This is your ultimate guide to planning and coordinating an office Christmas party. In this guide you will learn how to prepare, execute and follow-up on a party that your colleagues will remember.

Office Christmas party - a group of colleagues by a buffet table
Office Christmas party in Calgary

Gauge expectations

When planning an office Christmas party, it’s important to gauge expectations from upper management and other involved parties. Here are some tips to help you gauge expectations:

  1. Schedule a meeting with upper management and other involved parties to discuss expectations for the party. This will allow you to clarify any questions or concerns and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  2. Create a survey to gather feedback from attendees on their preferences for the party, such as the venue, theme, food, and entertainment. This will help you tailor the party to the expectations of the attendees.
  3. Set clear goals for the party, such as employee engagement, team building, or celebrating company achievements, and make sure they align with the expectations of upper management and other involved parties.
  4. Consider any budget constraints and discuss them with upper management and other involved parties to ensure that everyone is aware of what is feasible and what is not.
  5. Provide regular updates to upper management and other involved parties on the party planning progress, and give them the opportunity to provide input and feedback throughout the planning process.
  6. Be open to suggestions and ideas from upper management and other involved parties, as they may have unique perspectives or insights that can help make the party a success.
  7. Evaluate past events to determine what worked well and what did not, and use this information to improve future events and better meet the expectations of all parties involved.

Determine the budget

Your company might be paying all the costs or there may be expectations that everyone contributes to the event.

If this is the case, it is important to identify a reasonable cost that your colleagues would be willing to pay for a dinner/event.

Here are some tips to help you create a budget for your party:

  1. Define the purpose of the party and what you hope to achieve. This will help you determine the scope of the party and how much you are willing to spend.
  2. Determine the total amount of money you are willing to spend on the party, and allocate funds accordingly.
  3. Break down expenses into categories, such as food, decorations, venue, entertainment, and transportation, and allocate funds accordingly.
  4. Prioritize expenses based on the importance of each category and how much money you have allocated to each category.
  5. Consider different options for each category, such as DIY decorations or using a more affordable venue, to help stay within your budget.
  6. Obtain quotes from vendors and suppliers for each category, and compare them to make sure you are getting the best value for your money.
  7. Plan for unexpected expenses by setting aside a contingency fund to cover any unforeseen costs that may arise.
  8. Track expenses throughout the planning process to ensure that you are staying within your budget.
  9. Re-evaluate and adjust your budget as necessary based on changes in scope or unexpected expenses.

Plot the timeline

Is the event you are planning going to take place during office hours, after closing or on a weeknight or weekend? Is it for breakfast, lunch or dinner? When will it end?

Beyond the actual Christmas party timeline, what’s your time frame to prepare for the party? Make sure that you break preparations into smaller manageable pieces.

The recommended timeline for planning an office Christmas party can vary depending on the size and complexity of the event, but here is a general guideline:

2-3 months before the event:

  • Set a budget
  • Determine the guest list
  • Book the venue
  • Hire a caterer (if needed)
  • Plan the menu and bar service
  • Choose a theme (if desired)
  • Book entertainment or a DJ
  • Order invitations

4-6 weeks before the event:

  • Send invitations
  • Plan decorations and centerpieces
  • Order any rental items, such as tables, chairs, or linens
  • Confirm entertainment and catering arrangements
  • Arrange transportation or parking if necessary
  • Plan for any special dietary needs of guests

2-3 weeks before the event:

  • Confirm guest attendance
  • Finalize decorations and centerpieces
  • Create a schedule for the event
  • Confirm all vendors and service providers
  • Prepare a seating chart (if necessary)
  • Purchase any last-minute items, such as gifts or party favors

1 week before the event:

  • Confirm final guest count with the venue and caterer
  • Coordinate with any volunteers or staff
  • Arrange for any necessary equipment setup or rental deliveries
  • Reconfirm transportation arrangements

On the day of the event:

  • Set up decorations and centerpieces
  • Set up any necessary equipment, such as a sound system or lighting
  • Coordinate with catering and entertainment providers
  • Greet guests and manage any last-minute issues

In the week after the event:

  • Collect feedback from colleagues and management
  • Distribute photos and videos from your party

By following this timeline, you can ensure that all the necessary tasks are completed in a timely manner, and that your office Christmas party runs smoothly and successfully.

