How To Plan Your Corporate Holiday Party on a Budget – Without Compromising

We get it – it’s July, and while the sun is shining and you’re enjoying cocktails with friends on the patio, the last thing you want to think about is the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  However, we’re here to tell you that it’s NOT too early to plan!  In fact, many venues have been booking at least a year in advance.

In our 20 year history, we’ve learned a thing or two about events.  Our team of event experts (aka Event Directors) have gathered a list of tips and tricks to help you plan a successful holiday party.

  1. Begin planning 6 months to a year in advance. We find our clients booking their holiday events anywhere from six months to a year in advance.  By planning early, you’ll get a larger selection of available venues. It’s also better to start booking early because you may get a better rate, as opposed to waiting until “peak planning times.”
  2. Skip the Buffet Dinner. People often make the mistake of thinking that a buffet dinner is less expensive than a sit down dinner. While this can sometimes be the case, a buffet dinner can be more expensive than hosting a sit-down dinner, due to there being a greater variety and quantity of foods available. A sit-down dinner is a more elegant presentation, since your guests won’t have to stand in line for dinner. If you do not want to offer a sit-down dinner, consider hosting a heavy appetizer cocktail reception. Guests don’t expect a full meal if you phrase it as a “cocktail reception.”
  3. Choose a lunch instead of dinner.  Hosting a lunch instead of a dinner can save you 50% or more on overall costs for your event. Menu and venue costs are often much lower than dinner and you can still create a great event for your employees. Extra bonus: your staff will appreciate closing the office a bit early that day to celebrate!
  4. Consider Hosting your party in January. December is one of the busiest months of the year for restaurants, and probably your employees as well. There are big benefits to hosting your party in January:
    a) Typically there is a greater selection of venues to choose from, and fees are often lower than in December.
    b) Your employees often have extremely busy personal schedules during December. A company holiday party is one more thing on the to-do list. Waiting until the holiday craziness is over will allow everyone to be able to take a breath and truly enjoy the fact that you’re celebrating and thanking them for their hard work.
  5. Host your holiday party on a Sunday or Monday. If you can’t move your holiday party to January, venues are often less expensive to book on a Sunday or Monday, even in December. This isn’t always the case, but it’s worth the ask as you are considering dates and budget.
  6. Choose a venue that already has a great ambiance. Flowers and linens can add up quickly. Try to find a venue that has great lighting and décor to begin with. Paying a little more for a venue with a great ambiance can save you hundreds in décor and floral. Ask for help from your venue’s event planner – they are experts at what they do and can help you create a wonderful ambiance without having to add too much.  Many restaurants also decorate for the holidays, so your private event space could already have everything you need.
  7. Limit Alcohol: This may sound like an obvious one, but there are some really creative ways to reduce alcohol costs without making your guests feel like they are being limited. One option is to host cocktails during the reception portion of the event, and then offer wine and beer only during dinner. Another option is to host one signature cocktail along with wine and beer.
  8. Ask your venue for help! Your venue’s event planner should be an expert who can help you design a cost-effective menu or suggest creative ways to save money. Use them – they want to help you plan a successful event.

Just by executing these few tips and tricks, you’ll be heralded as an event pro in no time. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, one of our event directors will be happy to handle the details for your next event.

El Gaucho Hospitality Event Directors

AQUA by El Gaucho – Carly McGovern,
El Gaucho Bellevue – Whitney Twede,
El Gaucho Portland – Kate Arvidson,
El Gaucho Seattle – Pamela Rockwell,
El Gaucho Tacoma – Merica Ocsan,


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