Christmas party planning: How to avoid a nervous breakdown in 2015

Are you the ‘lucky’ one tasked with organising the office Christmas party? Are you flying solo or wrangling with a social committee larger than some European countries?

Organising the office Christmas party can be daunting and enough to bring even the most confident of us into a cold sweat. So why do we do it?

Some of us do it because we like to flex our creative yet semi-OCD style organisational skills. Skills that for the rest of the working year are buried beneath files and paperwork.

For others it’s simply the reward. 

The reward is the gratitude of your colleagues when you deliver them a great party. Hugs, high fives and the sound of “great party Jane!” echoing down the office corridors, standing ovations, a huge promotion…OK we’re getting carried away now.

We asked Maddie and Erin from Harbour & Jones Events to put together their top tips for pulling off a great office Christmas party.

Start planning early

Like January early! Especially if you have 100 or more guests. This will cut down on stress and by October when everyone else is doing the Christmas scramble; you will be sitting back, relaxed and ready to celebrate.

Save the date

Work out who the key people needed to attend (CEO, directors, that fun crew from finance) and ensure the date works for them and for the majority of your office.

You can save money on venue hire and lower minimum spends in most cases by going with Monday or Tuesday evenings or why not host a ‘Santa’s running late’ party in January or February?

Set your date and send out a ‘Save the Date’ email and calendar invitation if appropriate. If you get this done early enough, your colleagues will then plan around the party.

Work out your budget

If your company has already given you a reasonable figure to work with, you certainly are one lucky duck so move onto the next step now!

If not and you are starting from scratch, call around to a few venues and ask for preliminary quotes. Feel free to simply let them know that you are putting together your Christmas party budget and you would like some options for your number of guests and preferred dates.

If you are unsure about the style of your event at this stage, ask the venues to quote you for a canapé reception option and a set menu dinner option with a DJ and table decorations.

This will give you your basic cost, and then add on 10% for any optional extras you may like (menu upgrades, extensions, further decorations etc.)

Did you know – HM Revenue allows up to £150 per person tax exempt for a staff event?

Choose your event style

You just need to be certain of the basics at this point. Take into considerations your numbers, demographic and research past company event and decide if you require an informal reception style event or a more formal seated dinner. Once you have the venue booked, you can then get down to the more detailed planning.

Receptions are usually more budget friendly and create a party style atmosphere where formal dining is great if you are combining with an awards presentation or if your company is used to more formal occasions.

If you are considering a themed event, our advice is to keep it simple. A badly executed or obscure theme can lead to a really weird vibe on the night and can even cause guests not to come to the event. See what options the venues are doing in house or simply go with a festive Christmas theme. Christmas is a theme in itself right? Put your money into food, drinks, a fantastic venue and entertainment before digging too deep to pull off on OTT theme.

Book the venue

Narrow your list down to your favourite 2 or 3 venues and ask for formal proposals covering off everything you may need. Remember to tell the venue your budget so that they can quote accordingly:

Once you have negotiated and found your ideal venue, book it in before someone else does! Venues receive Christmas party enquiries year round and you will often find that you could be one of several interested parties on the same date.

Most venues will ask you to sign a contract and pay a deposit to confirm the venue. This could be between 30 – 100% of the estimated cost.

Remember that final numbers and menu selections are most often not required by the venue until 2-4 weeks prior to the event so you will have plenty of time to fine tune your requirements.

Book the entertainment early

If you are sourcing this separately from your venue, book this in nice and early. Aim to have this booked by August to get your first pick before someone else snaps them up. Make sure you check with the venue that the rock band you want to book is permitted in the venue!

Send the invitations

Aim to do this by 6 weeks prior to the event. The date is already in their diaries and they’ll be itching to know what the plan is!

Set the RSVP date for 2 – 4 weeks prior to the event depending on when your venue needs numbers.

You will probably have to do some chasing. Depending on your office environment, walk around and visit your colleagues, call/email around, stalk them at their homes etc. to gather the remaining RSVP’s.

The final details                   

Depending on your venue, you’ll need to confirm numbers, menus etc. by about 2 weeks prior to the event. A good venue will prompt you and make sure you have your entire event requirements booked in so that you can simply show up on the night and enjoy!

 For help planning your Christmas do, call Maddie on 0203 176 2182 or email

Sign up to our newsletter