2018 Update: This year we reached out to the party planning experts for industry insights and advice to compile over a dozen pro-tips.
2017 Update: Last year we’ve added 22 more ideas to our list, resulting in 76 ideas to take your company holiday party to the next level.
Whether you’re working with a whole Party Planning Committee, or it’s just little old you, putting together a corporate holiday party is no easy task. Keep reading for ideas on themes, activities, food, and more.
And here it is — your first PRO TIP.
Before you pick up the phone to call your first vendor, or start Googling to find the best guest check-in app, Wild Sky Events, who counts Lyft and The Knot as clients, suggests getting everything down on paper and out of your brain. Starting the event planning with a full, bullet point list of every detail ensures nothing is overlooked, and it provides a master checklist for vendors and anyone else helping out with the event.
Theme: So tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999
Turn your corporate holiday party into the good old days when MTV actually played music videos. Look up the top hits from the decade and prepare everyone’s ears for unique renditions of “Livin’ la Vida Loca.”
Snag some retro games on eBay, or raid your parents’ closet for classics like Grape Escape, Gator Golf, Mr. Bucket, Jumanji, and Jumpin’ Monkeys. Set up a lounge area at the event space where people can play a few rounds on breaks from the dance floor.
We’ll help you book a food truck that can whip up 90s-inspired food. Create-your-own Lunchables-style mini pizzas, Cheez Balls, P.B. Crisps, Dunkaroos. Don’t forget to send party guests home adorned with oversized Ring Pops.
4. Attire: Throwback ‘fits
Luckily (or maybe not so much) the 90s are back in fashion, so employees might already have some of these gems lying around. Encourage attendees to show up in overalls with one strap undone, bleached tips, chain wallets, neon windbreakers, grunge ripped jeans, Hypercolor tees, and anything else that screams the 90s.
When it comes to theme parties, A&M Events has lots of experience. These expert party planners advise choosing a theme that’s unique, but specific and reasonable to execute. They recently produced a Mad Men x Palm Springs-inspired event and guests knew just how to dress up without wondering whether or not they would feel out of place.
Theme: A Night of Chance
Give everyone a raffle ticket as they enter, then a few times during the evening, halt activities to announce winners. Stock the prize box with items like gift cards, Apple TVs, and tickets to sporting events.
It’s easy to bet big when you’re playing with fun money. Set up slots, poker tables, and roulette for a fun and unique corporate holiday party activity. Yelling “Mama needs a new pair of shoes” and accusing your colleagues of being card sharks is mandatory.
A talented magician is always a corporate holiday party pleaser, especially if the Full House Martinis already have guests seeing double. Or, hire a fortune teller to offer party goers a peek into the future.
There’s nothing like a blast from the horn section to keep the energy up at the craps table. Book a local band to make sure the whole night is up tempo.
With all eyes on the cards, you’ll want to make sure food is edible in small bites, and available on toothpicks, shish kabobs, or dippable with chips or veggies. Pack the buffet table with on-theme nibbles like Texas Hold ‘Em Hamburger Bites, Black Jack Cheese Dip, Full House Martinis, Roll the dice sushi rolls, Poker chips and dip, Big Money Meatballs, and if you’re feeling really brave, Clams casino. For a sweet treat, cut brownies into squares and decorate them with frosting to make them look like dice.
Ask attendees at your corporate holiday party to jazz it up. Guests can put together their best Queen of Hearts, Lady Luck, or fedora-wearing gangster ensembles for an extra hand of good luck.
Bixel & Company, an LA-based event agency responsible for some of the area’s most buzzed about events, suggests building excitement for the event in advance through email blasts, social media, blogs, and good old word of mouth. You know your event is going to be awesome – make sure invited attendees know, too!
Theme: Do Good, Feel Good
Get into the spirit of giving with an office-wide charity event. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or ask everyone to donate to a charity of their choice instead of gifts. Check out Givewell.org, a great tool that ranks charities in order of their effectiveness and shows where your money is going and the impact it will have.
Anything that can easily be lint-rolled. You’ll be covered in fake snow after the first ten minutes.
A&M Events in Nashville has learned through working with clients like BarkBox and Church’s Chicken that their favorite events are those where guests are immediately comfortable. A recent success involved a party where dogs where the main invitees and their people were the guests. If your office is dog-friendly, consider throwing a party where pups are on the guest list, too!
