How to plan the office Christmas party

A step-by-step guide on how to throw the perfect corporate Christmas party

Updated on 25 July 2023 • Written By Caroline Hendry

Close map
How to plan the office Christmas party

Are you responsible for the Christmas party this year and have no idea where to start? Fear not, as below, we’ve gathered some top tips on how to organise the ultimate office Christmas party. 

Start planning early

You’ll be surprised how many hours and how much organisation is required to plan a successful party, so allow yourself plenty of time. A lot of Christmas party venues also get booked out several months (sometimes even a year) in advance, so in order to not miss out, get ahead. Six months is not an unreasonable timeframe.

Decide what type of party it will be

Before you decide on a budget, you need to figure out what kind of party the Christmas party will be. Are you holding it in the office or will you hire a venue? Is it a staff party only or will employees’ spouses be invited too? Perhaps clients and external stakeholders are expected to be there? These are questions that need to be answered before the real planning can begin.

Set a date

Christmas and the end-of-year months are a busy time for everyone, so it’s a good idea to get a date in the diary as soon as possible.

Will the party be held on a weekday or weekend? This can be a deal-breaker for many. The idea of giving up their free time (such as the weekend) might not appeal to some and they might consider a day out of the office more of a treat. Sending out a survey to see which date would work best for the majority of employees is a great way to figure out what to do.

Also, consider a January Christmas party – venues have more availability and cheaper prices.

Once a date has been decided, send out invitations. A placeholder date should be enough with the promise that more info will be given later.

Decide on a budget

It might seem like an obvious one to mention, but it is absolutely crucial as it will determine your options when it comes to which venue you can afford, what food and drink you can have, your theme and what entertainment you can hire. So before you start letting your mind run wild, pin a budget down.

Focus on food and drink   

Ultimately, the most important thing at any Christmas party is food and drink. Imagine that you’ve really gone to town with the entertainment this year and you’ve managed to secure Ed Sheeran to perform, but halfway through the evening all the alcohol is gone. You also realise that only half of your guest have eaten and there are no more canapés. Disaster. No-one will remember it as the Christmas party where Ed Sheeran performed, but as the Christmas party where there was no food or drink left. So the morale of the story? Never skimp on food and drink.

Choose a theme

Deciding on a theme for your Christmas party can be a really fun activity where you are allowed to be creative and innovative. But most importantly, it will make every other stage of the planning process easier. Once a theme is figured out, it will guide your decision regarding food, drink, decorations, props and entertainment. Take Aprés Ski as an example. Food: German sausages – easy. Drink: mulled wine – duh! Decorations: deer-skin throws and ski goggles, of course.

Think outside the box

Try and stray away from the classic and obvious Christmas party themes and create something your guests will remember past the hangover.

Find a venue

Finding a venue that reflects the theme you’ve chosen, fits within your budget, holds the capacity required and is available on the date you need can be a real puzzle.

That’s where SquareMeal’s free Concierge Service comes into play. Our team of experts can find you a selection of venues to meet your requirements within 24 hours of contacting them.

You can also browse through Christmas party venues here.

Consider teambuilding and immersive experiences

Corporate team building activities can bring many benefits to the office Christmas do. Not only is it a great way to get everyone in the office to mingle and socialise, and get people who might not know each other that well to get better acquainted (who knew Joyce from HR got on so swimmingly with Allan from sales?), but it also adds an element of fun to the party. There are the obvious team-building and morale-boosting sides of things too - a real win.

It can also work as a form of entertainment for the evening. Immersive experiences are a hot topic right now and can truly elevate your party. What about having your Christmas party on a bus that takes your around London or hosting it at an audience-participating play, which is acted out in a make-believe vintage train carriage?

Find entertainment

If an immersive experience is off the table, it’s still worth considering hiring in or sorting out some form of entertainment. In today’s Instagram-driven environment, having something impressive that your guests can boast about on social media is a solid winner.

Think about dietary requirements

Dietary requirements go beyond catering for nut allergies and gluten intolerances these days – it’s also about lifestyle choices such as vegetarianism and veganism. The days of slapping a bunch of wet vegetables on a plate as an alternative are gone, so to ensure everyone in your party will have a good time at the Christmas party, take dietary requirements seriously and offer an exciting menu for all. Go for cuisines that works well with dietary requirements such as Mexican and Japanese and remember to offer a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks.

Organise transportation

Office Christmas parties are usually a pretty boozy affair and as the company is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their employees, it’s a good idea to ensure all staff get home alright. You could try either organising a coach or mini bus to take everyone home at a set time, or have taxis waiting outside the venue. Guests are sure to appreciate the gesture of getting home safe and sound.

Hire a party planner

If all of this sounds like too much hassle for you, you should consider hiring an event planner or finding a venue with a dedicated events team or in-house party planner. These are professionals and will know all the things to consider and what trends to keep an eye out for.

Consider shared Christmas parties

An alternative to the above is also joining the many shared Christmas parties that are available out there. This is furthermore a great option for smaller companies. All you need to do is sign up and pay an agreed price per person, and the organiser will take care of the rest – easy peasy.

Need inspiration for a venue for your Christmas party? Here are a few of the very best large Christmas party venues in London, and the best small Christmas party venues in London to get you started. 

Join SquareMeal Rewards

Collect points, worth at least £1, every time you book online and dine at a participating restaurant.

Start Collecting Points

Already a member? Sign in