny as it may seem to advise starting to plan your Christmas party in July, it’s the harsh truth. Looking for a venue and booking it early is probably one of the most underrated (and ignored) pieces of advice when it comes to event planning.

Federico Roccatagliata, a Project Manager and an in-house specialist at Tagvenue, endorses this advice:

What I found out after conducting my research on Christmas party venues, was that early planning actually makes a significant difference when it comes to the end result – in this case, the party itself. Our data confirm that all the most popular venues are booked by the end of the first half of September, so starting to look for a Christmas party space months ahead is your best bet to hire your desired venue.

Federico Roccatagliata , Project Manager at Tagvenue

Step 2: Budget appropriately

Money, money, money…

They say that money makes the world go round, but all we know for sure is that money is the most important thing you need to make your Christmas party happen. It will determine the size and the scale of your party and spending your money wisely will save you from disaster. So, the most logical first step is determining your budget before you even start thinking about the venue, decorations, entertainment and food. Be sure to get all the relevant financial details from the person in your company responsible for the budget. Once you know how much money has been allocated for the event, you can create a more detailed plan of how much you will spend on each aspect of the party.

Remember to allocate the budget according to what is most important to your company’s culture. It’s possible that you’ll need to choose between extensive food options and entertainment, or between an open bar and a live band. It is also important to keep a part of the budget as a reserve in case of an emergency or some last-minute re-arrangements.

Step 3: Choose a date, or better yet, a few date options

A wonderful Christmas time

It goes without saying that a Christmas party should be held close to Christmas Day, or at least in December. However, with everyone already in a festive mood and ready for the winter holidays, it might be a bit of a hassle to find an appropriate date. Depending on the size of the team you are organising the party for, you can either create a poll with several potential dates or make the decision on your own. Always consider holding it on Thursdays or Fridays since they are the most appropriate days for a party. After all, who wants to work with a hangover?

Nevertheless, it’s vital to send invitations out ahead of time to ensure a good turnout and ask for confirmation of attendance, since this will help set the course for the ongoing planning process. Don’t forget to spread the word about the event, too. Even if you don’t know all the party details at this point, it’s good to send  “save the date” emails. Moreover, put the date on your company calendar and make sure all the guests get a reminder prior to the event.

It’s likely that by this point you will have a lot of liberty as to what the party will look like and you can start considering whether you want a day or an evening event. This will determine the time you will book the venue. Next, you must consider the size of your team and your budget and decide if the party will be:

  1. Employees only;
  2. Employees and plus ones;
  3. Employees and clients and/or sponsors and/or suppliers.

At this point in the planning process, you can also consider an all-inclusive Christmas party package, which would considerably ease your job as an organiser, since you would have an outside service taking care of the catering, entertainment and cleaning. This is especially recommended if you are planning a big scale Christmas party where any flaw could badly reflect on the whole company.

However, if what you have in mind is more of a relaxed get together with your colleagues, contemplate booking a table for a Christmas dinner at a local restaurant. Or if your company is on the smaller side, why not book a shared Christmas party? It will not only save you money but also give your party the feel of a much bigger event.

Step 4: Find and book the right venue

Baby, it’s cold outside (or hot)

Once you have a date or several in mind, you can start looking for a suitable location. If you’re in the northern hemisphere you obviously have a different selection of venues than in the southern one. There are many types of venues for you to choose from: bars, clubs, restaurants, studios, penthouses, function rooms, gardens, rooftops and many more. Remember when you wrote down your budget? Now this is where it comes into play.

You can either call up the venues your company used in previous years or conduct a search from scratch if you want to go for an original locale. That option might sound a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Our website lets you select the city, capacity and price range, which will make finding and booking your desired venue a breeze.

Make a list of venues that you like the most and contact the managers with a clear explanation of the Christmas party you have in mind. Make sure you ask venue managers the following questions: List of questions to ask when booking a Christmas party venue.

Once you narrow your choices, you can visit the venues and take photos that you can later use while planning the decorations and entertainment. Afterwards, you can either put the venue on hold (ask the venue manager if that’s possible) or book it straight away.

Step 5: Select a theme for your party

Do you want to build a snowman?

This step is not exactly necessary but it can make your Christmas party more fun! Let your imagination run wild, and give your Christmas party a theme! Think themes like The Grinch, Stolen Christmas, Love Actually, Winter Wonderland, or anything else that is close to your heart, Or maybe an inside joke among your team? 

Once you pick a theme, write down a list of the decorations you will need, such as lights, garlands, lanterns, posters, drapes, table decorations and anything else you might think of (and don’t forget to stick to the budget!). No worries if this is not your thing — no one ever go wrong with the classic red, green and gold colour palette and a tastefully decorated Christmas tree.

Make sure you communicate with your colleagues if you expect them to show up in a costume and depending on your budget (and your creativity) you can consider creating posters, or bracelets in the selected theme. The lighting and background music of your Christmas party is going to have a major impact on the final result as well, so don’t let it slip your mind. 

Step 6: Plan activities to go with your party theme

All I want for Christmas is you…

Now it’s time to pick the entertainment! Be prepared for employees to get more and more inclined to dance as the night goes on, so it would be a smart move to start with some background music and later switch to a DJ, a band (if your budget allows it) or your own playlist. However, music is not where the entertainment part of your party ends.