Assemble the team

Although one person can handle some tasks, the number of guests defines whether you need to have a larger team. Assembling an event planning committee for the office Christmas party can be a great way to divide the workload and ensure that the event runs smoothly. 

Here are some tips to help you assemble the team:

  1. Determine the scope of the party: Determine the size and complexity of the party and what tasks will need to be accomplished. This will help you determine the number of people you will need on the event planning committee.
  2. Consider the skills and interests of potential team members: Consider the skills and interests of potential team members, and choose individuals who have experience or interest in areas such as event planning, marketing, budgeting, or logistics.
  3. Invite participation: Invite participation from different departments or teams to ensure that the party represents the interests of the entire company. This will also help to create a sense of ownership and involvement in the event.
  4. Set clear expectations: Set clear expectations for the role of each team member and communicate the specific tasks they will be responsible for. This will help to avoid confusion and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.
  5. Schedule regular meetings: Schedule regular meetings with the event planning committee to discuss progress, updates, and any issues that need to be addressed. This will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and can collaborate effectively.
  6. Encourage communication: Encourage open communication and provide team members with a way to share ideas, concerns, and feedback. This will help to build trust and create a positive working environment.
  7. Show appreciation: Show appreciation for the hard work and effort put in by the event planning committee. This could be through verbal recognition or a small token of appreciation, such as a gift card or a thank you note.

Select a venue

Choosing the right venue is crucial for a successful office Christmas party. Venue is also the first question that comes to mind in any event planning endeavor.

Here are some tips to help you select the best venue for your event:

  1. Determine your budget: Before you start searching for venues, determine your budget. This will help you narrow down your options and ensure that you are not overspending.
  2. Consider the size of your guest list: Choose a venue that can comfortably accommodate the number of guests you plan to invite. Make sure there is enough space for tables, chairs, and any other equipment you may need.
  3. Choose a convenient location: Select a venue that is easy for your guests to get to, ideally one that is centrally located or near public transportation. If the venue is in an unfamiliar area, provide clear directions and parking instructions.
  4. Check for availability: Check with the venue to ensure that the space is available on the date and time of your event. It’s a good idea to have a few backup dates in case the venue is already booked.
  5. Check the amenities: Make sure the venue has all the amenities you need, such as a kitchen for catering, a sound system for music or speeches, and restroom facilities. If you have any specific needs, such as wheelchair accessibility or special equipment, make sure the venue can accommodate them.
  6. Consider the atmosphere: Choose a venue that matches the mood and theme of your event. For example, if you’re planning a formal dinner, select a venue that has an elegant ambiance.
  7. Check reviews and references: Read reviews and ask for references from previous clients to ensure that the venue has a good reputation and can provide quality service.

Pick a theme

Choosing a theme can add fun and excitement to your office Christmas party, and help create a cohesive atmosphere. Here are some tips to help you choose a theme:

  1. Check management expectations: Is there a set theme or can you establish a theme for your Christmas party? Check with the expectations list you create above.
  2. Consider your audience: Choose a theme that will appeal to your guests. Think about their interests, hobbies, and cultural background. You can also consider the age range of your guests and their preferences for a more mature or playful theme.
  3. Choose a holiday-inspired theme: A holiday theme is a classic option for an office Christmas party. Consider a winter wonderland, a Christmas carnival, or a classic white and gold Christmas theme.
  4. Pick a popular culture theme: A theme based on a popular TV show, movie, or musical artist can add a modern twist to your event. Consider themes such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, or a 1980s-themed party.
  5. Consider a dress code: A dress code can add to the theme and create a more festive atmosphere. For example, you could ask guests to wear ugly Christmas sweaters, or have a black-tie dress code for a formal event.
  6. Match the theme to the venue: Choose a theme that matches the venue. For example, a vintage theme may work well for a historic building, while a modern theme may be more fitting for a contemporary venue.
  7. Keep it tasteful: While a fun and playful theme can add to the atmosphere, make sure it is appropriate for the workplace and won’t offend anyone.
  8. Cultural Considerations: Discussing how to be inclusive of different cultures and religions during the holiday season, and offering suggestions for non-religious celebrations. Is the event inclusive enough that everyone in the company feels comfortable? In today’s multicultural world, you need to look at your potential guests and ensure that everyone will feel a part of the event.

