EXPERT ADVICE: How to Plan Your Office Holiday Party

It’s that time of year again, and believe it or not it’s starting to get late to plan your corporate holiday party. The top restaurants book up well in advance, so it’s time to get the ball rolling. We asked one of the EventMates founders, Diane Nicoletti, to share tips on pulling together a Corporate Holiday Party and here’s what she had to say.

EventMates: How much should I budget for a holiday party?

Diane: If you are going outside of your office, which I’d definitely encourage to make it special, you should budget at least $15,000 for a small 50 person event, and then from there add on at least $100 per person. This gives you the budget to make it unique to your team – venue, food & beverage, entertainment, design & décor and a planner to help you plan the whole shebang!

EventMates: Where should I have it?

Diane: I personally love the Splacer options. They offer access to unique raw spaces where you have more flexibility to design it to your liking - including your selection of food and drink and your company’s style.  If you are looking for more of a restaurant or party venue, you should really think about what is going to resonate with your employees. This year, Carol Karaoke is a big theme and in NYC two of my favorite spots to host such an event are Brooklyn Bowl and Rider in BK. They are for the more casual crowd ready to sing! For the more traditional crowd, we’re seeing a lot of sit down dinners - family style, “Tasting and Toasting” - at more upscale venues that are sure to make employees feel special. Like anything know your audience to assess the best space.

EventMates: What do I need to book in advance vs. what can wait?

Diane: Venue is your starting point (last reminder, book now!). It will dictate what the décor will be, what the caterer will need to bring in (or what menu they already provide), your capacity/guest list, and any other rentals. Bringing on a planner early on can save you time and money.

EventMates: Caterers – when should I use a caterer and what kinds of caterers should I use?

Diane: If it is a raw space a caterer is a must. For a holiday party, this is a fun area to splurge a bit because it’s what everyone remembers! Consider bringing in specialized mixologists to create a drink specifically for your company, or even a menu themed to the holiday or your brand! Good caterers can have a lot of fun with it in addition to having great food. Keep in mind, the holiday season is a busy time for them, so get your creative ideas in early so they can dedicate that time to you to make your wishes come true!

EventMates: Décor – What are some of your favorite holiday décor ideas?

Diane: I’m a huge fan of warm, cozy winter décor. Instead of opting for the traditional red and green, play up the “winter” theme. This can be done a few ways, personally I just love what I call “winter warmth” using wood, evergreens, winter white and rustic textures. This of course doesn’t fly for everyone, some might prefer a black and gold look to embrace the holidays; but winter warmth is my personal fave!

EventMates:  Theming it out to our Company – should I make it about us or should I just embrace the holiday?

Diane: If you’ve had a great year, some big news/product launches or expansions, absolutely, celebrate those accomplishments with the folks that got you there. You could also make it less a theme but little subtle touches around the event to give nods to the accomplishments! For instance, maybe a new product launched that made all the news, use photos of that as a holiday card and place it in frames around the bar, or in glass enclosed highboys. You probably want to refrain from pinpointing any one individual or group of individuals so everyone feels special, but it wouldn’t be wrong to tout the overall company success at a holiday celebration.

EventMates: How much time do I need to plan for the party?

Diane: Once you get the venue and caterer, you really only need about 2 months to get the rest in place. And we’d certainly recommend locking in your venue & caterer as soon as possible!

EventMates: What are your quick 5 things to remember when planning a holiday party?


Remember your guests – what is going to be fun for them and make them feel most comfortable


Don’t try and do it all yourself – hire a planner to help you through the details


Venue is key – book as early as possible


Have fun with catering


Don’t forget the programming and décor to get everyone in the spirit