The Experts Guide to Planning an Impressive Corporate Holiday Party on a Budget

by Merica Ocsan, El Gaucho Tacoma Event Director

We get it – it’s summer, and while vacations are in full swing, kids are not in school, the sun is out, the last thing you want to think about is the hustle and bustle of the holidays. But it is not too early to plan! In fact, many venues have been booked at least a year or two in advance.

For over twenty-five years, El Gaucho has been creating experiences for our guests’ most important and personal moments. Our team of private dining experts have gathered a list of the most frequent questions they have received and compiled a series of articles targeting every facet of the event planning process to help you plan a successful event.

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 and dates, and you may get a better rate, as opposed to waiting until “peak planning times.

Skip the buffet dinner. People often think that buffet option is less expensive than a sit-down dinner, However, the opposite is true. Buffet dinners can be more expensive because there is a greater variety and quantity of foods available. A lot of restaurants offer buffet packages, but it is not an all-you-can eat option. The amount of food is usually based on the number of guests attending. A sit-down dinner is a more elegant presentation, and each guest will get to experience the full service the venue or restaurant offers. 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.”

Choose 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!

Consider hosting your party in November or 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 November and January. Typically, there is a greater selection of venues to choose from, and fees are often lower than in December. Your employees often have extremely busy personal schedules during December. A company holiday party is one more thing on the to-do list. Waiting before or after 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.

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 the budget.

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, décor, and offers complimentary chairs and tables. Paying a little more for a venue with a great ambiance saves on rental fees. 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, which will give you more budget on gifts for your employees!

Limiting alcohol. This may sound like an obvious one, but there are some 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 only wine and beer during dinner. Another option is to customize a beverage menu with a spending cap. This way, you can cut the cost in half, but without limiting your guest’s options.

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. They are there to help and you your event to be a success.

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.

Fire & Vine Hospitality Event Directors

Aerlume – Caitlynd Davison,
AQUA by El Gaucho – Kristina Thorne,
El Gaucho Bellevue – Whitney Twede,
El Gaucho Portland – Greg Dills,
El Gaucho Seattle – Kristina Thorne,
El Gaucho Tacoma – Merica Oscan,
El Gaucho Vancouver – Kate Carr,
Witness Tree – Kate Carr,