The annual work Christmas party is rarely questioned. It’s a chance to celebrate the year’s end, before looking forward to the new. A bright spot at a dark time of year, with easy theming that’s full of sparkle. It’s also simple to plan, with plenty of ready-made offers available for groups.
Unfortunately, it’s also a challenge. With such pressure on a short few weeks, the work festive do is often pushed to October or January, to ensure a reasonable deal or simply to secure your preferred venue. And attendance is often low, because guests have so many other commitments.
It’s no surprise, then, to find many workplaces and other groups choosing an alternative. Summer gatherings might be less traditional, but they have plenty to offer.
If you’re trying to cram a party into the scant weeks of December or late November, your dates are limited. Choose a weeknight and risk an early finish, or a thin office turnout the next day. Choose a weekend, and your options are down to a handful of days – for which you’ll pay a premium.
A summer party can run on any date from late May to early September. That leaves a wide selection of Friday and Saturday nights, and the opportunity to be flexible about dates once you’ve selected your ideal venue.
Venue choice is key to any event. You need enough space for guests to circulate with drinks, and a suitable area for a formal sit-down dinner or a more casual approach to dining. If there’s dancing, that needs an alternative space too, or a quick turnaround.
If it’s the depths of winter, you also need to be indoors.
A summer party means indoor and outdoor spaces can be used creatively. It’s wise not to rely solely on an outdoor venue; whatever the weather, your guests will want somewhere to relax away from rain or bright sunshine. But a variety of spaces to move between allows a flow of movement that helps your guests relax, mingle and enjoy themselves.
Your workplace or gathering might suit a fine, formal black-tie affair.
But not every event needs to be traditional. Workplaces are becoming more relaxed about clothing, decor and layout to reflect the tastes of millennials and the realities of effective modern working practices.
Your annual event can reflect this too, with a more informal approach to a party. Choose a quirky venue for a garden party to foster chat and shareable social content. Or create a festival atmosphere with tents, music and street food.
Catering for everyone
When it comes to menus, it’s rare to find a Christmas party that surprises. Many guests expect their traditional turkey roast, pudding and brandy, and will be disappointed if it’s not available.
For many, however, this kind of food doesn’t appeal – especially if those are traditions that you didn’t grow up with.
A summery menu, however, can be whatever you choose. Create a summer afternoon tea, with delicate finger food, fruit and cocktails. Seize the current vogue for plant-based foods with an all-vegan menu. Or fire up the barbecue and add a twist, with international fish dishes, kebabs and caramelised grilled fruit.