Planning a corporate holiday party that employees will actually get excited about can be a challenge. The key is to think about both creativity and simplicity. Don’t be afraid to try a new venue, theme or aesthetic, but don’t overthink it. People tend to enjoy simple, engaging parties where they can do one thing: relax.

(1) Opt for a change of scenery


views Foundry New York Events 1313 Photography

Holman Ranch

Sometimes, all that’s needed to liven up an annual event is a change in venues. Why not rent a space that’s completely unexpected and wildly different from what you normally use? How about art galleries, barns or greenhouses? A few of our favorite spaces include Pippin Hill Farm in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Foundry in Long Island City and Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, California.

If your company can swing the costs, you can use decor as a way to further change the scenery. Maybe your company is in Southern California, but you crave a bit of snow. Some fake snow can turn a West-Coast venue into a winter wonderland for the night. Tired of the East Coast’s crazy winter weather? Generate heat by bringing in spicy cocktails, pops of red and orange and Latin-inspired dishes.

(2) Support Local

scratch bar beverly hills wedding and event venue

The holidays are a time to give, and a great way to rev up excitement about a company holiday party is to make it about more than just the company. We love the idea of using a locally-popular boutique bar or restaurant as your venue. You can take the idea a step further by finding one that specializes in farm-to-table dishes and locally-grown produce. A new favorite of ours in Beverly Hills is Scratch | Bar. They offer farm-to-table dinners created by a house chef Monday-Saturday. Every Sunday, a guest chef takes over the kitchen.

Switching the party from a chain restaurant or tried-and-true steakhouse to a new, hip, local spot is a great way to rev up excitement about the event while trying out a new spot and supporting small businesses. From the invite (or e-vite) to the gifts, make sure you spell out for guests that this year’s party is all about opting local. Try sourcing handmade local goods (soaps, candies, etc.) for gift bags. (You may even be able to get small items donated in exchange for including the shop’s business card in the bags). Or, if you’re doing a gift exchange, ask that guests bring gifts from small, local shops.

(3) Skip the games, but not the gifts

Image via Jonas Nordland

Image via Jonas Nordland

One of the biggest complaints about holiday parties is that they often require guests to be overly engaged the entire time. Remember the rule of simplicity? People love a party that simply lets them relax and engage (or disengage) as much as they want to. Especially after a long work week, asking employees to participate in a drawn-out gift exchange can be daunting. Instead, we love the idea of opting for a take-a-gift, leave-a-gift table, where all guests have to do is drop a gift on the table on their way in, and grab someone else’s gift when they walk out. If you want to add a little creativity, make it a theme: bring a wine bottle, take a wine bottle; bring a box of chocolates, take a box of chocolates, etc.

(4) Create a Classic Holiday Feel in an Industrial Setting


Carondelet House

Few venues make as much of an impact on the eye as the truly industrial ones, and we love the idea of hosting a company holiday party in one of these charming urban settings. The existing aesthetic of an industrial venue already screams “winter” on its own--exposed brick needs nothing but some market lights and a classic wreath or two to make it feel cozy and warm. Pay attention to details--the right cocktails, music and lighting are all you really need to bring one of these settings to life. A few of our favorite industrial-chic venues include the 1896 in Brooklyn, the Carondelet House in L.A. and the Colony House in Anaheim, California.

Your Turn

Share your own ideas about how to liven up your company holiday party in the comments section below.