Make sure to check these 77 themes and 10 alternative themes for an office Christmas party.

Arrange for decorations

Having room decorations that align with your chosen theme will help create a cohesive atmosphere and enhance your guests’ experience, making the party more memorable.

  1. Use existing office decor: Your company may have already decorated the office for Christmas and you can capitalize on that depending on the space you’ve selected for your event.  
  2. Re-use decorations from last year: Or you may be responsible for decorating the office and the space for your event with items previously purchased. Check the storage room and see what you’ve got to work with.
  3. Shop on the budget: If your committee has a limited budget, Dollar Stores, Value Village and other discount shops have lots of holiday trim available that can really brighten up a space.
  4. Check if the venue you rented provides decor: If you are doing an off-site event, the host facility is often already decorated for the seasonal celebrations – that can take a load of worry off your plate and leave you time for other planning.
  5. Ensure theme and decor consistency: Ensure your decorations are consistent with the theme you’ve chosen in the previous step. Especially if you’ve chosen one of the alternative themes.
  6. Consider seasonal flowers: Floral arrangements that are seasonal are a great way to brighten up a buffet table. Fresh flowers or boughs of cedar and pine can really change the feel of an event.
  7. Check if you can utilize seasonal smells: They can add great fragrance to the venue. At this time of year you might be able to rent artificial arrangements from an event planning company. This can save you time and can lower your costs.

Check these 40 office Christmas party decoration ideas.

Plan food & beverage

By now your food and beverage questions will have been addressed with budget, theme and venue choice. However, there are a few things you still need to remember like options for food and beverage arrangements.

  • Catering: If you have a favorite restaurant in the area, see if they offer catering services for off-site events.
  • Potluck: Instead of a traditional potluck, consider assigning different courses to different departments or teams, and have them bring dishes that fit a specific theme. Check these 60 ideas for office potlucks.

Some things to keep in mind:

  1. Time of the day: Keep in mind that the time of day your party is planned for will directly affect the type of service and quantity of food required and staff expectations.
  2. Venue space: Holding your office Christmas party on-site means you’ll need to keep in mind that the space available will dictate the style of service you choose.
  3. Catering equipment: A buffet style gathering will require tables for catering equipment and if you choose to have traditional turkey or roast beef, space for the chef carving station is a-must.
  4. Save with caterers: If you have to get the most out of a smaller budget, opt for the caterer to drop off your menu choices and then all you’ll need is a table to set up the presentation.
  5. Quantity of food to order: How much food is needed will depend on how many people will attend and the time of your party. Luncheons typically require less food than evening parties.
  6. Get your liquor license: Remember to check the Alberta liquor laws and restrictions for the venue. Although if you hire a catering company, the caterers usually have it covered.

Prepare invitations

Sending out invitations is an important part of planning an office Christmas party. Here are some tips to help you create and send out invitations:

  1. Determine the guest list: Determine who will be invited to the party, including employees, their partners, and any other guests. Keep in mind that the guests can change the dynamics of the way an event is organized.
  2. Choose a format: Decide whether you want to send out paper invitations, digital invitations, or a combination of both. Consider the budget, the formality of the event, and the preferences of your guests.
  3. Decide on the dress code: Is there a company-wide policy? Or can you go creative and match things to your party theme? Providing guidelines for appropriate attire, such as formal dress or festive casual.
  4. Include all the necessary information: Make sure your invitations include the date, time, and location of the party. Include any other important details such as the dress code, RSVP deadline, and any activities or entertainment that will be provided.
  5. Create a clear and concise message: Make sure your message is clear and easy to understand. Use language that is appropriate for the tone of the event, whether it’s formal or informal.
  6. Use creative and festive design elements: Add festive design elements such as Christmas-themed graphics, colors, and fonts to make your invitations more appealing.
  7. Send out invitations in advance: Send out invitations at least 2-3 weeks in advance to give guests enough time to plan and RSVP.
  8. Follow up with guests: Follow up with guests who have not responded to your invitation a few days before the event to ensure that you have an accurate headcount.

