Christmas comes around quicker every year, and before you know it, it’s time to start planning the festivities again. But whether this is your first office Christmas party, or you’ve hosted several in the past, it can be difficult to stay organised and keep things fresh and exciting for your staff.
For business owners, there is never enough time in the day to get everything done. So, if the office Christmas party has slipped your mind, don’t panic – it’s still more than doable.
In this post, we’ll take you through our 10-step guide to planning a last-minute office Christmas party. Our checklist will cover the following areas:
- Stay calm
- Set your budget
- Delegate tasks
- Choose a date
- Book a venue
- Plan the entertainment
- Choose a food menu/caterer
- Send out invitations
- Make travel arrangements
- Last-minute preparations
Let’s get started.
1. Stay calm
The first thing to remember when you’re running short on time to plan your office Christmas party is to stay calm. The trick is to carve some time out in your schedule to dedicate to it. That way, you can focus on the task at hand, avoid any distractions, and make efficient progress.
Think about how much time you might need to get on top of things. A good way to approach this is by the size of your team. For instance, if you have 10-20 employees, a few hours in the morning may be enough to button down the key details. If you have 50-100 employees, however, you may need the whole day.
Either way, find a suitable slot in your diary to get your head down and think about the key details that need to be arranged first.
2. Set your budget
The next step is to determine how much you want to spend on your office Christmas party. There are plenty of factors that will affect your costs. So, it’s a good idea to start a spreadsheet that contains the following details:
To determine a budget, start by defining your group size. The bigger the group, the higher the total cost will be. Think about whether you’re inviting employees only, employees and plus ones, or employees and clients. To accommodate a smaller budget, you may want to make this a staff-only event.
At this stage, it’s best to plan for maximum capacity. Once you’ve confirmed the specifics and received RSVPs, you’ll be able to see if there is room in the budget for any extras.
Both the type of venue and the location you choose will affect your budget. Will you simply be booking a table in a local pub or do you need to hire the whole restaurant? Are you based in a small town or in the heart of a big city? Will you keep the event local or plan something bigger that involves travelling?
The catering booking platform, VenueScanner, says that this year’s Christmas packages range between £15 and £150 per person. Prices are at the higher end in central London and tend to be lower outside major cities. Businesses vary in size and success, but generally, it’s best to budget roughly £70 per head when looking for a suitable venue.
Food and drink
When making last-minute Christmas party arrangements, we recommend opting for an all-inclusive package that comes complete with catering. This way, you can hit two birds with one stone and save valuable time.
If you’d prefer something more bespoke for your staff, you may struggle to fit it all in at this late stage and find an available caterer. They may also charge more for last-minute bookings.
The other consideration to make at this stage is the drinks. Will you offer an open bar or ask employees to pay for their own drinks? You could set a cap so that the company covers some of the cost, but it all depends on your budget.
Depending on your venue, you might also find that they offer different refreshment packages that cater to different budgets, so do your research and find an option that suits you and how much you’re willing to spend.
There is a wide spectrum of entertainment options that you could go for when it comes to your work Christmas party. If you’re booking a package deal as mentioned earlier, you can find some quirky and spectacular options like dance performances, as well as traditional options like a live band or DJ.
If you’re working with a smaller budget, your entertainment could be Secret Santa. This is an excellent option that is generally well-received around the office and is another way to cut significant costs.
In this case, it’s best to set a spending cap per person. This way, everyone is treated fairly and the event is more accessible. Normally, a £10-£20 budget will suffice, but you can adjust it based on your employees’ circumstances.
There are a few additional costs that you should consider and factor into your overall budget, if applicable. Think about whether the company will also be covering some of the following expenses:
- Employees’ travel to/from the venue.
- Hotels for staff who don’t live locally.
- Decorations – You may want to personalise your Christmas party with unique decorations.
- Gifts or prizes – If you’re hosting staff awards, for example.
- Invitations – Do you want to make these bespoke? Will they be printed or emailed?
- Emergencies – It’s important to have a reserve budget for any unforeseen last-minute changes and emergencies.
Business expenses you can claim for the office Christmas party
There are certain social expenses and benefits that your company may be entitled to claim. According to HMRC, you may not need to report or pay any tax or National Insurance (NI) on your office Christmas party as long as:
- The event is open to all employees
- The event takes place every year
- The cost per person is £150 or less
These rules apply to both online and virtual parties, as well as in person. They also apply if you have several offices in various locations, as long as your Christmas party is in one place.
Additionally, you may still claim these expenses if you host separate Christmas parties for different departments, but your employees must attend one of them.
If your cost per head exceeds the £150 limit, you must report the expense per employee to HMRC using a P11D form. You’ll also need to pay Class 1A NI on the full cost of the event. You can find additional guidance on the HMRC website.
When planning your Christmas party budget, try to remain under the £150 limit to maximise your business expenses, keep costs down, and avoid incurring additional fees.
3. Delegate tasks
Once you know how much you want to spend, delegating each of the subsequent tasks to other team members can help you save plenty of valuable time. If you have an office manager (or similar), they should be able to take care of some of the admin, such as securing a date and contacting venues.
If you have a really small team, you can simply delegate the smaller tasks such as sending invitations or managing RSVPs. As long as you can share some of the workload with others, it’ll be a huge weight off your shoulders.
4. Choose a date for the Christmas party
Now that you have your budget, you need to choose a date for your Christmas party. With last-minute planning, your options will be limited and you may need to opt for a midweek date as opposed to a Friday or Saturday.
Generally, think about what would be most suitable for your employees. For example, if Wednesday is particularly busy in the office, you can host the event on a Thursday. If the available dates are really limited and there isn’t much room for manoeuvre, you could consider a Monday or Tuesday, and offer your staff a late start at work the following day, or an early finish to accommodate.
