The perfect holiday soiree takes a bit of planning and a dash of WOW
Between creating your fourth incarnation of turkey tacos and planning the winter ski trip, the calendar always saves the year’s best event for last — the holiday party.
Whether it’s a black tie corporate affair or a casual get-together at your home, the holiday party has become the year’s signature event for party-goers. The events can be extravagantly large or intimately small; either way, planning ahead will make things easier on you and can make your party the subject at water coolers the next morning.
When it comes to planning a party, the first item to address is the budget. Knowing how much money to spend and where to spend it will help decide how big your party will be, what you will do and who you will invite.
“Even if money is no object, there’s still a budget, so spend your money wisely,” says Lee Capetillo Jr., creative director and founder of Ta-Dah Events. “You need to think about how much you want to spend on different aspects. If you spend a lot on invitations, do you cut back on food? If you spend a lot on food, do you cut back on entertainment or how many people you invite?”
Capetillo suggests deciding on a theme early in the planning stages so that other aspects of the party fall into place.
Valerie Rooney, event planner for the Perfect Touch, says planning ahead can deter headaches along the way.
“So many times, people wait until the last minute to plan things,” she says. “If you wait until the last minute, things you have in mind may not be available and that can be a huge let down.”
Rooney says many corporate party planners book their venue a year in advance. “For example, this year, the most popular date is Dec. 15. It’s a weekend and it’s in the middle of the month. You can’t call just a few days or weeks in advance and expect to have a particular venue available,” she says.
Next, it’s time to decide who you want to invite. If it’s your company’s holiday party, then this part is easy. Just use the global e-mail list and Voila! Done! If it’s your own party, it doesn’t have to be tricky. Think about the people who you want in your house or at the venue where you are hosting. That’s your list. To stay on their good side, it might be wise to invite a couple of neighbors as well. While attending your party, it is hard for them to complain about the traffic and noise your party is causing. They may even allow you to use their driveway for parking spaces.
Whether it’s a corporate or personal event, make sure the invitation is crystal clear about who is invited, Capetillo says.
If the invitation specifically says “you and a guest,” make sure one guest is all they bring. It would be pretty embarrassing to have to check the children at the door with the jackets and purses.
“Each party is different,” Capetillo says. “A party that invites a spouse or a significant other will be different than a party that invites the entire family.”
Be warned: if you say “the more, the merrier,” you just may get your wish.
What to do, what to do
Now that you’ve decided who is coming, the real fun begins. Hopefully by now you’ve picked your theme. Using the theme and the guest list, it’s time to start planning entertainment, activities and food.
“Look at your list and get a good idea of the type of people you are inviting,” Capetillo says. “If your friends are all ‘foodies’ then cater to that type of crowd. If they are wine lovers, then use that to plan the rest of your party.”
Knowing your guest list is of utmost importance to decide what to serve and how to entertain. If you are off the mark, your party can be a bust and will probably end too early.
“If your guests aren’t the ‘foodies’ type, then you don’t want to serve them the fru-fru food. That’s why it is so important to pay attention,” he says. “The last thing you want to do is make your guests feel like the party is way over their head. If they feel that way, they probably won’t have a good time. You can throw the most fabulous party ever, but if it doesn’t appeal to any of your guests, all the work and planning you did would be a waste of time.”
Also, when it comes to food, decide how you will serve it. If it’s a dinner party, make sure everything is in order to serve all the courses planned for the evening. However, if it’s a causal get together, make sure there are plenty of light snacks. Your guests will appreciate a good variety and the freedom to mingle with each other as they please without a designated seat. Items like chips and dip, wings, pizza and cheese/meat/veggie/fruit trays are available at the store… little-to-no cooking involved!
For corporate events, Rooney recommends booking caterers no less than three months in advance. “There are a lot of corporate parties, and almost all of them are calling caterers,” she says. “Book them early too.”
Capetillo says the best parties all have one thing in common: no less than three Wow Factors. “You want your Wow Factors to leave your guests saying, ‘Can you believe they did that?’ or be something they can take with them and use in their lives,” he explains. “It can be the invitations and thank-you cards, the décor, the food, the presentation, the entertainment, anything.”
However, Capetillo says to use the Wow Factors with caution.
“Don’t spread yourself too thin. You can have the awesome Wow Factors, but if you aren’t careful, you won’t have any money left over. Just because you are going for the ‘Wow’ doesn’t mean you have to go over the top or be obnoxious and sacrifice in other areas of your party,” he warns.
The name of the game is to have fun. You want your guests to have fun, but don’t forget about yourself. Don’t stress out because you want to make sure they are enjoying the evening. It’s supposed to be a party, right?
“The best thing to do is not to do everything by yourself,” Capetillo says.
Rooney agrees, but warns not to over do it.
“If you are trying to plan a corporate party, it’s great to have committees, but you need to have very few decision makers,” she explains. “Too much help is not always good help.”
With more individuals involved in the decision-making process, vendors can become confused and, in the end, she says, no one will be happy.
By mastering the art of delegation, you have the opportunity to relax and enjoy the fruits of your collective labor. Put someone else in charge of the food or decorations. Hire a party planner. Make the party pot-luck. No one has to know how hard you worked, but at the end of the night, your guests will be thanking you — and asking if you are in charge of next year’s shindig.