Planning your company's holiday party

JFK Ballroom

By Stephanie Sharlet
As published in Cape & Plymouth Business, October 2015

Autumn is in full swing, and it’s time to look ahead to planning your company’s holiday party. The rules below can provide expert guidance for you.

Rule 1: There’s no time like the present.

In order for you to stay sane with all of the personal responsibilities the holidays bring, you will need to start looking for the perfect party venue now. Begin with hotels and restaurants with private function spaces and full banquet and catering services in order to make things easier on your end. A full-service catering and banquet facility will usually include all the necessities, such as tables, chairs, linens, silverware, glassware, etc., and a helpful, diligent manager and staff to oversee and execute every detail of your event. Most hotels and restaurants often feature festive holiday decor and centerpieces for your tables at no extra charge − inquire about these elements when you begin researching.

Also, be sure to reserve your venue early because the popular dates − generally the first couple of Fridays and Saturdays in December – will book up fast. If that happens, inquire about any discounts or concessions for booking a weekday or Sunday event. These tend to be less popular party times, giving you more negotiating power.


Rule 2: Location, location, location.

Where your company is located will influence where you decide to host your party. Pick a venue that’s convenient for your guests/coworkers.  Make sure they can easily get to and from the party. Consider booking a block of hotel rooms nearby the party venue or at the site itself, so your guests don’t have to drive after a night of festivities. Many hotels offer special room rates to coincide with their holiday party packages. Pick a central, convenient and easy-to-find location with plenty of parking and accessibility for all of your guests.


Rule 3: Food, glorious food.

Successful holiday parties are all about good food. Make certain your venue has a reputation of well-prepared, tastefully presented and generously portioned food. Many hotels and restaurants will have custom menus featuring holiday favorites. When it comes to selecting a menu, be sure it includes something for everyone. In other words, include some vegetarian selections as well as more traditional options like prime rib or carved turkey. Look for well-rounded menus, perhaps a custom holiday buffet that features more than one main entree with various starches and sides. And always, always, serve some sort of food during your cocktail hour.

Whether it’s international cheeses with seasonal fruits or a warm hearty dip, people need to eat, drink and be merry from beginning to end at a holiday party.


Rule 4: More is not always better (when it comes to a bar).

This is a dilemma we find in hospitality often − what is the appropriate bar or alcohol service for your particular guests? There are many options available to you, but be wise and prudent and know your audience. Open bars are popular − but they can be costly, and people may end up consuming too much holiday cheer. However, open bars are indeed a generous and hospitable service option. One way to keep a handle on cost and consumption is to limit the open bar to the first two hours of the function, then switch to a cash bar. Another option: consider drink tickets for your guests. Provide two tickets per guest with the option for additional drinks on a cash basis. You can also host a beer- and wine-only bar, thereby keeping costs down. Check with your venue to see if they offer any of these options, and choose the best one for you, your guests and your budget.


Rule 5: That’s music to my ears.

Entertainment can make or break any event. Whether it’s a DJ or live band, you need a strong, professional and charismatic emcee for your party. I can’t stress enough the amount of influence this choice will have on setting a tone, creating the right energy and making your party fun! You may choose to go with strolling carolers, an acapella group singing holiday songs or even use the venue’s sound system with your own selection of tunes − whatever your preference, the goal is to put people in a celebratory mood. Music and entertainment are vital to creating a party atmosphere. 


If you start researching venues now and give special consideration to details like location, food, beverage and music/entertainment, your holiday party will be a huge success. And you will be a party planning rock star!

Stephanie Sharlet is Sales Manager at Cape Codder Resort & Spa in Hyannis. She can be reached at or (508) 771-3000