Theme: Merry Craftmas
Start the festivities with a holiday ornament decorating party. Grab some plain ornaments and crafts supplies at Target or a hobby shop. Throw down some newspaper and let guests go to town.
Nothing says holiday season like the smell of freshly baked gingerbread walls and roofs, right? Stock up on sugary decor like candy canes, cinnamon hearts, gummy bears, M&Ms, Starburst, Smarties, sprinkles, icing, and of course, gumdrops, and let staff create their own gingerbread houses. When everyone’s done building their masterpiece, hold a vote to see who wins for best curb appeal.
This corporate holiday party activity is just like the gingerbread houses, but cookies instead! You can vote for the best design, or just let everyone dig in.
Ready to bring the best food trucks to your company’s holiday party? Get started here.
What’s better than an endless amount of tasty sweet treats ready to be eaten? Sweet treats with your preferred toppings. Hire a donut food truck to cook up some piping hot dough rings and set out a smorgasbord of toppings choices.
Calling all Julia Childs and Gordon Ramsays (just no yelling, please). Take a company-wide cooking class and ensure you end up with some new knife skills and a delicious homemade dinner.
In lieu of hiring a bartender, set up a mini bar and let guests craft their own drinks. Organize mixers, tinctures, spirits, and herbaceous ingredients like rosemary, mint, sage, basil, cilantro, and thyme, along with suggested recipe cards. Don’t forget the muddlers and shakers.
Theme: Holidays Around The World
Translation: Chocolate Eating – Schokoladenessen is a German party game where players sit in a circle and roll and pass the dice until someone rolls a double. Whoever rolls a double puts on the hat, scarf, and gloves and tries to unwrap the candy bar, using the kitchen utensils, and eat all the candy before someone else can roll a double. The new double roller then takes over the hat, scarf, and gloves and continues eating the chocolate. The game ends when you’re outta chocolate. Of course, this can always be modified into an adult version with drinks, but we’ll leave that up to you.
In Mexico, piñatas are not just for birthdays. Buy a safe for work-themed piñata and stuff it with goodies like airplane-sized shooters of booze, candy, and toys even adults would love, like sticky hands.
Hire a food truck, or organize catering to provide the main meal (like empanadas), then create a sign-up list for employees to reserve a traditional holiday side dish from another country. Start with potato latkes from Israel, mince pies from England, chocolatey Bûche de Noël from France, spiced hot chocolate from Peru, and for those who don’t cook, KFC from Japan.
Encourage guests to wear garb traditional from the region of the dish they brought.
Theme: Let The Games Begin
Hockey, basketball, and football are all in full swing during November and December, so round up the troops and turn your corporate holiday party into a sports-fueled soiree. A fun perk idea? Provide everyone with a hat or shirt to cheer on your team.
When does one get the opportunity to jump behind the wheel of 5 horsepower and whoop his or her colleagues in go kart racing? Your corporate holiday party should be just that opportunity.
Run free into the flashing lights of the arcade and connect with your colleagues as you challenge each other to air hockey and PAC-MAN, or share futile attempts to claim that plush Batman with the impossibly flimsy claw.
Prepare employees for a night of junk food: ballpark hot dogs, salty nachos, cotton candy, Bud Light in an aluminum bottle, pretzels and “cheese.”
Anything that lets you move.
Theme: Santa Con
A Secret Santa or White Elephant can make even the most unbearable parties a little better because… gifts.
Without his nose so bright, Rudolph won’t be able to guide Santa’s sleigh tonight! Put on the blindfold, take a few dizzying spins, and listen to the laughter as everyone witnesses you stumble your way to Rudolph to try to save the day.
Get proof that it did, in fact, happen. A photo booth (bonus points if it’s branded like these done by Gold Frame Media) is essential to remember what happened at your corporate holiday party. It’s also a reminder to try to keep yourself in check.
Our own CEO, Ross Resnick, suggests a unique spin on staff dressing in head to toe red and white: “everyone dresses like Santa, but you hire a model to come dressed as an office worker for everyone to take pictures with.”
When it comes to capturing memories, Bixel & Company likes to take the traditional photo booth to the next level with virtual reality, green screen effects, and morphing. The Party Goddess, an LA-based event producer who’s handled parties for celebs like Sofia Vergara and Snoop Dogg, suggests projecting the photobooth images in real time so everyone can watch the party progress. And A&M Events likes to extend photo opps outside the booth with “Instagram-able moments” like a bespoke backdrop near the entrance or a crazy dessert display near the back of the space.
