by Erik J. Martin
The holidays are practically here – a terrific time to gather with friends, relatives, or coworkers and enjoy the wonders of the season. If you’re eager to host a holiday shindig at your home or office, it’s not too late to schedule and pull off the event, provided you know what to do and expect.
“Hosting a holiday party is perfect for those who love entertaining and have a spacious and welcoming home or office,” says Sarah Klingman, founder/CEO of gthr, a thriving event planning company operating in several cities.
The experts agree that it’s usually best to begin planning this gathering far ahead of time if possible.
“We recommend sending out invitations several weeks in advance, as the calendar books up quickly this time of year and advanced notice shows your guests you are excited to host them this holiday season,” Emily Coyne, founder and principal planner of Emily Coyne Events, explains.
As far as whom to invite, think first about how many guests you can comfortably accommodate, and then assume a conservative 10% decline rate.
“From there, begin a list of your closest family and friends. If you have space for others, invite colleagues, neighbors, or friends whose company you truly enjoy and look forward to spending the holiday with,” Coyne continues.
Regarding the menu, try to serve a variety of delicious dishes and drinks and consider hiring a caterer for top-notch food and service, Klingman suggests.
“Offer appetizers and drinks upon guest arrival, followed by a well-timed meal. Don’t forget to include festive beverages and a range of desserts,” she says.
While it’s often customary for holiday edibles to be served buffet-style, ponder changing it up with a plated dinner, which can be an elegant way to serve your guests – particularly if you want a more formal affair, per Coyne.
“It’s fun to balance traditional dishes with a new twist. For instance, a sweet potato casserole with a crumble topping or mashed potatoes made with olive oil and kale to create a vegan option,” she adds. “If you do choose to cook, don’t tackle all new dishes. Select one or two dishes you are excited to try along with dishes that you have cooked before and know will be crowd-pleasers.”
Try to incorporate a theme into your party to engage your guests.
“Consider focusing on a specific color or winter/holiday emblem into your decor,” Coyne says. “Encourage guests to dress in a specific color palette to add to the overall aesthetic and to ensure great photos.”
Jasmine Charbonier, an experienced party planner, advises playing a carefully curated assortment of festive music at a medium volume, scattering seating for mingling and good flow and offering activities like games, contests and dancing.
“Send your guests home with small party favors or gifts, too,” says Charbonier. “Try to respect your guests’ time by starting and ending your party on schedule, as well.”
If you are planning an office holiday party, be sure it aligns with your company culture and maintains a professional tone.
“Keep the decor tasteful, host during work hours or immediately after, provide non-alcoholic options, and plan team-building activities,” Klingman says.
“Remember that office parties need to be inclusive of all colleagues and often require more planning for catering logistics,” she notes.
A workplace bash should also incorporate neutral, inclusive themes like a winter wonderland scheme that doesn’t emphasize one specific tradition.
“Rather than focusing on a specific holiday or religious theme, choose a theme for your soirée that celebrates people. This might be gratitude for coworkers or commemoration of a year of accomplishments, for example,” Coyne says.
Tammie Monaco, president of Beck-n-Call Event Services, has a golden rule she recommends to office party planners.
“Always hire a professional bartender to pour. Let them monitor consumption so that you don’t have to be the bad guy if somebody needs to have service slowed,” Monaco says. “And hire a person who has liquor liability insurance along with general liability and workman’s comprehensive insurance to give you that extra layer of liability protection.”