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The ULTIMATE Guide to Christmas Party Theming & Planning

Step 1 : Start planning as soon as you can

Start planning as soon as you can for your year end function. Venues book out very quickly and it is a “first come first serve” policy with many!

Step 2 : Budget appropriately

Find out how much you can spend, and work on a budget for the event. Remember to include your venue hire cost, food & drinks, decorations and entertainment. Also, Audio Visual cost if you need specialised lighting or a stage! Always best to over-budget slightly so you have a little spare $ for things you forgot.

Step 3 : Choose a date, or better yet, a few date options

Lock in a date with a venue as soon as possible – better yet, find a second date as a backup (especially if you have an outdoor function and you are unsure of the weather). Lock the date into diaries for staff as soon as possible (even if it is just a placeholder in the calendars). Make a note if it is for staff, staff + 1.

Step 4 : Find and book the right venue

Make a list of potential venues, contact them and arrange visits if you are unfamiliar with the spaces (or ask an event manager to help you). Venues will also largely depend on the style of your event – is it a seated dinner, cocktail style event or something more fun that involves activities?

Step 5 : Select a theme for your party



Choose a theme for your event that people will like. There’s plenty of styling companies that can also assist you with:

- “dry hire” – this is when you select what you want from a list – they can deliver/collect, or you can pick the items up if you are limited on budget.

- Full styling – companies can do a proposal for your theme based on your budget, and once signed off it is in their hands to set this up, delivery and collect.


For budgeting purposes, we recommend focusing on items in this order:


1. Centerpieces (if you have limited budget and can only do a little bit of theming)

2. Backdrop for the stage

3. Entrance theming (example - can be a carpet or entrance arch)

4. Photo area

5. Chair covers/sashes

6. Ceiling installations and larger props around the room

If you are doing a “dress up” event, make sure it is something your staff feel comfortable with. Themes like “Mexican / Western” or “Hawaiian” is always good because people are likely to have clothes in their cupboards without having to buy extra items.



A few good theming pointers:

- Lights can create an amazing ambiance in a space

- Gobo’s is a good way to get a logo across, or to create a roving “image” – eg for Alice in Wonderland you can do a gobo of the cat smile across the floor for immediate impact

- Floor length tablecloths always look more elegant

- Fairylights always looks good – they can be added into a backdrop, entrance, arch, plants, centrepieces.

- You can rent “LED” candles or “flicker” real wax candles that work on batteries.

- Add music as guests come into the space – it enhances the theme – eg if it’s a Halloween theme, ensure lights are dark and there’s spooky music playing. Music can enhance a theme easily.

- Fill large spaces with large props – small items will get lost in big spaces, so if you are using large venues like Shed 10, makes sure you use large props. The advantage of large props is that you don’t have to use many for impact!


Step 6 : Plan activities to go with your party theme


Do you want to incorporate activities into your theme? Whether it’s something simple like “best dressed” or more active, make sure your staff will be comfortable with it. Over recent years we’ve seen an increase in team building combinations with staff Christmas events – example an amazing race for staff, ending in a dinner location.

Some good examples of fun activities on the night (can be done by theme). Here’s just a few ideas:

- Limbo competition

- Santa hat decoration

- Cupcake decoration

- Spot the xx in the room (a fun activity if you have a lot of décor in the space – eg find butterflies on the greenery etc)

- Hoola hoop competition

It’s always nice too to tie in an event with a charity fundraising – for example if your company does fundraising for the SPCA, perhaps you want to do a masquerade ball and then have masks for sale on the night (with proceeds going to the SPCA).



Step 7 : Choose the caterer, plus food & drink options & entertainment


If you’ve chosen a hotel, the catering will be done in-house, so menu selection will be easy. Decide if you want to do a drinks package, drinks on consumption, or a cash bar.

For entertainment there’s always plenty of options and this can also be tied into the theme, eg

- Live bands

- DJ

- Magician

- Roving performers

- Comedians

Step 8 : Make sure everyone gets to the party (organise bus/taxi’s if you must)

Ensure that the meeting invitation or email invitation was accepted / responded to so you can get accurate numbers to the venue (for catering and seating purposes)

Step 9 : Create an itinerary or run-sheet to keep everything on track

Do a run-sheet so you can ensure that everything on the night runs smoothly – this needs to include the speeches, DJ or band start/end time, dinner start time etc. It’s good also for the list to include contact names and numbers.

Make sure you have a digital and hard copy on the night. If you have an AV tech on site, make sure you also get a copy to them.

Step 10 : Update the invitations so everyone is up to date

Whether it’s a hard copy invitation or via email, ensure that all the details are correct in the invite.

Step 11 : Make time for speeches and thank-you’s

Ensure that you include thank you’s for everyone that helped with the event (committees etc).

Step 12 : Take care of the last minute preparations

Ensure you cover all the last-minute stuff –

Do you need prizes for the competitions?

Arrive earlier at the venue to ensure everything is set out the way you need it.

Ensure that everyone has a copy of the run-sheet for the night

Pay attention to details and don’t forget to feed staff who are working on the night (eg photographer, photobooth people etc)

Step 13 : The aftermath

If you are organising the event yourself, here’s a few tips for the aftermath:

- Ensure the venue is tidy (if it’s a hotel or serviced venue they will clean it up, but if it is a community hall the responsibility fall on you – or the event organisers)

- Check for any damaged items (AV through to glassware)

- Check that all invoices are account for and paid

- Make sure everyone gets copies of the event photos

- Ask for feedback from the staff

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PO Box 24507, Royal Oak, Auckland, New Zealand

Contact us on 09 5745989

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