Organize for entertainment

Here are some tips for organizing entertainment at an office Christmas party:

  1. Consider your guests: Think about the demographics and preferences of your guests when choosing entertainment. A band or DJ might be more appropriate for a younger crowd, while a magician or comedian might be more appealing to an older group.
  2. Keep it festive: Consider hiring performers or acts that have a holiday theme, such as carolers, a Santa Claus impersonator, or a holiday-themed dance performance.
  3. Mix it up: Offer a variety of entertainment options to appeal to different interests. Consider including games, a photo booth, or a karaoke machine in addition to traditional performances.
  4. Schedule carefully: Plan entertainment throughout the evening to keep guests engaged and prevent lulls in the event. Consider scheduling performances during meal breaks or between speeches.
  5. Stay within budget: Choose entertainment that fits your budget and prioritize options that will have the biggest impact on your guests’ experience.

Here are some games and activity ideas for an office Christmas party:

  • Employee recognition: Acknowledge and appreciate the hard work and contributions of employees throughout the year. This can be done through awards, speeches, or other forms of public recognition.
  • Charitable giving: Consider giving with activities such as building Christmas hampers, cooking lunch for a homeless shelter, shopping for gifts for needy kids, a toy drive or donation to a local charity.
  • Gift exchange: Organize a gift exchange, such as a Secret Santa or White Elephant game, where employees can exchange gifts with one another.
  • Trivia games: Create a Christmas-themed trivia game that includes questions about holiday traditions, movies, music, and more.
  • Photo booth: Set up a photo booth with holiday-themed props and backdrops, and encourage guests to take pictures and share them on social media.
  • Ugly sweater contest: Host an ugly sweater contest, where guests can compete to see who has the most festive and creative holiday sweater.
  • Cookie decorating: Set up a cookie decorating station with different types of cookies and decorating supplies, and encourage guests to create their own edible masterpieces.
  • Karaoke: Set up a karaoke machine and encourage guests to sing their favorite holiday songs.
  • Holiday scavenger hunt: Organize a holiday-themed scavenger hunt, where guests can search for hidden items or solve puzzles to win prizes.
  • DIY crafts: Set up a DIY craft station, where guests can create their own holiday decorations or ornaments.

Plan the photo and video

Photography and videography are important aspects of capturing memories from your office Christmas party. Here are some tips to help you get the best shots:

  1. Plan ahead: Before the event, make a list of key moments or shots you want to capture, such as group photos, speeches, or entertainment. This will help you stay organized and ensure you don’t miss any important moments.
  2. Use natural lighting: Whenever possible, use natural lighting to capture your photos and videos. This can create a warmer and more natural look.
  3. Bring the right equipment: Make sure you have the necessary equipment, such as a high-quality camera or smartphone with a good camera, tripod, and lighting equipment if needed.
  4. Capture candid moments: Candid shots can be some of the most memorable and authentic, so don’t be afraid to capture moments when people are laughing, dancing, or enjoying themselves.
  5. Be respectful: When taking photos or videos of people, be respectful of their privacy and ask for permission before taking close-up shots.
  6. Edit and share: After the event, edit your photos and videos to enhance their quality, and share them with your colleagues. This can help to keep the memories of the event alive and create a sense of community.
  7. Hire a professional: If you want high-quality photos and videos and don’t have the skills or equipment to do it yourself, consider hiring a professional photographer or videographer. Photo booths are popular at office parties.

Plan transportation and accommodation

Organizing transportation and accommodation for an office Christmas party can be challenging, but here are some tips to make it easier:

  1. Determine the transportation needs: Consider the number of attendees, the distance to the venue, and the availability of parking. Decide if you will need a shuttle service, limousine, or public transportation to transport guests.
  2. Book transportation in advance: Book transportation services well in advance to ensure availability and to secure the best rates. Make sure to provide the transportation company with a clear itinerary and number of passengers.
  3. Offer safe transportation options: Provide safe transportation options for employees who may be drinking during the party. Consider hiring a designated driver service or offering a ride-sharing program.
  4. Provide clear instructions: Provide attendees with clear instructions on transportation arrangements, including pick-up and drop-off locations, and departure times.
  5. Consider accommodation options: If the party is held outside of normal office hours, consider offering accommodation options for employees who may not be able to travel home. Look for hotel options near the party venue, and negotiate discounted rates for your employees.
  6. Communicate accommodation options early: Communicate the accommodation options and rates to attendees well in advance of the party, so that they can make arrangements accordingly.
  7. Offer alternative transportation options: Consider providing alternative transportation options, such as rental cars or bicycles, for employees who prefer to travel on their own.
  8. Arrange for parking: If attendees will be driving to the party, arrange for parking options at the venue or nearby locations.

