Turkey dinners, thoughtful gift exchanges and spending quality time with those around you—these are just a few of our favourite things about this time of year! With the holidays quickly approaching, everyone’s calendars are filling up fast, and for some of us, that means it’s a race to lock down a date in the calendar for your company holiday party. If event planning is new to you, don’t fret. As event caterers with decades of experience, we put together a few of our top tips to ensure your very first company holiday party is a success. —Donna Wadsworth
settle on a date early. For many, the holidays are the busiest time of the year, and finding a date that works for everyone on your team can end up being the biggest challenge. That’s why we recommend starting your planning early and checking everyone’s availability ahead of time so you can mark down a date in the calendar as soon as possible. Depending on the size of your company, you may want to pick a date at least months in advance. With Friday nights in high demand, perhaps look to a Thursday evening instead, or off-peak times, such as a holiday brunch, afternoon cocktail hour, or lunchtime turkey buffet.
confirm your event budget. Big or small, events come at a cost. Whether it’s a simple office gathering, casual cocktail party, or full ballroom dinner, list out all the things you need to bring your event vision to life. How many people are on the guest list and will employees be permitted to bring plus ones? What type of venue will you need? Will there be entertainment? Will you be doing the decorations yourself? Ensuring all the big event components, like venue, food and decor, are within your budget is one of the most important things when event planning and will drive many of your decisions.
book the venue. With a date in the calendar, a confirmed budget, and an event vision in mind, you’re now ready to start researching venues. Event spaces come in all sizes, ranging from intimate studio spaces to elegant ballrooms, and even unexpected businesses like galleries and distilleries can make for excellent party venues. The venue itself will set the tone for your event, so ensure it can accommodate all your guests, can service your entertainment needs, and more. Once you’ve settled on a few top choices, reach out to the venue managers early to inquire about availability and lock in your date.
work with your caterer to design your event menu. Now, to our favourite part! There are many ways to approach the food and drink at your event. Planning a small mid-day office party? Consider a few charcuterie boards or canapé platters. Post-work cocktail party? Some passed canapés, action stations, and a bartender may be what’s needed! Whether it’s just a few bite-sized snacks or a full plated dinner, remember to consider all your guests’ dietary restrictions. An experienced caterer will have plenty of menu options for plant-based and gluten-free guests to enjoy.
plan your event program and secure remaining vendors. Now that we’ve covered the who, when, and where, it’s time to create the event program. Will there be a gift exchange or secret Santa? Live music and a dance floor? Speeches? Depending on the what, be sure to secure all your remaining vendors early and create a clear schedule of events. Then, inform your guests (or keep it a surprise!) and coordinate with your vendors to confirm arrival times.
don’t forget to have fun at your own event! As the one planning the event, sometimes we forget that the party is for us to enjoy too. When the day comes around, don’t forget to make time for yourself to actually have fun at the event you put together!
Planning a company holiday party can seem intimidating at first, but with all the right planning and people involved, your event is sure to be a success.
Savoury City Catering owner Donna Wadsworth has seen it all in her decades of experience running catering companies and working as a chef across Canada and internationally. To create perfectly orchestrated events, Donna lives by the motto “fail to prepare then prepare to fail,” paired with a meticulous attention to detail and the ability to perfectly envision the flow of an event from beginning to end.