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How to Plan a Christmas Party
It’s the most wonderful time of the year... for a party! Some people spend all year thinking about Christmas, planning what presents to buy, thinking about what to put on the menu for Christmas dinner, and of course, how to celebrate in style. Whether you’re putting on a Christmas party for your coworkers or an event for family and friends, we’ve got some useful advice that will help make your party one to remember.
Part 1: Planning
Setting a budget
Christmas is an expensive time of year for all. So if you’re throwing a party into the mix too, it’s worth knowing how that might affect your finances. Plan and budget ahead of time if you can.
- If you’re spending your own money, make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Remember that people coming to your party want to spend time with you, and they wouldn't want you wasting your hard earned cash on unnecessary extras.
- If you're spending someone else’s money (for example planning a party on behalf of your company) then you can afford to spring for those fine finishing touches to bring the event over the top. That doesn’t mean you should be reckless, but a few feature lavish items will help to wow the partygoers.
For every item that you’re considering spending money on, look at what’s payable upfront, versus only requiring a deposit to be invoiced later. If cash flow is important to you, this will help you stay in sync with your December or January budget.
Deciding who to invite
Is the party a chance to unite the worlds of your personal and professional friend circles, so your friends can get to know your coworkers? If so, are their partners allowed to come along too? Are kids invited or will everyone need to organize a babysitter?
More than any other aspect of the event, guest numbers define a party. If you have 20 or 200 guests, it's a very different vibe, a very different budget and far harder to find a date that suits everyone.
Choosing a party theme
Christmas is a readymade theme for a party, but you could expand on that with a vintage Christmas, or a Winter Wonderland, or fancy dress based on a favorite Christmas film.
Just be prepared for a lot of Will Ferrell wannabees!
If you go down the more formal route, make sure it's the type of party where people who make the effort will want to stay for the duration. Getting into a cocktail dress or black tie is not an easy task, so give them a party worthy of the preparation effort.
Select a date
December is well known as the party season — everyone’s busy, and some people will have more invites than they have days available. It’s not uncommon for some companies to delay their Christmas Party until the new year when everyone’s a little more settled and the venue prices have returned to normal levels.
There’s no right or wrong time to have a party and you can make a morning, noon or night event fun for your guests. If you want full attendance though, don’t go too close to the 25th as many guests will be traveling back home to see their family.
Part 2: Preparation
As people are busy, the earlier the better - some bars will be taking Christmas bookings in July so getting a date in the calendar early makes sense.
Are you having a party at home, in your office or renting a venue? If renting a venue, most places will come at a premium during the holiday season. Hiring a section of a larger venue may keep the costs down compared to renting the whole of a smaller one.
You could go for the catering option, or do it yourself. With so much Christmas over-indulgence, you don’t need to serve much to keep people full. A few finger food Christmas classics (such as pigs in blankets or turkey and cranberry bites) will be plenty to keep people going.
A festive punch makes a perfect arrival drink, or perhaps some mulled wine to help warm those coming in from the cold. Don’t forget to offer something interesting for those opting not to drink alcohol.
This is a tricky area. You could go with a playlist of Christmas music, but many people will be fed up of the same songs over and over during December. It’s worth considering mixing it up a bit or hiring a DJ to take the decision out of your hands.
If you think you need a group activity to keep everyone engaged, consider a photo booth. Modern digital options often come with changeable backgrounds so you can put festive scenes up without people needing to step out of the warmth of the party. If kids are invited it may be wise to set up a Christmas craft area to keep them entertained.
If you’ve planned your party far enough in advance, try to buy Christmas decorations out of season. You’ll save a fortune! A Christmas tree is a key feature, but if you’re having a party at home, consider streamlined alternatives if you think it’s taking up too much precious floor space.
- Guest gifts
Secret Santa is great for small groups, but it doesn't work if people don't know each other. White Elephant is where everyone brings a small gift without knowing the recipient. Just remember to make it clear that everyone needs to take part otherwise someone will be left giftless at the end. Have a few wrapped up in reserve just in case!
Part 3: Buildup
Ask your guests about their Christmas
To add a personal touch to your party, see what toys they remember from their youth or any special memories they have. If you can get your hands on a Buzz Lightyear figure or a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos, it’ll bring back many happy nostalgic memories and double as a fun decoration.
Choose an outfit
If you’re not going for formal attire, the common default these days is the ugly Christmas sweater. While there are thousands of designs available in stores each year, you don't want to end up in the same sweater as someone else, playing who wore it best. . Hunt around charity shops or independent stores for something truly unique.
Get your venue ready
If you’re at home, do what you can to make it feel different from the normal setup and more like a party venue. Move tables into the corner, add some string lights and put up signs so your guests know where the restrooms are.
If you’re hosting at a rented venue, be sure you understand exactly what items are supplied by the venue and the support their staff will provide for your event. Taking this step will ensure there aren’t any surprises on the day or your party.
Create a checklist
To ensure your party runs smoothly, keep a running list of party preparation tasks. Rather than listing these by type of activity, organize them in a countdown timeline. This lets you see what needs to be done a week before, a day before and on the day itself. You’ll be sure make it look effortless the day of.
Part 4: On the day
- Send out a reminder
Double check that everyone is coming, they know where to go, and what to bring (if anything).
- Pre-book taxis
Make it easy for people to get home, especially on a Friday or Saturday night.
- Prep the venue
Put a few last minute touches in place, focussing mainly on the entrance to give it that wow factor.
- Eat something
Party planners can't operate on an empty stomach!
- Introduce guests to each other
Try and think about who might naturally have something in common rather than the person nearest at the time.
- Don’t over-structure the event
The best parties are those where you barely notice the host, apart from when they’re topping up your drink.
Part 5: Once it’s over
Message all your guests with a thank you and ask if they have any pictures of your event. Then collate the best into a shared album and send it around so everyone can enjoy the different perspectives from the party.
The hard work is over and you now get to enjoy all the other parties you’ve been invited to, safe in the knowledge that yours is out of the way. Until next year!