Theme: Movie and Reindeer Games Night
Home Alone, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Elf … the holidays are the perfect time to recline and take in some classics. Dim the lights, pass the popcorn, and get everyone comfy for the cherished tradition of watching classic movies and collectively quoting all the best lines. And hey, if there’s booze around, why not create a whole new drinking game? Here’s one to get you started: Take a drink every time Buddy says “Santa” in Elf.
There are a few variations on this classic holiday game. One way to play is to wrap a gift in countless layers of wrapping paper and pass it around the circle to be unwrapped one layer at a time. Whoever tears off the last bit wins the gift! Another way is to take turns attempting to open the gift with bulky oven mitts.
Just no one get hurt, okay? Sprinkle some Christmas spirit over the beloved classic game musical chairs by playing only holiday music to signal the circling of the chairs.
Use jingle bells instead of ping pong balls for a holiday twist on a cherished drinking game. Just don’t jingle all the way to a hangover.
Every culture can appreciate the joys of candy and gambling. The dreidel game gets everyone in a circle with a pile of game pieces (money, candy, etc) spinning the dreidel to see how it lands. Nun = nothing – The player does nothing. Gimel = everything – The player gets everything in the pot. Hey = half – The player gets half of the pot. Shin = put in – The player adds a game piece to the pot. The game is over when one person has won all the pieces.
You don’t have to worry about cramming your entire office (and plus ones) into your pad, that’s what Airbnb is for. Host your epic party in someone else’s house, while still giving everyone that homey holiday feel.
This just wouldn’t be a proper festive list unless we suggested ugly holiday sweaters somewhere.
Let technology do some of the work. You already have so many details to manage, every little bit that you can delegate will help. Rely on companies like Eventbrite to handle ticketing/guest check-in. Asana lets you assign tasks to team members. Use Heytell onsite for easy communication – this app turns your phone into a walkie-talkie.
Theme: Let's Get Physical
Bundle up, watch out for that toe pick, and show off your best figure 8 with an ice skating soiree. Serve (spiked) eggnog afterward for a toasty warm-up off the ice.
Bubble Soccer is a newish sport where one plays regulation soccer encased in an inflatable ball that covers the head and torso. Be warned: Instead of providing protection, the balls act as bouncy balls that propel off each other, sending the athletes inside rolling and flying.
Bowling is not only an engaging retro sport but also a modern nightlife staple. The animated scoreboard, the competition, the cocktails, the dance beats, and the glow in the dark decor, all make for corporate party paradise…and no one has to worry about which shoes to wear.
All this carving up the ice, flying through the air, and pin pushing calls for a carb load. Feel like a baller on the field by pulling up your own food truck, or getting catering inside the office (limited to select cities). The cuisine options are as endless as the number of hits you’ll take in bubble soccer.
Any piece of clothing that mentions Lycra, sweat-wicking, breathable, and stink-proof on the tag.
Decide what you want people to be talking about the next day, and spend extra time (and possibly money) to make sure it happens. Is it the food (then be sure to book with Roaming Hunger!)? An artist or musical act that’s the talk of the town? A hip venue? A unique activity? Make it the centerpiece of your event and plan the rest of the details from there.
Theme: Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
…with my little eye. Scavenger Hunts are the adult version of the classic boredom-busting game I Spy. Create your own hunt theme and tie the clues to that topic. Send teams on a pub crawl to find a mustached man drinking a PBR, or on a foodie adventure to find something flavored with Sriracha. Here are some tips on getting organized.
Escape rooms come with their very own theme: zombies, music, murder mysteries, and more. The puzzles encourage everyone to work together or risk death. Maybe not death, but at least a disappointing loss. Roaming Hunger took on an escape room and highly recommends it as a great exercise in friendly company-wide competition (via HuffPost).
Think Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible. Sleek pants with multiple pockets and a shirt tight enough that it won’t impede sudden movements you might need to make.
Embrace your limitations and view them as a chance to get creative. Maybe you have a tiny budget. The Party Goddess suggests sharing the costs with a potluck. Use a Google doc or Pinterest board to keep track of who’s bringing what. And don’t stop at the food when it comes to assignments – put someone in charge of the playlist, dishes, decor, etc. No matter what the challenge is, don’t let the details bog you down.
