The holidays will be here before we know it. Although the holidays inevitably draw up feelings of excitement, they can also be one of the most stressful times of the year because of all the holiday bonuses to give out, the employee presents, the decorations, the family gatherings to make time for, and the grand finale: the corporate holiday party to start planning!

Planning a party can be overwhelming, especially when you barely have time to eat a meal these days.

Organization is key. Planning ahead is vital. Everyone loves a good holiday party; if you threw a good one last year, the pressure is on to top it. But don’t worry. We believe this year’s party will be one for the books as long as you start soon and stick to a good schedule. Here is a general timeline to help you organize your planning.

Two Months Prior

1. Pick a Date and Get the Word Out

A great way to get as many guests at the party as possible is to send out a poll to all your employees in September, asking which date works best for them. You could even do a poll to help you decide on a venue. Then go with the majority vote. This will help your employees feel involved and valued. Once you find a date that works best for the majority, send out a save-the-date to your employees so they have plenty of time to arrange for it.

2. Gather a Planning Committee or Hire a Corporate Event Planner

Once you’ve settled on a date and time, consider who will help plan the party. Ask your staff who would like to be on the planning committee and start holding planning meetings to sort out all the details.

Or, you may hire a corporate event planner instead, which can save you a lot of headaches at an already busy time of year and give you access to the best recommendations, venues, and vendors. In this case, you’ll want to set an appointment with an event planning company right away before they get all booked up for holiday parties. Contact us today if you decide to go this route.

3. Set a Budget

Will this be a small gathering with simple decorations and some food? Is it going to be an intimate dinner with gifts? Or, will it be a massive celebration with no detail missed and no expense spared? It’s important to decide the size of the party and set your budget

4. Book Your Venue

Don’t wait till the last minute to book the venue, reserve the banquet room or set that restaurant reservation. Do you know who else is having parties this time of year? Pretty much everyone. Venues will start getting booked quickly, so if you’re not keen on having your shindig at the office, you better find your venue and lock it in. Put down that deposit as soon as possible.

One-Two Months Prior

1. Pick a Party Theme/Style.

Good thing you already set your budget because now it’s time to pick a theme and style for your holiday bash. It’s essential to keep inclusivity in mind when choosing a theme. Many companies choose a generic holiday or winter theme over a religious Christmas theme, knowing that their employees have different religious (or non-religious) backgrounds. You’ll also want to decide whether it’s an employee-only event or if you’d like to invite family members as well.

2. Send out Invites

Whether you opt for a physical invite, an e-vite, or a fancy text, send it out at least a month in advance. This will ensure people have plenty of time to plan and generate excitement around the office.

Make a list and check it twice. Make sure to invite everyone in the office, whether they’ve been naughty or nice. How bad would you feel if you neglected to invite someone? How bad would they feel?

3. Start the Planning

Some tedious tasks, such as the guest list and invites, have been completed. Now it’s time for the fun part; the planning! If you go the party planner route, your planner will do all the lifting while keeping you in the loop. You’ll work closely with your planning team to ensure your vision comes to life and the party turns out exactly how you want it.

If you decide to plan it with the help of some of your employees, make sure to meet together frequently to discuss details, assign tasks, and square away the details. Plan the décor, food, drinks, and entertainment. Decide if you want to serve alcohol, and choose your food options. Things you may want to incorporate include:

  • Special Announcements
  • Awards
  • Employee gifts

4. Purchase Party Supplies

Pretty soon, holiday décor will be picked over at every local store, so make sure to snatch yours up quickly. It’s wise to get this done at least a month in advance to ensure everything is in working order. By shopping early, you’ll beat the mob of angry last-minute holiday shoppers. Stores can get pretty crazy around the holidays. If you want to avoid the brick-and-mortar store madness altogether, you can order most everything online. Just make sure you order early so you can make your returns and exchanges in plenty of time.

One Week Out

Everything should pretty much be planned by now. The week before party time is for those last-minute duties such as:

1. Sending Out Reminders

Guests will appreciate a reminder the week of the party. Sometimes people have every intention of coming, but then they get so busy that it slips their minds. Send out a reminder as a courtesy, and if you haven’t already, you should get one last head count for food and drink planning.

2. Finalizing Gifts/Awards

Make sure those employee gifts or awards are good to go. Remember to get creative and put thought into your gifts and prizes. This party is the perfect chance to end the year by showing your employees you truly appreciate them.

3. Picking up Food

Food is one of the things you have to get right before the event to ensure it’s fresh. Hopefully, you put your order in weeks ago but don’t forget to pick it up and make sure the order is correct.

4. Setting Up

If your venue allows, set up the week of your event or even the night before. You don’t want to be stressed the morning of when you’re trying to get ready for the party. Checking it off the list before the event day will be a relief.

The Day of

1. Greet guests

Ensure your guests feel welcome immediately by greeting every person who walks through the entrance.

2. Keep the Party Flowing

If you don’t have a DJ or emcee, it’s your job to keep the party flowing and transition people from eating to entertainment to gifts. If you have unexpected delays, be prepared to skip a portion of the agenda so you make sure the event ends on time.

3. Read the Room

It’s OK to be impromptu and make last-minute decisions based on your guests. If people look bored, maybe it’s time to do gifts/awards. Do people seem hungry? Get the food out sooner than planned.

4. Have Fun!

You’ve put so much energy and dedication into planning this party. Now, it’s time to have a blast yourself. It can be hard to let go of control and let loose, but you deserve it. The night will go by fast, so enjoy it.