Organising the perfect Christmas party, whether it's for work, family or friends, can be a huge, time-consuming task with the pressure on to get it just right. To give you a helping hand we asked Georgina Coleman, head of events at Late Night London and planner of over 1000 festive soirees last year alone, for her expert advice...
1. Think ahead
Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year when it comes to socialising. Getting the date in the diary early is vital for any party success. Circulate potential dates around the office and go with the ‘majority rules’ when making the final decision. You won’t be able to please everyone so make it clear why you have chosen the preferred date. Thursday and Friday are typically the most popular days as the workforce tends to not be productive the following day so if you have budget constraints always try for earlier in the week. Once the date is decided send around a save the date and start understanding the numbers.
2. The world is your oyster, but with a budget
The size of the budget will determine how much you can allocate to different parts of the party, will it be a Prosecco or champagne reception? Canapés or bowl food? DJ or a live band? Finding out how much you have to play with early on will let you know your options and test your negotiating skills. Most importantly make sure you leave yourself a ‘buffer budget’ for any unexpected costs, they always occur.
3. Have a clear vision
Once you’ve got the date and the budget confirmed you need to focus on your vision for the event. Firstly is it for day or night? Does your budget allow your colleagues to bring partners? Are you going to theme the event? Keep it simple when making these decisions. Pinterest is a great source for theme ideas and lots of lovely venues offer pre-theme help at this time of year.
4. Location, location, location
Once you’ve established your vision for the evening, you then need to think about where the party will be held. Working out the location before picking the venue can save time. When making this decision think about public transport links and if there is a local mini cab firm. Location can often impact the attendance numbers and how late guests can stay, especially if they are reliant on public transport to get home.
5. Your Christmas palace
Once you know what numbers you are working with and the location of the party the next item on the agenda is the venue. There are thousands of venues across the UK, offering a number of Christmas party options. From packages to theming they have something for everyone. If the venue has an in-house events team make the most of them, create a good relationship to get the best prices and options for your budget and make sure you understand exactly what the venue is giving you.
6. Food for thought
Picking your menu for the night is an important part of the Christmas party package. Budget and your vision for the event will determine whether you go for something simple like canapés, or the more substantial bowl food or the all singing, all dancing seated dinner. When considering food options think about dietary requirements, are there vegetarians in attendance? If the venue offers a food tasting take them up on it, think of it as a try before you buy.
7. Cocktails and dreams
Some of your colleagues would argue the drinks are the most important part of the night. Think about an arrival drinks reception, a popular choice is a company-themed cocktail with brand colours or keep it simple with a glass of Prosecco. If you’re on a tight budget think about how you can get the best deal for your money, a minimum spend on the bar, drinks vouchers allocated per person or a wine, beer and spirits package, the choices are endless. Don’t forget to think about the non-drinkers and the mocktails and soft drinks available.
The night's entertainment will leave the lasting memory with guests and it also acts as an ice breaker and conversation point. Think about parts of the night where you should have entertainment, perhaps a magician during the drinks reception? Or a live band for after food to get people onto the dance floor. The entertainment industry is a competitive market at Christmas, make sure you shop around on prices. We always recommend getting a minimum of three quotes.
9. Thank you's and awards
Are there any annual awards that need to be given? Check in with your boss and HR to see who needs to be thanked. Pick an MC for the night to give out the awards - someone with bags of personality who can command attention in a room and keep it. Don’t forget to liaise with the venue to make sure they have a microphone available.
10. Make an event sheet
Yes we’ve all seen The Wedding Planner and whilst the head set might be a step too far, collating an event sheet with an itinerary for the night is a good source of information to have on you. Pick some party planning buddies to make sure everything goes according to plan and have a list of telephone numbers for mini cabs, the office and any suppliers you're using. Make sure you liaise with the venue on supplier delivery times, you don’t want the ice luge or confetti canons to go missing.