Christmas comes but once a year, but it brings with it a whole season full of parties. It’s the time that businesses will be planning their end of year celebrations and groups of friends will be getting together for the festivities. This means that events bookings shoot up and venues such as restaurants, hotels and bars have to be prepared.
Here some expert event planners tell us what they take into consideration when putting together Christmas parties and events for clients. Things not to forget are décor that fits in with the seasonal theme, meals that cater to many, and enough drinks and entertainment to keep everyone feeling festive.
Décor with the ‘wow’ factor
When it comes to preparing a room for an event there are so many things to consider it’s difficult to know where to start. Set-up, lighting, theming, colours, tableware and seasonal decorations all have a role to play, and making the right choices with these sets the tone for the entire night, as the look of the room is the first thing a guest notices when they walk in.
“When it comes to getting ready for Christmas events we find a lot of our customers start by thinking about the theme they’re going to have,” explains Bidvest 3663 campaign and activation manager Gail Bridgeman. “So the first purchase is generally the crackers and table wear set up, and then the second thing they get round to will be around their menu.
“People want to have something that’s quite classy, so when guests walk into the room there’s a ‘wow’ factor and it sets the expectation to what the rest of the evening is going to be like.”
Things to consider in the room set up:
“We feel we can really change the atmosphere and the feel of the place and the look as well, by clever use of lighting,” said Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). “The display lighting you can get now is very sophisticated, which means you can get very different and vibrant feels to the event. Large rooms take a lot of dressing.”
- Seasonal colours
“As you can imagine we have some firm favourites; gold and silver are always colours that will come out year on year,” says Bridgeman. “But there are also more trendy colours, for example our signature cracker this year is bronze, which has a real luxury element to it as well. Reds are very popular too along with mulberry and also purples.”
“We’ve found that in general our guests like to keep it quite traditional, with themes like Winter Wonderland, having snow machines in the room and a very sparkly kind of décor,” explains deputy director of conference and banqueting at The Landmark London Katerina Hardman.
- Table settings
“We work quite hard on making sure the crockery, cutlery, glassware and table decorations are as bespoke as they can possibly be,” says Nicholls. “It’s all about the customer experience.”
“We really try to make sure that we have something that’s available for everybody,” says Bridgeman. “We have different sizes and contents as well to make sure the variety is there to suit everybody’s budget. We also do things like our craft crackers which are made from 70 per cent recycled material and can be recycled too. If a particular outlet has a sustainability message that they want to get out that could be a perfect one for those.”
In the festive season presenting a good drinks offering is very important, especially when it comes to hosting an event. Although customers are often willing to splash more cash at Christmas, being cost effective can still bring in business, with offers such as drinks included in the event package going down very well.
“What we find is tremendously popular is the classic drinks reception and a three or four course meal,” explains Emma Jones, corporate sales and events manager for the London Eye. “A very popular aspect of our packages is that the beer, wine and soft drinks are all unlimited throughout the evening, which means people can consider that when they’re looking at their budgets. It’s a big plus for most people that all the drinks are included.”
Nicholls explains that ideas that are a little different can also work well with the drinks offerings: “Last year at our Christmas Lunch we introduced an app which allowed people to order what drinks they wanted from their seat at their table,” she said. “This saved time and stopped delays, we worked hard to make sure that people were having a good time and getting a good service to get these drinks to them as quickly as possible.
“The app also reduced the volume of product that weighs down the table and meant that people didn’t have to get up and walk across the room to get they bespoke drinks that they wanted.”
Work with the client
Those booking Christmas events with your venue will often have certain ideas in mind of what they want. It is important to communicate with clients and see which parts of the event package can be made bespoke to suit their needs.
“We often look at what requirements we’ve had in previous years,” explains Jones. “Sometimes customers let us create something for them, and other times they’ve got an idea set in their mind about what they want.”
Hardman says: “When we put together the packages I ask what time the guests will arrive, how long they want the drinks reception to be, and how long the bar is to remain open after dinner, to make sure that there are enough drinks in the package.
“We have a dedicated banqueting team who plan the event from the beginning to the end and they are there on the day to support the clients. They spend the majority of the time meeting with the clients and go with them for things like menu tasting. They suggest ideas for different theming and entertainment too.”