Think of safety and liability

Organizing safety and liability for an office Christmas party is important to ensure that all attendees are safe and secure during the event. Here are some tips to help you organize safety and liability for your party:

  1. Conduct a risk assessment: Conduct a risk assessment to identify any potential hazards or risks associated with the party, and develop a plan to mitigate those risks.
  2. Check insurance coverage: Check with your company’s insurance provider to ensure that you have appropriate liability coverage for the event.
  3. Hire professional vendors: Consider hiring professional vendors, such as caterers or bartenders, who have liability insurance and a good track record of safety and compliance.
  4. Set guidelines for alcohol consumption: Set guidelines for responsible alcohol consumption, such as a drink limit or designated driver program. Make sure non-alcoholic drinks are available.
  5. Arrange transportation: Arrange for safe transportation options, such as a shuttle service, designated driver service, or ride-sharing program, to ensure that all attendees can get home safely.
  6. Consider accessibility: Consider accessibility for all attendees, including those with disabilities, and make accommodations as necessary.
  7. Provide first aid: Make sure a first-aid kit is available on-site, and designate someone to handle any medical emergencies that may arise.
  8. Set clear guidelines: Set clear guidelines for employee behavior, including dress code, language, and appropriate conduct.
  9. Monitor the event: Designate someone to monitor the event and ensure that all attendees are safe and comfortable.
  10. Gather feedback: After the event, gather feedback from attendees and use it to improve safety and liability measures for future events.

Post-party follow-up

Post-party follow-up is an important part of ensuring the success of your office Christmas party. Here are some tips to help you follow up after the party:

  1. Thank your guests: Send out a thank-you message to your guests, thanking them for attending and for their contribution to the success of the party. Make sure to mention any highlights of the party and express your appreciation for their support.
  2. Collect feedback: Collect feedback from your guests about the party. Ask for their opinions on the venue, the food and drinks, the entertainment, and any other aspects of the party. This feedback can help you plan better events in the future.
  3. Evaluate the budget: Review the budget for the party and evaluate whether it was successful in meeting your goals. Look at the expenses and compare them to the budget, making notes of areas where you could save money or where you might want to invest more in the future.
  4. Review the planning process: Evaluate the planning process and make notes on what worked well and what could be improved in the future. This will help you plan better events in the future and streamline the planning process.
  5. Follow up on any outstanding issues: Address any outstanding issues or follow-up items that may have arisen from the party. For example, if there were any issues with the venue or the catering, make sure to follow up with those vendors to resolve any issues.

Frequently asked questions

When should I start planning the office Christmas party?

It’s a good idea to start planning the party at least 2-3 months in advance to give yourself enough time to book a venue, hire vendors, and coordinate all the details.

How can I choose a theme for the office Christmas party?

Consider the preferences of your guests, the budget, and the type of event you want to host. You could choose a traditional Christmas theme, or a more modern theme like a winter wonderland or a festive cocktail party.

How can I create a budget for the office Christmas party?

Start by determining how much you can afford to spend on the party. Then, make a list of all the expenses you’ll incur, such as venue rental, catering, decorations, and entertainment. Prioritize your expenses based on the importance of each item to the success of the event.

How can I ensure the safety of my guests at the office Christmas party?

Make sure you have liability insurance, and consider hiring security if necessary. Ensure that all vendors and venues have appropriate safety measures in place, such as fire extinguishers and emergency exits.

How can I ensure that everyone has a good time at the office Christmas party?

Consider the preferences of your guests when planning the event, and make sure you have a variety of food, drinks, and activities that appeal to everyone. Encourage socializing and networking by providing opportunities for guests to interact with each other.

How can I handle alcohol at the office Christmas party?

Consider serving a limited selection of drinks, and provide non-alcoholic options as well. Ensure that all guests are of legal drinking age, and consider hiring a bartender or security to monitor alcohol consumption.