You should also prepare some fun activities throughout the night such as a gift lottery or a costume contest. Christmas karaoke is also high on the list of favourites, as well as Christmas movies trivia or gingerbread cookie decoration. Don’t worry that you will have to come up with these things all on your own.  The internet lists many fun activities that you can choose and plan without breaking a sweat.  Of course, a lot depends on the size of your event. Providing entertainment for 300 is a much different deal than organizing a few party games for 30. But don’t worry, you have given yourself plenty of time to make your plans. Don’t forget to mention your intentions to the venue manager and check if there is a built-in sound system, a microphone or anything else you might need at the venue already or if it will need to be rented as well.

Consider hiring a professional photographer to commemorate your party, or if your budget doesn’t allow it, ask a friend or colleague who is interested in photography to step in for a small compensation. Setting up a photography corner – or a photo booth – with funny props and costumes is a famous crowd-pleaser, so definitely consider investing your time in that.

Step 7: Choose the caterer, plus food & drink options

A cup of good cheer

Once you have the place and the time, you need to think about the food and drinks. An external caterer is always an option, however, many venues offer in-house catering, which is usually the less expensive choice. You can just pick the menu and let the venue staff do its magic.

The next step really depends on your budget, you can have a several course meal, a buffet or even just finger food. Along with the invitation, you should ask your colleagues to indicate their dietary needs and maybe even vote on the drink of the night. Not many people know that this part is something they can be creative with! Ask for mulled wine, a Christmas punch or even eggnog if you’re brave! Again, depending on your budget, you can have either an open bar or maybe only the drink of the night and soft drinks for free and offer the rest for a lower price. Some venues even allow you to bring your own alcohol, which can really make a difference money-wise.

Write down a list of your attendees who will have special dietary needs. This will help you to plan your menu appropriately. In the case of specific serious allergies, consider not including the item in the food options at all, or fully inform the venue, the waiters and your colleague about any potential dangers.

Step 8: Make sure everyone gets to the party

Dashing through the snow (or sand)

Ensuring that everyone can get to and from the venue safely is one of the most important tasks. Depending on what time your event starts, you could expect a large group to be going there straight after work. The best solution for a smaller group of people would be to either order taxis or use ridesharing apps. For a big group, it could be a good investment to hire a private minibus or bus. Some people will opt to go home and change before the party and then drive or commute to the party, so make sure to take a look at the parking situation around the venue.

Step 9: Create an itinerary to keep everything on track

Get your head in the game

Putting together a full breakdown of the event is one of the secrets to a smooth-running event. An itinerary is one document that includes all the details about your party. It depends on your preference, but it is usually good to have digital as well as hard copies of it on hand. Make sure to include on the hard copy that if this document is found unattended, it should be handed either to the reception or the manager of the venue. Make sure to include your name and the date of the party under this statement. This is important because this file will contain some sensitive information that should not get into the hands of anyone not involved in the organising process.

An itinerary should include:

  1. The programme of the event – start and end of the party, entertainment timing, names of speakers and time slots for their speeches;
  2. Contact names – you and other organisers involved in the process, phone numbers and email addresses of all of them;
  3. Suppliers – what are they supposed to deliver and what time, their names, phone numbers and email addresses;
  4. Manager’s contact – this is important if the venue manager is heavily involved in the planning process.

Step 10: Update the invitations so everyone is up to date

Let’s get information

Now that you have all the details sorted out, it’s time to get everyone up to date! Earlier you sent save-the-dates, and now you should create invitations with all the details, meaning:

  1. When – date & time;
  2. Where – the address;
  3. Dress code – business casual/black tie/costume;
  4. How to get there – arranged transportation & parking information.

This will ensure that everyone has clear instructions that they can refer back to as to where and what time to be there as well as what to wear and other details that are relevant to your particular party. You can also send out the event programme, but that is a purely subjective decision since you can also just print it and place it on all the tables at the party.

Step 11: Make time for speeches and thank yous

Thank you, next

It is important to take the time to make your guests and colleagues feel appreciated for all the work they have done that year for the company. Christmas, at the end of the day, is about gratitude and happiness. Ask some of the managers or CEOs to make a speech and schedule time for it accordingly. Don’t forget to check with the venue that they have a microphone that you will be able to use to make the speeches.

Step 12: Take care of the last-minute preparations, arrive early and enjoy the party

Let’s get this party started!

Clearly, it is important for the organiser to be early at the venue to decorate as well as to be present throughout the whole Christmas party, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with everyone else! As long as everyone working the party is well-informed and you are ready to step in to help out with any emergency, why not enjoy some eggnog yourself?

However, make sure to keep the itinerary by your side throughout the whole party, even if it doesn’t really match the outfit. When you first arrive, make sure to introduce yourself to everyone involved in the process and let them know to approach you if something doesn’t go according to plan. If you are managing a team of people, it might be useful to go through the event programme one last time and repeat who has what responsibilities.

Step 13: What to expect in the aftermath of the event

After the party is over

Depending on the size of your party, you can either clean-up yourself or hire a cleaning service to do your dirty work. Some venues offer cleaning services, so it might also depend on your agreement with the venue manager.

Make sure all the technical equipment is in place and nothing in the venue is broken or damaged. Check if all the invoices are accounted for and paid. Determine if anything is left from your budget that should be returned to your company fund.

On a less technical note, create a feedback form and send it to everyone who participated. Receiving feedback will help you know what to improve and help make the event even better organised next time around. It also gives your guests space to share what they truly enjoyed and thank you for organising the event, which is also important to hear and makes all the stress worth it.

After you receive the pictures from the photographer, you can either upload them on Google Drive or Dropbox, which will make it easy for everyone to access them independently. Maybe there will be one or a few that could be used to decorate your office space!

Image source: Christmas party offer at The Hoxton Pony


You might also like