Office holiday parties have gotten a bad reputation for being stiff, forced, and uninspired, but your holiday party doesn’t have to be a dull affair. More and more companies, concerned with boosting employee experience, have stepped up their office holiday party game with on-trend attractions, interactive food, and top-notch cocktails.

If you’re feeling intimidated, don’t be. Throwing a good party doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. A few simple guidelines and suggestions, and a little out-of-the-box thinking can produce a party your employees will actually want to attend each year. Here are our top 8 tips for throwing a great party (and keeping the budget in check).

Put Together a Committee

It’s the end of the year and you’ve already got a lot on your plate. Why not bring in reinforcements? Assemble a volunteer committee to help brainstorm and organize the party. Making your employees part of the process amps up excitement, increase staff input, and serves to keep the party planning workload more manageable.

Choose a Theme

No matter what your budget or the size of your company, a themed holiday party is a great way to drum up enthusiasm and focus the festivity. It’s also the perfect way to engage the entire staff. Have your committee put together a list of potential themes and let everyone vote company-wide on their favorite. Themes could include Merry and Bright, A Christmas Story, Masquerade Ball, Festivus, Deck the Hall, or anything else your team can dream up.

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Think Outside the Box

Even with a small budget, there’s no need to resort to stale office party stalwarts like deli platters and karaoke. A sugar cookie decorating station is an easy DIY way to bring a fun element to the food, and many budding local startups and business are willing to provide free samples, do tastings on-site, or accommodate discounts for other another local company. I attended an office holiday party once where the company had rented two dozen vintage arcade games as the main attraction, but a Wii borrowed from the staff and a projector could be an even more interactive way to have fun with video games.  And of course, there’s always the option of skipping the traditional holiday party altogether. Go instead with a party boat, a private cooking class, a staff-wide volunteer day, or let individual departments plan their own team outing.

Focus the Funding

Don’t have the budget for a cocktail alchemist or custom catering? Don’t sweat it. Holiday parties are best when focused on social interaction, employee appreciation, and the opportunity for your people to let their hair down for a few hours. On-trend additions like craft cocktails, spa treatments, and acrobatic performers can be fun and Instagram friendly, but if you’re working with minimal funds, we suggest choosing one aspect of the party to splurge on: food, entertainment, alcohol, location, etc.

Get the Food and Drink Right

Nothing is sadder than a holiday party without enough food and drinks to go around. You can avoid this faux pas when ordering alcohol with a little bit of math: two drinks per hour, per guest. Drink tickets are also a viable option, limiting the possibility of someone drinking too much and cutting down on the liquor budget. And don’t forget to have a good selection of non-alcoholic beverages for designated drivers and those who don’t drink. Go above and beyond sparkling water and try mulled cider, hot chocolate, or something else special and decadent.

When it comes to food, opt for heartier fare and find ways to get creative. The food table is a natural place for conversations to start, so something interactive like a waffle sundae bar can get people to mingle and give them something to talk about. In general, we recommend looking for local hotspots and favorites for catering (which means booking early!), or else thinking outside the box. Invite a local distillery to do a small whisky tasting, or reserve food trucks for a memorable touch.

office party preparation

Music Matters

Nothing sets the mood at an event like the music, making it one of the most crucial elements of your holiday party. This is where having a theme comes in handy. Throwing a masquerade ball? A string quartet will hit just the right note. Opting for Christmas in Vegas instead? Choose a DJ or a local cover band instead. While live music is definitely one way to make a party more unique, the budget conscious should opt for a high-quality sound system and plenty of musical variety. And never underestimate your in-house talent! You never know what musical genius lies within your company.

Be Thoughtful About Location

Aside from taking up a pretty large chunk of your budget, location can be one of the greatest downfalls for a holiday party. Choose a location with inadequate parking, or far from public transit and you can limit access and attendance from your employees. Factor in the commute of your staff when choosing a space, as well as more practical concerns like size and price.

If your budget is too small to accommodate an off-site event, find DIY ways to transform your office space. Enlist the help of your employee committee to bring in extra decorations from home to contribute, make hundreds of paper snowflakes, or cover the office in twinkle lights – whatever will make your staff feel like they’re rocking around the Christmas tree instead of rocking around copiers and computers. Cozy, classic Christmas always does the trick.


Lighten the Administrative Load

During the holiday season HR departments often double as party planners, which also means taking on administrative loads like scheduling event spaces, booking catering services, and managing email invites and RSVPs. This extra workload can interfere with regular workflow and over-load your HR staff at an already busy time of year.

Fortunately, AskCody is the premier tool for making any party, event or meeting run smoothly by taking care of oft-forgotten back-end details. With their comprehensive office management software, email invites can be sent to staff, friends, and family along with navigational maps, and RSVPs collected and managed without the hassle of spreadsheets and event sites. The AskCody Platform covers everything from meeting room booking and visitor management to vendor and service management, reducing the organizational load and making event planning a breeze.

Imagine that for your in-house office holiday party, you book the event space and all adjacent meeting rooms, along with a sound system, projector, and any other IT needs, through one intuitive system. At the same time, you can also send out requests and orders to local caterers on your vendor list to reserve the date for your party, as well as schedule calendar and email invites, all through one workspace management platform built on Microsoft 365 and the Microsoft Suite. Win back hours of company time, not just during the holiday season, but for meetings and resource booking all year round.

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