'Tis the season for all things merry, bright, festive and sometimes boozy. The month of December quickly fills up with various holiday events, multiple ugly Christmas sweater parties, Secret Santa exchanges and sometimes the dreaded obligatory work party. We've all been to those parties that are just stiff and uncomfortable with the equivalent to your weird uncle drinking too much egg nog and giving an angry toast. The "cool" people just wondering how long they'll have to stay before heading to the after party.
When planning a fun party for an entire company, it's definitely a tall order but I was determined to make this year's holiday party one to remember. I was apart of the planning committee for our holiday party and we looked for some inspiration from the king of hosting himself, Gatsby. He's famous for his parties in West Egg, of course.
Like any party you're hosting, whether it's a wedding, work party, dinner party, or baby shower you have to break down what decisions need to be made or else it can be overwhelming. I've compiled a list of how I plan parties and avoid losing your mind in a Pinterest rabbit hole.
1. BUDGET. Always a limiting factor that can put your party dreams to a halt but I'm a firm believer that you can work with any budget with a little imagination. Find out what your max budget is and work backwards from your big ticket items. For example, factor in the venue, food, and booze costs first. When budgeting, always calculate based on maximum number of guests and plus ones. This will minimize surprise costs at the end and allow for that inevitable overture (I always factor in a 5-10% unexpected costs into the budget too!).
2. VENUE. Think about the number of people you're hosting and who is the audience. Holiday parties don't have to be limited to hotels and conference spaces which offer little to no ambiance. Restaurants are great options for venues because they are more often now offering group menus, lots of food choices outside of the regular chicken and beef and are super accommodating to make sure the guests have an amazing time! We chose to host our party at Roof Garten, they call themselves a rooftop "utopia" in the middle of the hustle and bustle of downtown Vancouver. You're transported to this indoor outdoor space that instantly offers an intimate dining experience and unique decor (think mirrored walls, a panorama bar and champagne lounge). Location is key when picking a venue too, think about transportation options to and from so you can make sure your guests can easily get to the destination. We could have not been happier with our choice, the food was amazing, and a perfect size for our group.
3. THEME. Parties always up their game when a theme is involved, however, it's always a huge party fail if no one gets into it. Therefore, you have to be mindful of a few things when picking a theme you know people will participate it in:
- Pick something that everyone will feel comfortable dressing up as. Ideally something people could potentially work with in their own closet so they don't feel like they need to break the bank or be discouraged to attend.
- Don't be too specific but rather pick an era or genre. Our's was Great Gatsby which extended to the whole 1920's decade, men in suits mostly dressed up with a hat, bow tie, suspenders or a cane. Done! Girls have a wide spectrum too: sequins, pearls, headbands, fringe, fur... the list goes on. Even with a basic neutral dress, a girl could throw on some lipstick, curls and layer some jewellery and fit in!
4. DECOR. Again, something that can easily get expensive quickly, that's why it's important to set a budget and work within it. Focus on a few key areas and do those well instead of trying to do a little bit of everything. For example our decor list includes:
- A gold "curtain" at the door, who doesn't love making a grand entrance to a party? Gatsby sure did.
- A champagne "tower", plastic cups from the party store and champagne "bubbles" behind (coloured balloons). We even tried the champagne pour and were semi-successful! An overall hit and a great photo op.
- Table decor: We opted to stick with the gold and black Gatsby idea, black table cloths, and spray painted wine bottles gold. Super easy but packed a punch when draped with pearls and feathers. Not to mention an abundance of candles! Candles are my go-to for instant ambiance game changer.
5. NETWORK. Everyone knows a guy who knows a guy who knows... you get the idea. We were fortunate enough to have an in house DJ who kept the party going all night which was awesome and saved us some pennies. Utilize who people know: referrals always give the best result. Another employee referred us to Dang Good Booths and they were AWESOME! So professional and wonderful to work with. They allowed us to customize the print out of the photo's to match our theme and add our company logo. Needless to say the photos became more interesting as the night went on and were a huge hit! Our very talented design team did a wonderful job with the signage, invites and photo booth print outs; of course on trend with our Great Gatsby theme.
6. PLANNING. Delegating and pre-planning are always a huge help when hosting a large event. Stay organized with the guest list so your numbers are accurate, keep a decor list, and track your spending so you don't go over budget. Complete what you can ahead of time (huge time saver) and most of all; ask for help and delegate tasks! Such as, a set up and take down crew, decor, 'hostessing' (monitoring drink tickets, and etc.) and name a person to be a liaison with the venue. A huge help when keeping to the timeline, food service and clean up.
I hope I've inspired you to look outside the box when planning your next party and think about a place you had an amazing dinner or brunch at... maybe they host private events! Engage your coworkers with favourite movies and get ideas for a theme (James Bond, Masquerade, etc.) and get everyone excited for the next work event that you'll be planning.