Ahh, the relaxation (or chaos depending on how things go for you) and is over. There’s that sweet period after Labor Day when summer activities come to an end, but the busy holiday season hasn’t yet begun. You might think it’s time to kick back and wait for the holiday madness to take hold, but if you’re in charge of your company holiday party, it’s the prime time for you to start your planning.
You might be saying “Ugh. I don’t even want to think about that yet!” But time flies quickly when you think you have plenty of time to plan. That’s why we’re going to talk about several excellent reasons you should be starting to plan your company holiday party now.
- Don’t miss out on the perfect venue. December and January are party-centric for most people and companies, so there is competition vying for the best venues on the best dates. It’s going to be hard to find a venue that checks off all your party needs and wants if you are booking only a few weeks ahead of time. Just about everyone starts their party planning around the same time, and booking a venue is first on everyone’s list. By getting an early jump on the planning, you have a better chance of snagging the venue you really want instead of having to compromise on the date or location. Think of all the stress you’ll save yourself by not having to scramble for a venue plan B, C, or D because the venue you were planning on (in your head) was already booked. You’ll also get plenty of accolades for having grabbed a prime party location that will have everyone in a festive mood.
- Score the perfect venue at a discount. The only thing better than booking the exact venue you wanted is locking it in at a discounted rate. Venues like to fill up early (saving them the stress of last-minute scheduling as well) and they will often reward those who book well in advance. You’re more likely to get discounts when booking months ahead, and not just on the venue. You might also be able to pull off discounts on catering, bar and drinks, rentals for linens, tables, and chairs, or other party necessities. The closer to the date you wait, the more in-demand a venue is going to be and you’ve lost your leverage so to speak. Waiting can mean fewer or lesser discounts or even no discounts are available. The more you save, the more money you have to spend on the fun stuff!
- Throwing an epic holiday party takes time. Since the holiday parties come around every year, it can be hard to come up with something fresh and new that will leave an impression. Instead of everyone forgetting the same old holiday party right after the eggnog runs dry, you want the water cooler to be buzzing about how amazing that holiday party was well into February. If you have your venue booked ahead of time, it’s probably the biggest thing you can check off of your party to-do list. Even though where you have the party is a big deal, you want to make the rest of the details are equally amazing. By planning early, you’ll be giving yourself plenty of time to concentrate on table settings, centerpieces, décor, music, and other fun details. Instead of hastily throwing some last-minute food and decorations from the dollar store into the tables at the venue and hoping for the best, you’ll give your creative juices some time to get flowing. With all that time you’ve given yourself, your un-stressed (at least from party planning) brain can think of a ton of new ways to make this year’s party truly epic. Fire up that Pinterest holiday party board and get visionary.
- Be a hero and book the best entertainment. As was mentioned above, one of the most important details of an amazing holiday party is the music. There are plenty of DJs around, though, like venues, the best ones will get booked up quickly. For those looking to take the company party to next-level awesome status, there’s the job of booking a live band. If you miss out on your favorite DJ, it’s not too difficult to find another one who can get the job done. But when it comes to booking live entertainment for your holiday party, the most amazing live bands are even more in demand (and rarer). Usually, you will need to book a live band 2-3 months in advance. You’ll want to give yourself time to check out some samples of their work (even see them play if possible) or talk details which also takes some time. The earlier you’ve nailed down the DJ or live band, the more time it gives both of you to discuss the particulars. It makes it more likely that they will be able to accommodate any special requests that you just can’t party without or customize the entertainment for you.
- Give yourself time to take company culture into consideration. Each company has its own culture, personality, or “flavor” so to speak. Maybe not a detail that you had previously even thought about, but giving yourself time to take these factors into consideration and plan accordingly can go a long way in helping your party reach epic status. Finding ways to embrace your company’s culture, celebrate individual or company accomplishments, think of team-building games, or come up with creative awards to give out (think less cringy Dundy Awards for all you Office fans) can take a bit of time and ingenuity. But a well-thought-out party can help employees cheer each other on, deepening workplace friendships (which according to Harvard Business Review significantly increases employee satisfaction. Who doesn’t want that?).
- You won’t have to go it alone. A collaboration or party planning committee can definitely help relieve some party burden off of your shoulders (that whole “many hands makes the load light” thing). But with busy lives, it can be hard enough to coordinate your own schedule let alone several others to find time for party planning. Collaborating with others to make this year’s party the best yet can be an excellent idea, just give everyone you want to be involved enough time to get in the game and do their part well.
- Everyone else needs time to plan, too. The holidays are busy for everyone, not just party planning aficionados. If you are going to put a ton of time and energy into planning the best company holiday party ever, you want everyone to be there to enjoy it. By securing a date and location early in the game, you give everyone enough heads up to make sure the party is put into their schedule, increasing the number of guests who are likely to say yes. It also helps your fellow employees look forward to ending the year on a high note. When they can see the epic party light at the end of the long work tunnel, everyone has something amazing to work towards.
So, instead of feeling that rising panic and sense of party failure doom rising up as you eat your Thanksgiving leftovers, planning ahead will let you enter the holiday period calm and unstressed (at least about planning the party).
Give yourself plenty of time to make all the details perfect, and let it be your holiday gift to your fellow employees.
Scheduling Time Frames
3-4 months ahead:
- Know the budget you have to work with
- Choose your theme (if you are doing one)
- Make the guest list (it is important to know how many to possibly expect when choosing a venue)
- Get a date and location booked
- Go over the details of venue or rental contracts and put down deposits
- Have an idea of what kind of menu you want and book the appropriate caterer (if the venue doesn’t do its own catering)
- Book the entertainment (DJ or live band) and go over the playlist or any special requests
- If you are looking to hire a valet, this is the time period to do it
- If you are going to recruit a planning committee, now is the time to get everyone together and delegate responsibilities
2 months ahead:
- Create and/or order invitations
- Get mailing or email addresses for everyone on the guest list
- Decide on games, activities, and/or awards. If doing custom awards, order those now
- If required, make second or final deposits on venues and rentals
- If you are having a photographer, now is the time to book
1 month ahead:
- Firm up the guest list and send out invitations
- Go over food and drink menus with the venue or caterer
- Order or start making decorations and centerpieces
- Put together sway bags/party gifts
- Hire or assign coat checkers, security, set up/clean up crew, and other day-of roles
- Eat your Thanksgiving dinner in peace knowing you’ve got it all covered
1 Week and counting:
- Double check with any who haven’t RSVP’d and send out reminders to those who replied Yes
- Get any party decorations or supplies that can be picked up at the store
- Check in with everyone assigned a role or task to make sure they’re on track
- Confirm timelines with the venue, vendors, or other hired companies (photographers, linen delivery, etc.)
- Get excited to par-tay
Day of/Go Time:
- If possible, remind everyone in the office or company when to arrive.
- Get to the venue early to greet, assist, or speak with any vendors, staff, volunteers, or other party committee members
- Make sure everyone who has a role (coat check, greeter, security, etc.) knows what they should be doing
- Breathe deep, give yourself a high five, and get your party on!