Alternatively, it could be worthwhile doing a poll to see when people are available. It’s impossible to please everyone, but pick a handful of options and see which is the most favourable.
Once you’ve set a date, it’s useful to send out a ‘save the date’ notification to your team as soon as possible. This will give them a chance to check their diaries and put the event in their calendars. You can also ask your employees to RSVP by a certain date, so that you can get a clear idea of who is attending, allowing you to move on to the next step and book a venue.
5. Book your Christmas party venue
It’s time to book a venue. Think about what type of setting and geographical location would suit your team.
If some of your employees are based far from the office, you may want to go for a central venue, or cover their travel and hotel costs if it’s further away. Alternatively, you could opt for a Christmas party in the office to save time and money.
Before booking a venue, make a list of the top contenders and the following important details:
- Terms and conditions
- Food, drinks, and/or entertainment that is included in the package
- Size and capacity
- Arrival and departure times
If you’re unsure which venue is the best choice, why not give your employees a choice of two or three locations? Otherwise, if you’ve found the perfect one, it’s best to book it straight away.
When making last-minute plans, you may find some significant cost-cutting (and time-saving) opportunities with shared parties. There are plenty of venues that take bookings from multiple companies for the same date and host a shared event. You’ll normally get an exclusive area for your team, but share the party and entertainment with other businesses.
A shared party can also make the entire planning process much easier, as they tend to come in complete packages that already have refreshments and entertainment; you simply pay the cost per head, while individual events are bespoke and involve more planning.
You may find Awesome Events, a London-based events solution company, a useful place to start your search for a shared venue. They have plenty of December dates still available with a variety of themes to choose from, plus up to 30% off on local hotel venues.
Finally, a handy tip for last-minute planning is to consider hosting your Christmas party in the office, especially if you struggle to find an available venue. You can save a considerable amount of money this way, and use it more wisely in other areas like gifts, food, or entertainment.
6. Plan festive entertainment
The entertainment should take care of itself if you are booking a package event. However, if you’re opting for a simple meal at a restaurant, or drinks with the team in a local bar, it may require some more planning.
As we mentioned earlier, the entertainment can be as simple as a gift exchange between the team. It’s low-cost, quick to arrange, and gets everyone involved. But if you’re looking for something extra, why not consider some of the below suggestions:
- Staff awards: This is a simple and fun way to recognise your team’s hard work throughout the year and boost morale beyond the Christmas season.
- Festive photo booth: If you’re hosting the Christmas party in the office, an inexpensive entertainment option could be to buy some festive props for everyone to take fun photos with.
- Christmas quiz/bingo: Whether your event is in the office or in a restaurant, a light-hearted Christmas quiz or a game of festive bingo is free, and a great way to get your employees to bond over the festivities. You may want to offer the winners a small prize such as a retail voucher.
- Competitions: Another great and low-cost entertainment option is to get competitive. Why not host a ‘best dressed’ or ‘ugliest Christmas jumper’ contest? You could also go for something more creative and teamwork-based like a bauble decorating competition.
7. Secure the food menu/caterer
Whether you’ve opted for an events package, heading to a restaurant, or hosting your work Christmas party in the office, the next step is to secure the food. Will you be offering canapés or a three-course dinner?
If you’re sticking to a tight budget, you could go for nibbles and drinks, or order a selection of finger food from a supermarket (like M&S or Sainsbury’s). Otherwise, you could opt for a Christmas dinner if there are more funds available.
Remember to ask your employees about any allergies and dietary requirements in advance and let your events manager, restaurant, or venue host know.
8. Send out the Christmas party invitations
Now that most of the hard work has been done, it’s time to share the details with your staff and get everyone excited with invitations. They will be keen to know what to expect from the event, so create a memo with these key details:
- Date and start time of the Christmas party
- Location with the full address
- The scope for travel arrangements
- Food menu and what time it is expected to be served
- Entertainment and its rough start time
- What time the party ends
- RSVP deadline (if required)
To save time, this can be communicated in a simple company-wide email. However, if you have some time left over or perhaps a designer with extra capacity, you could it more exciting with a bespoke announcement (printed or digital) that gets everyone in the Christmas spirit.
9. Make travel arrangements to/from the Christmas party
It’s time to make travel arrangements for those who need them. If the company is covering this cost, it’s best to book taxis in advance to avoid disappointment. You can pre-book train tickets, too, but these are less likely to run out.
A great cost-saving option is to share cabs if your team is comfortable doing so. Anyone who lives close to each other can travel to and from the Christmas party in the same taxi, making the expense lower for your company. You might also find a group discount this way.
If your employees are expected to pay for their own travel, they should also be advised to secure it as soon as possible.
10. Last-minute preparations
At this stage, the bulk of the work is done, so the final step is to make your final checks. You should make sure that:
- You have received everyone’s RSVP: If there are any missing, reach out to them with a final reminder.
- Responsibilities are assigned: For instance, you may want someone in charge of creating a seating plan, or welcoming guests as they arrive. Whatever it may be, make sure that roles are delegated and properly briefed.
- You arrive at the venue early: No matter what your Christmas party venue is, it’s best to arrive with plenty of time to spare for any unexpected changes.
- Have fun! Try not to get so wrapped up in the Christmas party planning that you forget to have fun. This is a great chance for you to bond with your employees and celebrate your combined achievements. So, now that the hard work is done, enjoy it with your team.
Planning events isn’t easy. No matter how much time you have, it can be daunting and difficult to get started. But if you’re trying to arrange your office Christmas party just a few weeks before the big day, it can be 10 times more stressful.
We hope that our step-by-step guide has been useful in taking you through the process of last-minute work Christmas party preparations, and made the experience more manageable. If you have any feedback or comments, please post them below or share this article with someone who might find it helpful.