Holiday Party Planning with Duvall

people holding champagne glasses

‘Tis the season of holiday party planning! Whether this is your first time in charge of planning or you are a seasoned Santa, we’ve broken down everything you need to know to plan a festive holiday party that jingles all the way.

In our guide, you’ll discover an overview of:

  • Holiday party timelines
  • Essential planning tasks
  • Tips for working with vendors

No detail is too small – we’ve got you covered from start to finish including invitations, table arrangements, drink menus, party favors, and more!

Jump To

Your Holiday Party Planning Timeline

To kick off the planning, it’s useful to understand what you need to do and when you need to do it. Here’s an overview of all the holiday party planning tasks you’ll need to handle in the coming months:

5-6 Months Out

3-4 Months Out

  • Decide on the event theme and and formality
  • Create a guest list
  • Get in touch with vendors (including caterers, decorators, florists, bar services, etc.)
  • Choose entertainment (such as a DJ, a band, photographer services, and more)

2 Months Out

  • Pin down key event details with vendors (including florals, decor, food, drink, and party favors)
  • Plan activities, such as employee recognition, raffles, photo booths, and more

1 Month Out

  • Send invitations and track RSVPs
  • Confirm details with vendors (including floor plan designs, menus, day-of arrival, etc.)
  • Make a day-of timeline

What You’re in Charge Of

As you plan this year’s holiday party, you’ll need to take the lead on certain tasks, especially when defining the scope of the event. Here’s what you should expect to handle yourself:

Set Your Budget

Before you get into the party details, you need to define your event budget so you know what you can afford. Whether you’re given an allotted amount from your organization or are deciding on what you’re comfortable spending, your budget determines all other factors in your planning process.

The first step is to finalize a number and break it into categories – think about the food, rentals, venue, décor, and more. Your budget will depend on the number of guests, so having an estimate will help clarify expenses with your vendors.

Pin Down a Date and Time

Next, you should pin down a date and time for your holiday party. Here are some key considerations for scheduling your event:

For Corporate Holiday Parties:

  • More and more holiday parties are being booked in the “off-season” as early as October to as late as the end of January – plus, venue rates are lower during these off-season periods
  • For December dates, early in the month is typically best for work events since calendars tend to get filled up with family time as the holidays approach
  • Many swear by Thursdays for corporate holiday parties, as employees don’t have to give up a weekend night and can still have a good time – with only Friday left to get through

For Holiday Parties for Family and Friends:

  • Keep an open mind for hosting a weekday holiday party after work or a weekend party in the afternoon
  • Daytime holiday parties can be just as festive with casual cocktails and relaxed expectations
  • 7:00 p.m. is a typical start time if you’re keen on hosting an evening party

Pick a Venue

A holiday party with friends and family can be hosted comfortably in someone’s home as long as the guest list is less than 25 people. Larger parties will likely be more successful in an event space, such as a restaurant, bar, or clubhouse.

For a corporate party, you’ll want to align the venue with your business goals. Some options include a restaurant, bar, hotel, boat, or cultural institution.

If you want a “mix and mingle” vibe, try a venue with gorgeous vistas or lots of lounge space. There are even unique venues that can captivate guests with built-in entertainment such as museums, aquariums, or historic sites.

Pro tip: If your company has remote team members, think about how the venue may be able to incorporate them. Is there space for a video screen where remote employees could be part of the fun? Perhaps a live raffle or recognition moment could include a remote option?

Define the Party Type and Theme

Kid-friendly or adults only? Casual or formal? As you plan your holiday party, consider what kind of vibe you’re going for. This will help you narrow down your theme as well.

For example, an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” holiday party suggests a more low-key intimate affair, whereas a “Christmas Masquerade” may be a glitzy evening soiree. Whatever you choose, be sure party expectations are clear in the invitations.

Oversee the Guest List and RSVPs

You’ll also be responsible for putting together a guest list, sending out invitations, and tracking RSVPs.

Be sure to clarify in the invitations whether “plus ones” are allowed and designate the themeand dress code, along with any other essential information.

You might consider paperless invitations, which can be sent over email. Paperless Post, Evite, and Punchbowl make this process easy – with some helpful built-in designs, too!

Get in Touch with Vendors (Earlier Rather Than Later!)

Time is of the essence — venues, vendors, and rentals book up fast and become increasingly hard to nail down as the holiday season gets closer. Starting the conversation earlier (at least three months in advance) saves you stress later.

If you’ve chosen a full-service planner (like Duvall), you’ll only require one contact to take care of all your party needs. Otherwise, you’ll need to reach out to caterers, decorators, florists, and bar services separately. Don’t forget about entertainment vendors such as a DJ or band, photographer, and others.

Pro tip: Think about what your guests will need the day of. For example, arranging child care or valet parking is a thoughtful way to make their lives easier.

Plan Show-Stopping Activities

Your party planner will assist with novelty activity planning, but you should start mapping out your vision early. Some potential options are included in the following section.

What You Will Coordinate With the Vendor

Luckily, you won’t be planning your upcoming holiday party alone. With your party vendors or full-service planner, you’ll work together to coordinate the following details.

Decor and Florals

Your vendor will help your holiday party vision come alive. Together you’ll discuss the details of what you’re picturing and your vendor will create a custom plan that includes:

  • Florals
  • Lighting
  • Centerpieces
  • Couches and chairs
  • Rugs and draping
  • Bar decor
  • Props and installations
  • And more!

For a corporate event, you can ensure it aligns with your company branding and goals, too.

Food and Drink Menu

Eat, drink and be merry by planning the perfect food and drink menu with your vendor.

Selections of hors d’oeuvres and food stations make for a fun, interactive event that keeps the party going all night. On the other hand, served dinners allow guests to take a seat and slow down in a more formal setting.

To accompany the food, seasonal drinks such as mulled wine, hard cider, or hot cocoa can be festive. Your vendor can suggest a few options that fit your holiday party theme.

Novelty Party Activities

The food and drinks might bring the party, but the entertainment is what keeps people around all night long. Your vendor can help with novelty activities such as:

  • Photo booth with props
  • Games with prizes
  • Spin wheels to win with branded and unique items
  • Virtual reality activities
  • Caricature artist
  • Table for a gift exchange or raffles

You may also want something special for an employee recognition moment, such as a “star employee” holiday tree or a live awards ceremony.

If you want to use the party to do some good, host a live or silent auction to fundraise for a cause aligned with your company’s mission.

For family and friends, you may have more laid-back activities lined up, such as holiday games, a Secret Santa exchange, a cookie swap, an ugly sweater contest, Christmas caroling, or something similar.

Party Favors

Your vendor can also handle party favors, whether you’re looking for an extravagant corporate gift box or something more simple like a tasty treat to take home. Whatever you choose, just be sure to coordinate where it will be placed so guests don’t miss it on their way out.

What the Vendor Will Take Care Of

Finally, your vendor will take care of key tasks so that you don’t have to worry the day of the festivities. Typically, your holiday planning vendors or full-service planner will:

  • Prepare, transport, and set up all food and beverages
  • Decorate and break down the space
  • Hire wait staff for the day of
  • Arrange for china, plates, utensils, and linens

You should always check directly with your vendor to have the most up to date information about what’s included in their services.

Stress Less About the Holiday Party This Year

As you can see, a lot of thought goes into achieving a successful festive event. With our guide, you’ll be well on your way to planning a holiday party that won’t soon fade from memory.

You can get help navigating the trials of planning the perfect holiday party with our professional full-service event planning team at Duvall. Tell us all about your event by giving us a call at (843) 763-9222 or filling out our contact form.