Four Tips for Planning a Memorable Last-Minute Holiday Party

By Lisa Sabin, December 18, 2018

For planners who procrastinate, there is still time to create a quality holiday celebration.. From booking a venue that will help with the preparation process to how to “wow” attendees with fun and creative food and beverage options that don’t break the bank, I’ve provided my top four tips for hosting a memorable event this holiday season.

  1. Ditch the Sit-Down Dinner, and Create a Culinary Experience

Gone are the days of the sit-down, three-course holiday dinner and in its place has emerged a more interactive holiday dining experience.  One trend I’ve noticed that is becoming increasingly popular is that of action stations which each serve a unique and exciting food or beverage option.

For holiday parties, the action stations could provide a seasonally-themed cocktail station where guests can “build-their-own” holiday-inspired drink with a variety of fun mixers and garnishes.  Another station could provide hot chocolate in which the chocolate is shaved directly from a giant block of chocolate.  I’ve also seen parties where the planner will place food stations in different rooms entirely with each showcasing a different style of cuisine, decorations, and ambience turning the dining experience into more of a culinary journey than a traditional meal.

  1. Creativity Can Help the Bottom Line

Holiday parties are great time of year to let creativity take over, and in a lot of cases, creativity can help with ensuring a more budget-friendly event.

One creative, budget-friendly trend I’ve noticed is holiday party planners are ditching desserts altogether and instead hosting a cookie exchange between guests.  Since holiday cookies are the perfect dessert to mark the season, the cookie exchange provides a plethora of cookie options for guests to enjoy with each attendee bringing a half dozen of their favorite recipe to share with their colleagues and peers.

In order to make it more interactive, I also recommend that attendees share their recipes, and following after the event the list of recipes will be sent to the group to enjoy throughout the season.

  1. Consider Giving Back

As the holiday season is a time for giving, I highly recommend that planners include a charity component to their celebration, and to involve their team in that process.  Instead of doing a gift exchange among attendees, encourage guests to instead bring a coat that can be donated to a homeless shelter or a toy for Toys for Tots.

Event planners can also request that each attendee bring a unique or distinctive ornament to the event.  The group can use the ornaments to collectively decorate a Christmas Tree as a team, and then donate it the next day to an organization such as a nursing home or the Ronald McDonald House.

  1. Secure a Venue Now

Although it’s not too late to plan an amazing holiday event, I highly suggest that planners book the venue as soon as possible.  It will be important for planners to be flexible as some of the more popular holiday party timeframes, such as Friday evenings, may already be booked but there are still plenty of weekday and lunchtime options that are perfect for a holiday celebration.

When it comes to selecting a venue, I recommend booking something that has additional activities going on nearby which can enhance the holiday celebration.  For example, we’re just steps away from the Winterfest Ice Rink at Kiener Plaza, and groups that book a holiday event at our property receive discounted rates for their group to go ice skating as part of their celebration.

Finally, with last-minute events especially, I recommend booking a venue that is going to help in coordinating the logistics and do a lot of the legwork from contacting vendors to arranging the menus, so planners can focus their time on creating the best guest experience possible.

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Lisa Sabin is the Director of Events at Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch.  She has worked with Hyatt for more than 30 years and has overseen the planning and coordination of weddings and events at the company’s downtown St. Louis location since 2008.

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