Theme: Booze Tour
Who can ever really remember the nuances of every blend, especially on the third winery stop? This beats the heck out of a museum tour. Ride the buzz of tastings, luxurious gift shops, and artisanal menus as you create hazy, Pinot Noir-fueled memories with your colleagues.
Ya sure, you’ll learn all about the brewery’s history and methods and yadda yadda, but the tastings! Repeat after us: pale ales, porters, stouts, lagers, ales. Strap on the beer goggles, yell a hallelujah for the 21st amendment, and make sure you have some water lined up for later.
Theme: Take the Party on the Road
The wheels on the xmas party bus go round and round. Take the celebrations to the streets, blast bumpin’ beats, and keep the holiday party fun rollin’ to multiple locations. Stop #1 – The roof, the roof, can never be on fire if there is no roof. A rooftop bar offers spectacular views and some fresh air before it’s time to go start the bus.
Ready to bring the best food trucks to your company’s holiday party? Get started here.
Who doesn’t love a heartfelt carol, especially when it’s belted out of a party bus? Sing-along to a pre-recorded song, or go acapella as you use your vocal talent to share Christmas cheer with everyone.
When the big kahuna opens his or her doors to the entire team, it’s a grand gesture of holiday giving. Just don’t forget to take your shoes off at the door.
Set sail for a night with your coworkers on a dinner cruise under the stars for your corporate holiday party. Just make sure none of the staff falls overboard. That’s going to make Monday more than awkward, and Christmas a little sad.
Classy casual is on the agenda for tonight’s dress. You want to look posh for the rooftop bar and boss’s house, but just remember you’ll be getting on and off a bus, which becomes more difficult as the booze rolls on.
Bixel & Company doesn’t let the excitement of the event fade when the last guest walks out the door. They use photography and videos from the event to help guests rekindle fond memories. Photos and clips from last year’s party are also a great way to build anticipation for this year’s party.
Theme: VIPs Only (Very Important Partiers)
It doesn’t get fancier than renting out an entire restaurant. Let someone else do all the work while you party down. Check out The Infatuation’s list of holiday party hotspots if you’re an LA-based company.
Book luxurious spa treatments for the team, and you will forever be remembered as the most beloved company party planner … of all time.
Whether it’s the roller coaster or just excitement, a day at a theme park will have staff screaming over your corporate holiday party.
Check in with the venues to see where they might be able to help out with. Restaurants often offer affordable app or dinner packages, the spa may have an attached restaurant, and you may be able to book out a private area for lunch at the park.
Depending on which route you go, everyone should dress to the nines for a restaurant book out, slip into loungewear for the spa, and plan on tennis shoes for the theme park.
Hostess With The Mostest Corporate Holiday Party Tips
No one wants to go to work the day after a night of overindulging with colleagues. Have your corporate holiday party on a Friday or Saturday and save everyone the struggle of trying to make it in on time.
Drinking isn’t mandatory for your corporate holiday party to be a success, but those looking to imbibe will greatly appreciate a bartender or open bar service.
If your festivities really take it up a notch, some of your guests may need a ride home. Save your employees the burden of figuring it out and provide a free ride service.
Any parent knows that a night out is a rare event, and a company holiday party is the perfect excuse. If your company has a lot of working parents, consider offering a babysitter stipend to show that you understand how special the night is.
Your holiday party may not have a giant ball pit like SpaceX’s did, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for sad, cardboard snowflakes. Cool decor is vital to good holiday party vibes so don’t skimp on this part.
Keep the good times rolling with an in-office movie day following the night of your holiday party. If Elf isn’t being played then something is seriously amiss.
Besides the pure entertainment factor of seeing what guests show up, allowing employees to bring a plus one to your corporate holiday party is a nice gesture to include everyone. Also, people are more inclined to attend if they can bring their spouse or significant other along.
Just because your company is spread out in different locations doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the holiday cheer. Offer remote workers a gift certificate for a nice dinner out, movie passes, or sporting tickets to make everyone feel included in the fun.
In the spirit of giving, we may have listed more than 54 corporate holiday party ideas, but you deserve it. You’ve been good boys and girls this year. A holiday celebration is the perfect time and excuse to bond with your coworkers outside of the cubicle walls. These suggestions are sure to make your event a memorable time.
So there you have it! The good news is that everyone loves a party (especially if it takes away from actual working time…). Decide on your theme, get your ducks and details in a row, and then just listen to the pros.